“Teachers were either ordered to cheat or pressured by administrators until they felt they had no choice, authorities said.”

Standardized tests were corrupted at 44 schools by 178 teachers & principals (over half have confessed) & a former “superintendent of the year” in Atlanta Georgia will not seek extension of her contract. Criminal charges are probable.

Just for a moment, think about this from an obtuse angle friends.

It is easy & automatic to hate and blame the perpetrators, but perhaps because I have 12 years in as a volunteer within the institution of child protection I find myself more forgiving than someone who does not know what it’s like to be almost guaranteed of failure in the work we do

Remember; we fail and the children fail.

Yes, all across the nation, our institutions are producing the exact opposite of what they were designed to produce.

Child protection services create preteen mothers and adolescent felons.

Juvenile justice manufactures dysfunctional human beings that average ten years in jail & prison.

Our schools graduate only a percentage of their students and about 25% of graduates cannot go on to junior college without remedial math and reading.

Who could possibly want to be a teacher, social worker, or administrative official in this failing system?

As someone from the outside, who worked alongside career social workers, teachers, and administrators, I believe the answer to be;
committed and caring people.

This work really doesn’t pay that well – especially social for workers.

These professions draw people that want to make a difference in the lives of the children they work with. I could not do this work for a living, nor could most of the people that I work with in the business world.

Call me crazy, but getting to know hundreds of social workers, educators, and juvenile justice workers, I truly believe this.

After I spoke at the United Nations 4th Annual Youth Assembly in 2008, social workers and educators from all over the east coast shared their sad stories of why they left their chosen field of endeavor. I’m from Minnesota and conditions were not yet this bad (I was troubled to know just how bad the east coast cities were suffering).

Minimal support, inadequate resources, and the never ending failure of poor children in their care. One worker confessed that she made four times more money caring for one child as a nanny than she had with 22 children as a social worker (and results were much happier and more successful-there was little success with 22 children). She also clearly articulated what it is like to work in an environment of minimal support, fear, and failure.

America is way behind the curve in supporting the change that is needed for educators and social workers to meet the challenges that are facing our youth today.

Let’s do what we can to convince our friends and legislators that teaching is important work and that children have rights and deserve protection from terrible circumstances. Support the change that is needed to make American children safe, smart, and happy.

Police will get more days off, school performance will improve, and our communities will be more livable.

Support KARA’s effort to stop punishing children; sponsor a conversation in your community (invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk



Teachers and principals at more than 40 of Atlanta’s roughly 100 public schools cheated on state standardized tests in 2009. That’s the conclusion of a state investigation whose results were made public Tuesday by Governor Nathan Deal.

Investigators found that nearly 180 Atlanta teachers and principals cheated in 2009, but uncovered instances of cheating dating back a decade.

Deal said he hoped the report would mark a turning point for the troubled school system, and was careful to praise the professionalism of most Georgia teachers and principals.

“However, when educators have failed to uphold the public trust and students are harmed in the process, there will be consequences,” Deal said.

Deal said some criminal charges could result from the report, and his office has referred the findings to district attorneys in Fulton, DeKalb and Douglas counties. The state’s Professional Standards Commission is also expected to sanction some educators.

The governor refused to comment on how much responsibility for the cheating lies with former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who retired last week. But the report cites what investigators call a “major failure of leadership.”

Deal said that extreme pressure to boost test scores drove teachers and principals to cheat.

“I think the overall conclusion was that testing, and results, and targets being reached became more important than actual learning on the part of children,” Deal said.

But Atlanta’s brand-new interim superintendent Erroll Davis said that though the district would take a zero-tolerance policy towards cheating, it would not relax its expectations for academic performance.

“I don’t know what makes people cheat, but I want to make one thing clear: It is not pressure to perform,” Davis said.

The full report was released by the governor’s office Tuesday evening. Details from the report’s overview include:

— “Thousands of children were harmed by the 2009 CRCT cheating scandal by being denied remedial education because of their inflated CRCT scores.”

— “We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined (78.6%). There were 38 principals of those 56 schools (67.9%) found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating.”

— “We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public School System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that there was test cheating in their schools.”

— “Cheating occurred as early as 2001.”

— “There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored.”

— “Cheating was caused by a number of factors but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment.”

— “There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT.”

— “A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct.”

— “In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, we found other improper conduct: several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction.”

PBS report;

Gwen Ifill, PBS;GWEN IFILL: Now, an exhaustive new report reveals nearly 200 educators cheated to boost student test scores in Atlanta, a problem that has surfaced in school districts across the country.

The Georgia investigation commissioned by Gov. Nathan Deal found, results were altered on state curriculum tests by district administrators, principals and teachers for as long as a decade. Educators literally erased and corrected students’ mistakes to make sure schools met state-imposed testing standards. And it found evidence of cheating in 44 of the 56 schools examined for the 2009 school year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been digging into these inconsistencies for more than two years. Reporter Heather Vogell joins me now.

Welcome, Heather.

So, tell me, how did all of this surface? You have been spending a lot of time reporting on this.

HEATHER VOGELL, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Yes.

Report Finds Cheating by Scores of Ga. Educators
We first wrote about some suspicious scores in at Atlanta school back in December of 2008. And we did an additional analysis in 2009. And the state started their investigation in 2009. So, this has been something that’s been out there for a while. But I don’t think any of us realized quite how pervasive the problem was.

GWEN IFILL: And the response before has been denial, when your stories first came out?

HEATHER VOGELL: Yes, denial.

Slowly, as time has gone by, we have gotten more admissions of, you know, some cheating here and there. There’s an educator who — you know, do the wrong thing occasionally. And, as time has gone by and more and more has come out, there’s been a little bit more concession that there is a more widespread problem.

But, even today, I’m not quite sure that we have gotten really a full — that there’s been anybody who’s admitted in the district administration that this was really an incredibly serious, serious problem.

GWEN IFILL: Well, you recount things like teachers or administrators, educators, putting on gloves so their fingerprints wouldn’t be detected or cheating parties, where people would get together and change the results.

HEATHER VOGELL: Right. Exactly.

I mean, what was amazing to me in this report was how organized it was and how groups of people were getting together. This wasn’t just something that was happening in the classroom or happening in a closet, or one person taking it upon themselves to do something sneaky because they were worried about a couple kids in their class who weren’t going to do well.

This was organized. It was yearly in some schools, and it was an open secret in some schools.

GWEN IFILL: Was it pervasive? You found — or this report finds 178 educators, including — including, I guess, three dozen principals involved.


GWEN IFILL: In the size of the school — what is the size of the school system and how pervasive do these numbers indicate this has been?

HEATHER VOGELL: I think pretty pervasive.

I believe there are around 100 schools in Atlanta right now. And I think that about around 80 of them are elementary and middle. And those are the types of school that were examined by the investigators.

GWEN IFILL: Did the investigators…

HEATHER VOGELL: They only looked at the elementary and middle level.

GWEN IFILL: Pardon me.

Did the investigators find out that this had an effect, manipulating school scores, I guess, that students who couldn’t read end up getting promoted?


GWEN IFILL: Did it actually change the numbers of overall academic performance in the school system?

HEATHER VOGELL: It did change the numbers.

You know, the investigators say that, because of what they found, they believe that much of the progress that Atlanta has been touting over the last 10 years on these curriculum tests has been — I think their phrase was ill-gotten, that this — this could have actually had an impact on the overall district, their appearance of how they were doing.

And, for individual students, it certainly would have an effect on the trajectory of their education. Kids who fail the CRCT, which is our state curriculum test, they get extra help when they’re flagged by failing. It’s actually an important thing, to fail, if you’re not ready — ready to meet the standards for your grade.

And when somebody changes your answers, and nobody knows that you’re struggling as much as you are, you don’t get the extra help.

GWEN IFILL: What are the — what are the pressures on educators to do this sort of thing? Is it a pressure that was brought by the school superintendent, brought by the state, or internal?

HEATHER VOGELL: I think that what really happened here was — I don’t know that it’s unique, because educators everywhere are under a lot of pressure in public schools now, and everybody knows that. And you have No Child Left Behind.

But there was sort of a culture that sort of brewed within Atlanta public schools that was more intense and more dangerous, I think, than other places. And that was the — according to the investigators, that was some — that was a tone that was set by leadership.

They gave three key reasons why they believe that cheating flourished as much as it did in Atlanta. One was that the district set its own test score targets that were harder to meet than the ones that the state and federal government set. So, they were even higher.

Secondly, there was a culture of retaliation and intimidation that really flourished within the hallways of the schools. Anybody who questioned the means or methods that schools were using to achieve certain gains was shunned if they were lucky, fired if they weren’t lucky.

And, third, they also said that Dr. Hall, Dr. Beverly Hall, the superintendent, and her senior staff emphasized praise, success, performance and her image and the district image over the integrity of the tests, that they didn’t emphasize honesty enough.

GWEN IFILL: She has just left this job. And there’s now an acting superintendent in charge. Do we know that she personally knew and directed this kind of behavior?

HEATHER VOGELL: I think people are still trying to figure out exactly what she knew.

And the investigators, as close as they got to that, was to say that she knew or should have known. There are questions about whether she was in a meeting, for instance, where cheating was discussed, the results of an internal investigation.

And there’s questions about whether she should, as — as an educator with — a veteran educator with a lot of experience, a lot of training and a lot of knowledge of data, she should have recognized the signs that these scores were not valid.

GWEN IFILL: Is there prosecution possible in this? Have laws been broken?

HEATHER VOGELL: It’s possible.

I can’t say whether laws were broken or not. But there are three DA, district attorneys, that are looking at whether crimes were committed. In Georgia, it’s a crime to lie to investigators, and it’s also a crime to alter or destroy public documents.

And that is a statute that was used — it’s a felony — both of those are felonies — that was used to prosecute a principal in another district. I guess it was last year, I think, that he ended up being charged, and he pled guilty to changing answers, to changing the tests.

So those are potentially applicable statutes. And the investigators did say people did provide them with false information.

GWEN IFILL: And this is something which is not unique to Georgia, you discovered, as well.

HEATHER VOGELL: Right. Yes. I mean, we seem to be hearing more and more about these sorts of problems cropping up around the country.

GWEN IFILL: Heather Vogell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, good work. Thank you so much.

Huffington Post Dorie Turner 7.16.11
ATLANTA — Teachers spent nights huddled in a back room, erasing wrong answers on students’ test sheets and filling in the correct bubbles. At another school, struggling students were seated next to higher-performing classmates so they could copy answers.

Those and other confessions are contained in a new state report that reveals how far some Atlanta public schools went to raise test scores in the nation’s largest-ever cheating scandal. Investigators concluded that nearly half the city’s schools allowed the cheating to go unchecked for as long as a decade, beginning in 2001.

Administrators – pressured to maintain high scores under the federal No Child Left Behind law – punished or fired those who reported anything amiss and created a culture of “fear, intimidation and retaliation,” according to the report released earlier this month, two years after officials noticed a suspicious spike in some scores.

The report names 178 teachers and principals, and 82 of those confessed. Tens of thousands of children at the 44 schools, most in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, were allowed to advance to higher grades, even though they didn’t know basic concepts.

One teacher told investigators the district was “run like the mob.”

“Everybody was in fear,” another teacher said in the report. “It is not that the teachers are bad people and want to do it. It is that they are scared.”

For teachers and their bosses, the stakes were high: Schools that perform poorly and fail to meet certain benchmarks under the federal law can face sharp sanctions. They may be forced to offer extra tutoring, allow parents to transfer children to better schools, or fire teachers and administrators who don’t pass muster.

Experts say the cheating scandal – which involved more schools and teachers than any other in U.S. history – has led to soul-searching among other urban districts facing cheating investigations and those that have seen a rapid rise in test scores.

In Georgia, teachers complained to investigators that some students arrived at middle school reading at a first-grade level. But, they said, principals insisted those students had to pass their standardized tests. Teachers were either ordered to cheat or pressured by administrators until they felt they had no choice, authorities said.


  1. Thank you for sharing this article! I believe there is no more important service that Kiwanis clubs can perform, than helping our local schools. Key Clubs, Builders Clubs, K Kids, and all our other programs can be enormous aids to our understaffed, underresourced schools. And we can partner with agencies like Big Brothers/Big Sisters on mentoring and tutoring programs as well.
    Our school systems are doing the very best they can with limited resources. Kiwanis could build a great name for ourselves, and produce a lasting legacy, by stepping up and partnering with our education professionals toward the goal of a quality education for every child in the US.

  2. Thank you for sharing this article and transcript of the PBS interview. What is really sad is the mere fact of stating a child should fail the test to get remedial help, to assist them if they are not ready to be moved up. The actualality of this is, many school districts across the nation have had to cut the remedial programs, and they were first cut, then teachers, then whole schools (this has happened in Nevada). So, if these teachers wouldn’t have lied, the question remains: would there have been classes and assistance for these children to help them learn so they could pass the test on their own? The answer is NO! Mr. Davis, the interim superintendent, states he does not know what causes cheating, but emphatically stressed it wasn’t pressure to have good scores. This does not make sense. If he does not know what cause the cheating, then how can he, without a doubt, know what doesn’t cause the cheating? Further, there has been an overwhelming pressure put on schools all over the country to meet certain scores, which in itself, is not a bad thing. But, when the school does not meet the criterea, funds are withdrawn or decreased, not increased to help the children with specialized programs to learn the required information to pass the test. So, what makes more sense: to cheat and keep the funding for the school; or to not cheat, and the students suffer more as there are more cuts due to the low test scores?

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