Atlanta Cheating Scandal: 35 Teachers Charged In Alleged Conspiracy

Atlanta, GA — The Atlanta cheating scandal has resulted in grand jury indictments against 35 educators in the city’s school system.

They stand accused of changing answers on student standardized tests to boost scores, which resulted in unprecedented improvements in systemwide results. The test in question was Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (C.R.C.T). Teachers were eligible for bonuses linked to improved test scores from federal money through the No Child Left Behind law.

Rumors abounded of widespread cheating in Atlanta for years, which included “extraordinary increases in test scores from one year to the next, along with a high number of erasures on answering sheets from wrong to right.”

In 2010, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue appointed a team of special prosecutors to investigate, which resulted in the indictments. According to investigators, former Atlanta superintendent of schools Beverly L. Hall and 34 other educators allegedly “conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistle-blowers in an effort to bolster C.R.C.T. scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores.”

Dr. Hall, now retired, could face up to 45 years in prison for her alleged involvement in the test-cheating scheme. She was charged with “racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements.” Her lawyer has denied the charges.

Dr. Hall allegedly pressured principals to meet testing targets. Good scores were rewarded with performance bonuses and tenure. The alternative was “low score out the door” according to one teacher.

In 2011, a state investigation found that about 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools were engaging in cheating on behalf of students on the standardized tests. Many of them have lost their teaching licenses or received suspensions.

According to one Atlanta teacher who actually wore a wire during the investigation:

“Children who scored 1 on the state test out of a possible 4 became 2s, she said; 2s became 3s. ‘The cheating had been going on so long, [she] said. ‘We considered it part of our jobs.’ “

There are about 50,000 students in the Atlanta school system.