Probe Finds Systematic Cheating In Atlanta Schools

fromWABE

In Georgia Tuesday, the governor said "there will be consequences" for those educators who cheated in Atlanta's public school system. Gov. Nathan Deal says dozens of principals, educators and others are implicated in the scandal. Deal says he intends to turn over his findings to prosecutors.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

For weeks, there have been rumblings in Atlanta that news about a school cheating investigation would be bad. Today, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal confirmed it. He released findings of a state investigation into cheating in the Atlanta Public School System. Governor Deal said the investigation turned up systematic cheating on a standardized test in 2009.

But as Rose Scott, of member station WABE explains, it may have been going on for years.

ROSE SCOTT: Under the shiny gold dome of Georgia's state capitol, Governor Nathan Deal stood before reporters and announced what he called troubling findings into one of the state's largest public school systems.

NATHAN DEAL: We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public School System cheated.

SCOTT: The school district has been under a cloud of suspected of cheating for more than a year; that's when another state agency found nearly a quarter-million answers were suspiciously erased and changed to correct ones on a standardized test.

The test is given each year to elementary and middle school students in the district of 48,000. Most are African-American, and many are economically disadvantaged. And, according to Governor Deal, they are the ones who suffer.

DEAL: We cannot allow adult behavior to compromise the very tools which we use statewide to gauge a child's proficiency and whether or not he or she is prepared to succeed in the next grade level.

SCOTT: Just last week the long-time superintendent Beverly Hall left the district amid allegations she knew about the cheating and tried to cover it up. Hall was heralded as a savior for the Atlanta Public Schools. She was credited with improving graduation rates and boosting test scores. In fact in 2009, she was named the national superintendent of the year. Now those achievements are suspect.

Fallout from the investigation has been swift today. The school board's chairwoman, Brenda Muhammad, appeared stunned and shaken as she left a private meeting with Georgia's governor just before his public announcement.

BRENDA MUHAMMAD: Because it's our children, and you just don't cheat children.

SCOTT: It's not clear why the school principals and teachers tampered with the test results that may have begun back in 2001. According to the report, there were warnings that were significant but ignored.

The governor did not release the full investigation today, just an outline. He plans to talk to the state attorney general soon and make his findings available to district attorneys for possible criminal prosecutions.

For NPR News, I'm Rose Scott in Atlanta.

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