UPDATED 6/17: Criminal charges for cheating on the CRCT?

UPDATE 6/17: The DeKalb District Attorney’s Office is looking into allegations of cheating on the CRCT.

Officials say the probe could lead to criminal charges because state law makes it a felony to tamper with state documents. Officials also said the investigation may include more schools than just Atherton Elementary, which was cited in a state audit for extraordinary and suspicious gains.

Search district-by-district 2009 CRCT scores here. We’ll get school-level results in a couple of weeks.

The chairman of Georgia’s Senate education committee is calling for a new law to punish teachers and others who change students’ answers on the CRCT and other standardized tests.

The idea floated by Sen. Dan Weber comes a few days after a state audit showed answers had been changed on last summer’s fifth-grade CRCT retest at four elementary schools.

The principal at Atherton Elementary in DeKalb, one of the accused schools, has resigned and district officials reassigned the assistant principal.

Other schools cited in the audit were: Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy, Parklane Elementary in Fulton County and Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County.

State officials have said students were not involved in the cheating.

Gov. Perdue’s spokesman said those responsible could face criminal charges under a law prohibiting tampering with state documents. The spokesman said Perdue would support creating a new law if it is determined that what already exists is not adequate.

Do you think those involved with the CRCT cheating scandal should face criminal charges? What should be the punishment?

If a new law is created, won’t the state and local school leaders have to do a better job investigating allegations of cheating?

39 comments Add your comment

catlady

June 16th, 2009
8:35 am

As it is now, there is precious little done about “breaches in test security.” You put criminal charges with it, too, and there will be even more hesitation about charging and investigating. The best thing to do is to have severe, swift, and sure punishment for these cases in terms of job/certificate loss. Furthermore, there should be an easy way to report infractions that do not involve going through the testing coordinators who might be complicit with the problems.

In the current cases, however, you have to think that with the blatant erasures there was a PLAN to violate security. It wasn’t a mistake.

Tony

June 16th, 2009
8:50 am

Can we spell O-V-E-R-K-I-L-L? While the behavior of concern is unethical, there is no reason to criminalize it. There are avenues of protection already in place that can be used to prevent this kind of atrocious behavior.

What this kind of call for legislation really represents is an overemphasis on testing. The CRCT is, at best, a measure of students’ performance using a low quality instrument. The booklets are put together by a company who receives a low-bid contract. There are some quality control measures, but not enough.

These low-quality tests have become the be-all-end-all measure of school performance. The political pressures to improve schools’ performance are measured solely by the CRCT for grades 1-8. The other factors of school performance don’t see the light of day. The results of these assessments are not adequate to diagnose students’ learning needs. The results give some indication of whether a school is delivering the state mandated curriculum, but that is about all. There is no demonstrated link between success on these tests and success later in life.

Further, criminalizing testing protocol violations would create a chasm between school leaders and teachers that would destroy the collaborative nature of our work. Can you imagine beginning the discussion with a teacher by saying “You have the right to remain silent … anything you say can and will be used against you.” In effect, that’s what would happen. Next, we would have to require law enforcement to become involved in the test administration processes. This sounds very much like a police state rather than a free society.

Since the testing frenzy has now descended even further into the pits of hell, it is even more important for us to put a stop to it. Stand up and let your legislators know that enough is enough. Demand a reduction in mandated testing. Demand that our teachers be allowed to teach.

Teacher&mom

June 16th, 2009
10:25 am

Tony-As usual you bring common sense back into the conversation. I always look forward to reading your comments.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

June 16th, 2009
10:32 am

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catlady

June 16th, 2009
11:03 am

Well put, Tony. I think the CRCT is a poorly constructed and poorly (if at all) validated test. Plus, it is subject to too much “manipulation” at the state level. Give me the ITBS any day, recognizing that it is not a criterion referenced test, but at least I feel better about the way it proports to measure student achievement/skills.

And since it is never used in my county (and, apparently in other counties as well) as a necessary-to-pass instrument (given its minimal expectations) it provides little useful data. You really should not compare the results year to year, either by cohort or longitudinally. So, what does it tell you? That these particular students, at this particular time, appear not to have mastered these particular objectives the way the state has decided at this particular moment to evaluate them.

Georgia HATES to use something that compares us to other states.

Turd Ferguson

June 16th, 2009
11:09 am

Criminal charges? Either that OR the offenders be terminated AND not permitted to work within there same field. On second thought our govt cant keep track of offenders wearing anklets therefore CRIMINIAL CHARGES SHOULD BE BROUGHT AND TERMINATION.

Charges or change?

June 16th, 2009
12:58 pm

I hope Sen. Weber will feature this in his re-election campaign:

“I’m a grandstanding jack@ss and I approve this message.”

If you want criminal charges that are going to make a real change, why not criminal charges against school systems that retaliate against whistleblowers?

Why not criminal charges against administrators who refuse to follow the law when it comes to grievances, like one of Weber’s colleagues has been accused of doing?

Last but not least, why not criminal charges when school systems fail to protect teachers in cases of threats and/or physical assaults?

Why not? Because those changes require backbone, not grandstanding.

flipper

June 16th, 2009
1:09 pm

I think that they are heros. If enough of them do it, then everyone will finally see that this ridiculous “race to the bottom” testing madness is just plain silly and maybe.. just maybe one day (I’m sure long after my kids have been damaged) they will do away with NCLB and get back to actually teaching.

flipper

June 16th, 2009
1:09 pm

Oops.. that would be “heroes” not heros.

A message we can believe in.

June 16th, 2009
1:29 pm

I hope Sen. Weber features this idea in his re-election ad. Might I suggest:

“I’m a grandstanding jack@ss, and I approve this message.”

granny

June 16th, 2009
1:35 pm

Thank Tony for articulating that your comments so well. You said exactly what I’ve said for years. I’ve raised 2 kids in the public school system, one of which is not an educator there, and am now raising a grandchild in the same public school system. They used that test then, which caused so many kids to be retained who later dropped out, and they are still, alomst 20 years later, doing the same thing. I am printing your comments and posting on my wall in my office!

jim d

June 16th, 2009
1:58 pm

Ok let me make sure i have this straight.

Webber wants to enact a law to punish teachers and adminstrators of the lowest level for cheating on student exams when there are already laws on the books regarding falsifying state documents that is rarely enforced.(case and point–the ajc broke a story a few years ago about a top school administrator at the largest system in the state falsifying state documents in regards to violent incidents whithin the school system by something like thousaands of incidents and nothing came of it.) Hmm, seems we have larger fish to fry.

Where was Weber then?

June 16th, 2009
2:11 pm

As pointed out earlier, where was Weber when the top school administrator of the largest system in the state signed off on falsified documents in regard to violent incidents?

I guess vicious and violent assaults upon students and staff in the public schools have become so part of the accepted norm, Weber didn’t have anything to grandstand about.

Ernest

June 16th, 2009
3:07 pm

Add me to the list of those that agrees with Tony’s comments. I also decided to conduct some research and it seems those found guilty must answer to the Professional Standards Commission. In the Code of Ethics for Educators, Standard 3d addresses falsifying student information. The penalty could be to suspend or revoke a certificate.

You can see this for yourself at:

http://www.gapsc.com/Rules/Current/Ethics/505-6-.01.pdf

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

June 17th, 2009
12:30 am

Yes.

And, by the way, Jim D.: your memory about GCBOE incident-reporting problems is too good. I’m sure that Alvin had hoped that everybody had forgotten about his system’s “clerical errors” long ago.

Alvin's a wannabe

June 17th, 2009
12:51 am

Y’all think Alvin and Gwinnett set the bar on falsified data excuses with the “clerical errors” comment? Are you forgetting APS Asst. Superintendent Kathy Augustine, when confronted with APS claiming 40 schools had zero behavior incidents telling the AJC “perhaps our reforms are working so well, there are no incidents to report”?

Apparently that organization that gave Beverly Hall the National Superintendent of the Year award did, unless they specifically ruled out honesty and integrity as criteria for the award.

Hush your mouth

June 17th, 2009
1:17 am

I’m not sure State Senator Ronald Ramsey going to be too keen on criminalizing educators who break state law, if this report from the MACE website The Teachers Advocate is true.

“When a teacher was going to testify about systematic cheating in grading at DeKalb’s Clarkston High School in a grievance hearing, State Senator Ronald Ramsey (who is in charge of grievance hearings in the DeKalb County School System) summarily shut down the grievance hearing. I am quite confident that Mr. Ramsey is getting his marching orders from that Clown of a Superintendent in DeKalb, Crawford Lewis. Crawford Lewis’s administration is apparently afraid to hold grievance hearings as mandated by State Statute (OCGA 20-2-989.5 et seq.).”

If you are a citizen in DeKalb who is disturbed about reports of cheating, and you live in Ramsey’s district, you may want to email him at ronald.ramsey@senate.ga.gov and ask him if these reports are true, and if so why he feels as a lawmaker, he is justified in being a lawbreaker.

jim d

June 17th, 2009
11:37 am

Alvins wannabe,

yeah but kathy never commented on sped kids being an albatross around the neck of the system–like someone else we all know and luv.(not)

NY2GA, Inc.

June 17th, 2009
2:31 pm

Yes, they should be punished. I think administrators that tampered with the tests of their students should resign. They are supposed to be setting an example for our children. I think the reason this is happening is because of the pressure associated with schools making AYP. Also, there very well might be some “incentives” or bonuses involved for the principals if their schools perform well.

Shar

June 17th, 2009
2:35 pm

Although I agree that the fervor for testing has swamped any fervor for educational quality, I think that specific laws citing specific, immediate consequences are in order here. One of the many, many problems with testing is that the stakes are high primarily for the educational establishment, not the students, parents or taxpayers who fund them. Bureaucrats will do whatever is necessary and handy to protect the status quo, and putting them in charge of both the testing process and the consequences for poor performance is putting that ol’ fox in charge of the hen house. Making the legal liability dependent upon interpretation of general statutes makes them only too eager to take their chances on being protected by those above them.

The victims in these cases are the students themselves, who are pushed forward into grade levels for which they are not prepared; their teachers, who must slow instruction and go over basic skills for these unprepared students while simultaneously trying to engage and challenge the students who are at grade level; and their classmates, who must try to learn despite the fractured lesson plan and the frustrated outbursts of those students who suffer the embarassment and confusion of not being able to keep up. None of these consequences fall upon the administrators, who have everything to gain by cheating.

Those who are suspected of cheating should be investigated (and why is APS refusing to do this?), the charges resolved and the punishment swift and effective. A targeted statute would help in this process, and act as a spur to those systems who are looking for an excuse to sweep this behavior under the rug. Are you listening, Beverley?

Kim

June 17th, 2009
2:36 pm

As an elementary school teacher, I can attest to the lack of test security present for the CRCT. Proctors are not present in each classroom. Therefore, it is easy for a teacher to affect test scores if he/she chooses to do so. There are a few teachers in every building that can’t be trusted. If Georgia is serious about the integrity of the test, it should be mandatory to have a proctor in every classroom.

When an administrator changes test answers, that is the bottom of the barrel. Every good thing that he/she has accomplished at that school up until that moment must be second-guessed. It is simply a case of administrators saving themselves and throwing the rest of the school community overboard: teachers, students, parents, etc…

YES… press charges against anyone proven to have cheated on this test.

David S

June 17th, 2009
3:10 pm

I’m sure the responsible leadership is already going over a list of suitable scapegoats to throw at the DA. As will all government corruption situations (does government operate any other way?), the truly responsible will go scott free while the bit players and order followers will take the heat. But don’t count on any lost pensions, health care, or any other perks for the guilty either. I mean we can’t have REAL accountability. That would require a free market solution.

gifted52

June 17th, 2009
3:29 pm

I teach in an IB High School and I agree with Tony.”Enough is Enough”..forget the pressing charges and let teachers actually teach.

ugacpa02

June 17th, 2009
3:32 pm

Just fire them and take away their license. No need to add a criminal punishment.

this is pure bullsh*t

June 17th, 2009
3:39 pm

First of all, i am so ashamed of the Principal James Berry, and his assistant for this dumb asz move!!! My son attends this school, he is now going to the first grade. Bad enough the school was projected to do low(according to the AYP)but to stoop so low, they deserve everything they get!!! Dr James Berry fraternity is having a ball laughing at him, so much for sitting on top of the world..

joe

June 17th, 2009
3:46 pm

We don’t need any criminalization here. If a currnet law has been violated then prosecute. If not then lets use our judicial and law enforcement resources for other things.

The CRCT is in my opinion the biggest waste of time and the biggest obstacle to a real public education. I have three children in public schools in Fulton County currently.

Rosie

June 17th, 2009
5:48 pm

How would you go about proving who changed the answers unless the person confessed? Would an adminstrator throw a teacher under the bus to save his/her own job?

Ernest

June 17th, 2009
7:00 pm

I wonder why the DAs office is getting involved in this. Isn’t this crime of an ‘ethical’ nature rather than criminal? To criminalize this might open up a can of worms that we can’t come back from.

Jesse Bolden

June 17th, 2009
11:07 pm

Exactly who will report academic dishonesty! The local systems are those promoting the cheating! Georgia has a run away freight train on its hand. Guess what! It was promoteds by the state of Georgia. From the start, the state should have been using certified state testing personnel, and monitors. Let the teachers teach! Let the principals principal. Let the counselors counsel. What about the modern technology in the hand of the Georgia student populace! Only the state of Georgia has the resources to handle this thing!

Anna

June 17th, 2009
11:13 pm

Maybe the county office administrators who are overpaid anyway need to come to the local school house and help supervise testing. They could take the answer sheets with them to a regional secure location and then return them on the one make up day and then pick them up again to send to the state. I say address the problem. It is an ethical issue, not a criminal matter. It is true, that grievances are not held in DCSS. Someone should do an open records request for the number of hearing and how many were responded to within 10 days and how many went to level !! and were addressed within the timelines specified. Go to the website for DCSS http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/internalaffairs/index.html

Cricket

June 17th, 2009
11:17 pm

What law will the D.A.’s office charge them with violating?

Anna

June 17th, 2009
11:17 pm

Senator Weber, just because your wife was a former administrator who decided to go back in the classrom, does not make you an education expert. The middle school she left hasn’t made AYP in several years. It is not a criminal matter. You have bigger issues to address.

Anna

June 17th, 2009
11:29 pm

Do we really need another law everytime someone does something stupid?

The officials who perpetrated this fraud have been discovered and will most likely see their careers ended as a result. There is no evidence that they represent a danger to the public at large. We have the mechanisms in place to deal with this matter.

Why is no one questioning the level of importance placed on standardized testing that motivated these acts?

Joel Finegold

June 18th, 2009
2:23 am

Try to get a copy of one of those CRCT tests. You meet a stone wall. It’s content is “confidential”, even for outdated tests. You would think that someone who could really construct a test question that measured achievement of some kind, could find many ways to construct a question that measured the same thing . And a group of persons similarly competent should be able to produce far more than that. I cannot help wondering how competent those who write these tests really are. There must be something unsavory in federal financing that gets this testing shoved into us. Georgia is not the only state that holds to this secrecy policy. That is strong evidence of tax supported teaching(not learning) programs designed to work just as the Wizard of Oz preferred to govern: hidden behind a cloak of authority,free of any open and meaningful criticism. As such, it is inevitable that those who “teach” to such standards will be the class of teachers from whom “those who exemplify good teaching” will be selected by politicians. Teaching to such standards has little to do with inspiring youngsters to learn anything besides how to get good marks on tests they have been taught to take. Moreover, it dilutes their most important power to learn a given subject: their realization of how far their deductive powers can carry them into it. What CRCT most accurately measures is a person’s desire to respond to certain cues. Whatever it measures of true learning is purely coincidental.

cricket

June 18th, 2009
6:19 pm

They can’t be charged with violating a law that hasn’t been created yet. What current law does the D.A.’s office base their intent to investigate on?

Patrick

June 18th, 2009
8:50 pm

I agree that the CRCT is a major overkill in determining as to whether or not our students are learning. Their report card grades should be all the evidence needed as to whether or not they may advance to the next grade level.

I always hated taking the CRCT (was then known as the GCRT, as well as the Iowa Standard). Even as a child, I knew they were really a waste of time in determining how much students knew, and how well the schools performed on the whole.

The test has created such dishonesty. The only material that is taught in most schools is the material covered in the test. While the test is supposed to cover material appropriate for the grade level taking it, in general it covers all grade levels, so even a 5th grade student will see material they covered back in 1st grade. All the textbooks in each grade level covered the basic stuff that was already taught in previous years before advancing to newer material. The newer material didn’t begin until five or six chapters into the book.

There was an episode of “The Simpsons” that made fun of how schools were teaching nothing but the test: there was even a scene of one classroom where the teacher had the students recite the correct answers for one section.

While I don’t see the CRCT or any other standardized testing completely going away, I do propose that perhaps the way they are administered and graded be changed. Right now the teachers of the school administer the test, and they, along with the principal and assistant principal, grade the tests. Perhaps the administration and grading of said tests be handled by an outside agency/group/source. I’d recommend the company that publishes the test, since they (supposedly) have a non-biased approach towards all schools in the nation. The company could set up branch offices in each state, and the employees from that office would be test proctors, whose job would be to administer and grade the tests.

The tests would be administered at the school, not in the individual classrooms, but in one main room that can hold all students from each school that would take the test, like the cafeteria, library, gymnasium, theater, or other similar large common area, like how the SATs are usually administered. Materials needed for the test (sharpened #2 pencils, blank paper for doing math problems, etc.) would be provided to the students in the testing area.

The test proctors would hand out the answer sheets, test booklets, and go over the instructions on how to complete the test. At the end of each day, they would collect the answer sheets and booklets, and take them back to the branch office. The next day, they would bring them back to the school, and continue with the testing.

After testing is completed, the answer sheets and booklets would be collected, taken back to the branch office, and graded at the branch office. Grading could take a couple of weeks, but with it being performed off-site, there is less risk of answers being changed to make one particular school look good. The company would have to enforce a policy that prohibits any and all proctors to accept gifts of any denomination or kind from the principal, assistant principal, dean, or any employee of said school or local board of education, under penalty of termination.

If not the company, then perhaps a department set up within the State Board of Education, consisting of test proctors and examiners, whose sole responsibility is to administer and grade the standardized tests. Those wishing to join would have to meet the following criteria:

1. Not presently be an employee at any of the schools, with perhaps the exception of those positions which do not involve direct interaction or involvement with the children’s education process (like janitor, secretary)

2. Not have a child presently attending the school. They could have a child that once attended the school, but graduated prior to their assignment to said school.

3. Not be acquainted with anyone whose child(ren) attend said school.

4. Not be acquainted with anyone employed at said school.

I know this leaves very little room for opportunity, but on the same token, it doesn’t allow a lot of room for bias towards one school or another.

Just like I mentioned above, the group would be responsible for administering and grading the tests, and the tests would be graded off-site (away from the school), either at the department’s office, or else sent up to the company that produces the tests.

Applerot

June 18th, 2009
9:15 pm

Hey “Shut Your Mouth”: You are so right. The Office of Internal Resolutions in the DeKalb School System under the dubious leadership of State Senator Ronald Ramsey is really the Center to Cover Up the Mishaps of the Crawford Lewis Administration. Typically, people misuse power. I think that when John Trotter and the MACE group brings the heat, those spineless ones in DeKalb (and other systems) get nervous. Hypocrites!

Fiscal Responsibility

June 22nd, 2009
9:00 am

The charges should be against the state not the administrators. The CRCT is a JOKE so I do not understand why anyone will CHEAT. Regardless of whether the students pass the test or not they will go to the next grade so the State needs to prosecuted because they say students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade must pass the test to go to the next grade but, it is not True. Students fail the test every year and still go to the next grade so, what is all the talk about cheating? The State cheats children every year along with the administrators, teachers, and parents.

Miss GOOD MONEY ONE

July 15th, 2010
10:41 pm

Criminal Charges…Wow