Answers may finally come in ongoing CRCT cheating probe

In an update to the earlier CRCT investigation story, the AJC is now reporting that Mike Bowers and Bob Wilson were appointed special assistant district attorneys in Fulton County today, signaling that criminal prosecutions are coming.

Both former prosecutors, Bowers and Wilson were appointed by the governor in August to jump-start the probe into CRCT cheating by Atlanta and Dougherty County schools. A frustrated Sonny Perdue felt that the two systems did not do a thorough job in their own internal investigations into why their classrooms led the state in the number of wrong to right erasures on the 2009 CRCT.

Both districts had rates that far exceeded the Georgia average and had multiple classrooms flagged by a state audit. The questions that remain unresolved: Who cheated, how and was it systematic?

Hopefully, a grand jury will get some answers.

According to the AJC, which spoke this morning to Fulton DA Paul Howard:

Bowers and Wilson, appointed in August by Gov. Sonny Perdue to be special investigators, have “presented my office with clear-cut, direct, eye-witnessed evidence” that student tests were improperly altered by Atlanta Public School employees, Howard said. “It is now our duty to determine the extent of this wrongdoing and decide in which cases criminal prosecution may be appropriate.”

When asked about the extent of the cheating scandal, Howard said, “If it was just one person, I don’t think we’d be doing this today.”

Howard said he may impanel a special investigative grand jury to help with the probe. This would also allow prosecutors to seek formal charges.

“It signifies they’re looking to indict people,” said Atlanta criminal defense attorney Jerry Froelich, who is not involved in the investigation. “It’s a sign that they feel they’ve gotten to the stage where they think they have enough evidence to bring charges.”

–By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog

78 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

November 30th, 2010
12:36 pm

I have heard that Dougherty County teachers were told to bring a personal lawyer to the meetings… Is there any news of them admitting to cheating?

Aiken Faque

November 30th, 2010
12:56 pm

One cannot legislate Moral Values, however, one can punish those that do not practice them.

naturedude

November 30th, 2010
1:03 pm

There is no way that many teachers were involved without direction from those above. Of course, we know who will take the fall for this.

Censorship is boring....

November 30th, 2010
1:05 pm

Central Office Administration to the Principals: You will bring up your test scores or you will be out of here.” Guess what? The principals get the message…and pass along the pressure. The culture for cheating begins at the top.

chris

November 30th, 2010
1:08 pm

oh please. this bull. if you were trying to help a special needs student understand your cheating to these people. With the junk in society, people worried about this. Go look into a real crime. This wouldn’t happen if the no children left trash wasn’t passed. This gone way to far, people get a gripe. I’m sorry all schools cheat on some level. I know I was a sped teacher in 2 states. We ask kids to write who can’t write at all on these tests. Actually, I got in trouble for not encourageing them to not finish early. I never cheated though, but I don’t teach any more. Praise God.

Lisa B.

November 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

Criminal prosecutions????? Is it not enough that those educators found guilty in the cheating probe will lose their careers, their teaching certificates, and their reputations? I do not defend cheating, but believe destroying careers of the guilty is punishment enough.

Lisa B.

November 30th, 2010
1:48 pm

Criminal prosecution????? Talk about overkill. Those found guilty in this investigation will lose their jobs, their teaching certificates and their professional reputations. I think the complete destruction of one’s career and livelihood is punishment enough.

Lisa B.

November 30th, 2010
1:49 pm

caught in the filter…

Chrome Gouda

November 30th, 2010
1:51 pm

I’ve got to say, I find the above comments from “David Sims” to be sad. And the “little primates” analogy is questionable, too.

But hey- as long as it is entertaining…

sarah

November 30th, 2010
2:25 pm

Are they visiting all 58 schools? They have yet to come to my school.

Real

November 30th, 2010
2:35 pm

@David Sims, your comments are unacceptable and racist. You should be banned from this blog for making an analogy such as “lillle primates.{

Real

November 30th, 2010
2:40 pm

@David Sims, your comments are unaccaptable and racist. You should be banned from this blog for making an analogy such as “little Primates.”-Revised copy.

What's best for kids?

November 30th, 2010
2:48 pm

Maureen,
There is a line that should not be crossed, and I do believe that Mr. Sims crossed it.

Shar

November 30th, 2010
2:53 pm

No, Lisa B, it’s not enough. Criminal prosecutions are in order, the sooner the better. The investigators have already said that teachers will not be criminally prosecuted as long as they tell the truth and cooperate. Those teachers may, and should, be subject to professional sanctions, but the prosecutors will pursue indictments against administrators who encouraged, coerced or tacitly approved cheating.

Financial consequences are painful, but if the financial rewards of criminal behavior are high enough some people will be willing to take the risk. Jail time is much scarier, and therefore more meaningful as a deterrent. Legallly, too, changing test paperwork is a criminal offense.

Most importantly, those teachers and administrators who cheated for personal gain did so on the backs of children whose only hope is a decent education and who were already behind. They did it at the expense of taxpayers, too, who invest twice as much as the national average in a school system that promised to prepare Atlanta’s children to become productive contributors only to have those children betrayed. The failure of those cheaters to address the crucial educational needs of Atlanta’s children has left thousands of students discouraged, parents mislead and other, honest teachers under fire for not ginning up the same “improvements” as the cheaters.

Getting such people out of any classroom permanently is an obvious necessity, and they deserve no more pity than other thieves and child abusers. Putting those who ran the system behind bars is the least the justice system should do.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 30th, 2010
3:07 pm

Well-put, Shar.

Lawyer

November 30th, 2010
3:13 pm

Dr. Hall will be the first on the list of indictments. For emphasis, members of her cabinet will be included. In the best interest of APS, the Board should convene a special meeting to terminate Hall.
I do not expect local school administrators to be criminally charged short of making a deal to finger Hall and her cabinet. This is past due and the only way to send a lasting message to Hall. For she has played the citizens of Atlanta and used the board for her own personal gains, and was very smart with it. If Hall is not charged, the citizens of Atlanta, including the mayor are less than adept (stupid).

Lisa B.

November 30th, 2010
3:20 pm

My earlier comment addressed guilty teachers more than guilty administrators. Over they years I’ve heard teachers say they were bullied, and threatened by administrators to “do whatever it takes” to get those scores up, “or else.” I’ve heard tales of teachers threatened with actual dismissal. It has always been my opinion that no matter what, one should NEVER cheat on THE TEST. If caught cheating, at the very least, teachers lose their careers. No amount of bullying will convince me to put my career at risk by cheating. I do think there should be severe consequences for administrators who bullied and threatened teachers into cheating. I imagine proving that type of behavior occurred is difficult.

Lisa B.

November 30th, 2010
3:21 pm

I agree with Shar’s comments. The big losers in the whole mess are the students.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 30th, 2010
3:23 pm

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: Why are CRCT tests administered by teachers and administrators whose employment, advancements and/or pay raises might be contingent upon the results of the tests themselves?

Eating Chinese Food

November 30th, 2010
3:35 pm

If several teachers at any one school were found guilty of engaging in cheating practices, wouldn’t it stand to reason that at least a tacit mandate from the school’s administrator(s) came down to the teachers? Hmm. Just thinking.

Dr. John Trotter

November 30th, 2010
3:55 pm

Just this past week, a current Georgia superintendent personally confided in me that when he first became a principal (in one of the metro school systems), the new superintendent (from out of state, of course) called his secretary and told her that he wanted to meet with the principal. This principal asked the secretary if the new superintendent mentioned why he wanted the meeting. She replied that he didn’t.

The superintendent comes to the meeting and starts chewing out this principal (now a superintendent in Georgia and doing a fine job) for the school’s test scores for the past year. He told the principal in no uncertain term: “Either the test scores go up this year or you will be out of here at the end of the year.” Yep. Just a simple mandate and threat. Either the test scores go up or you go.

By the way, this jerk of a superintendent then asked the principal if he had any comments that he wanted to make. The principal responded: “It might interest you to know that I was not the principal at this school last year. I just received the job this summer.” Hmm. True story. At least we know how it works. The G. B. I. and other pertinent parties might want to ask if this type of mandates and threats were made by the Higher Ups in the Hall Administration to the building-level principals. I think that you will find that this was the modus operandus. (c) MACE, November 30, 2010.

Daffy

November 30th, 2010
3:56 pm

Don’t drop the soap, teachers!

REALCRIME

November 30th, 2010
3:58 pm

The real crime is the testing process itself. The raw score to pass most tests is usually less than 50% on the test. The whole testing process is a waste of money, time, and effort. I can gain the same information from teacher made test. Most state law makers, boad members, and general public would do less than the 50 % raw score on the fifth grade CRCT math test. the money wasted on the test preparation, implementation, and data review is where the crime can be found.

chillywilly

November 30th, 2010
4:07 pm

@Lawyer – I totally agree with you. I think that they should indict Beverly Hall, Kathy Augustine, Sharon Pitts, Veleter, Millicent Few, Chuck Burbridge, Nader Sohrab, Penn Payne, Dave Williams(on), Keith Bromery, Chandra Burks, Emmett Johnson, and a few more folks in Finance & Technology. I always felt that Hall was a hustler and didn’t give a damn about APS.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sophia, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Answers may finally come in ongoing CRCT cheating probe http://bit.ly/f98Obe [...]

oldtimer

November 30th, 2010
5:24 pm

The pressure to do well is from the top. Teachers should not cheat…I never did, but, saying that, the majority of students I have worked with since 1975 wanted to do well and were encouraged by their parents. Now days I wonder how you can make a chihld learn. I now live in a state that rquires kids to attend school till 18. I am working with a parent who cannot make her 17 year oldget to school. I know, I know she probably created the problem. She may go jail..and pay a rather large fine. She works 3rd shift at a nursing home and is worried about keeping her job. Her boy does not care.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

November 30th, 2010
5:35 pm

Forget this fantasy about jailing the gang at Trinity.

It’s unlikely Bev Hall knew about the cheating or condoned it. She really believed her own excellence led to systems and improvements that in turn those high scores. Of course that was a catastrophic misjudgment on her part…

It’s irrelevant to me if she’s ever charged; she’ll beat the rap. But when it became clear that cheating was rampant–THAT’s when we saw Hall’s true colors. She denied and suppressed and covered up the truth. Her response to the cheating may not have been criminal but it was morally bankrupt. Any good she may have done is now in question; even the much-ballyhooed NAEP scores look suspect now. (The same Hall who covered up cheating evidence would not be above manipulating a test cohort).

We probably won’t have the satisfaction of seeing Hall in shackles. We’ll have to make due with watching her endure a few more months of public humiliation before she catches the stagecoach out of Dodge. If she had any idea of what public condemnation awaits her, she would have made her retirement effective immediately. But that’s hubris for you–see Blagojevich, Pelosi, Rangel, et al. (Plenty of Republicans in that group too, by the way).

Sophie

November 30th, 2010
5:44 pm

Anyone who has spent time in an ATL classroon knows what an apt analogy the zoo is.

Inquiring Mind

November 30th, 2010
5:50 pm

@ Sophie can you please expound on how much of a zoo Atlanta classrooms are? Is it only at the majority Black schools or are the white students primates/monkeys too?

Maureen Downey

November 30th, 2010
5:52 pm

To all, The primates comment has been taken down.
Maureen

David Sims

November 30th, 2010
6:23 pm

@Real and “What’s best,” If you read my comment closely, you’ll notice that I did not call blacks “primates,” even though, to be strictly technically accurate about it, that’s exactly what there are. Review your taxonomy: primate is the order to which all hominids, including humans, belong. I called the monkeys in a zoo cage, primates. Even if you had not been mistaken about to whom I was referring, you’d nonetheless have been calling for my banishment because I’d told the truth. But nevermind. Facts are never important to someone one a witch hunt.

Know this, however: I am indeed a racist, and the possibility of being banned from a place has never kept me from saying what I think the truth is. It never will.

@Shar. You’re right. The teachers aren’t the primary target of law enforcement; the administrators are. The teachers won’t be prosecuted as long as they tell the truth and cooperate with the investigation. And that’s as it should be. The CRCT cheating denied educational feedback about children’s learning progress that was crucial to finding out how they were falling short and what should be done to help them catch up. Also, the motive for the cheating seems to have been, in part, greed by overpaid administrators for salary and by the leadership of the Atlanta school district for tax subsidy, as well as for grants and awards that they might not have received if they had accurately represented their students’ skill levels. Theft is theft, regardless of the window dressing.

@Dr. Craig Spinks. You might have noticed that in many of the county school districts around Georgia, there was no significant amount of CRCT cheating. If you want to know why some districts had much cheating, while other districts had little or none, one thing you might do is examine the demographics of each of the schools suspected of having 25% or more of their classrooms suspected of cheating. There are 71 such schools. Only one of them has a white student majority. Two of them have Hispanic student majorities. Sixty-eight of them have black student majorities. Of course, that might be coincidence! It’s theoretically possible that the distribution of cheating classroom percentages has nothing to do with race. But the chance of that is very, very small.

@REALCRIME. “Most state law makers, boad members, and general public would do less than the 50 % raw score on the fifth grade CRCT math test.” That’s probably not so. I’m a hillbilly (West Virginia Allegheny Mountains), and I’m pretty good with math. While a Georgia legislator or school superintendent might not be as skilled as I am, he can probably do some calculus, which is more than we ask of fifth-graders.

another APS teacher

November 30th, 2010
6:26 pm

@Springdale Parent: Anyone looking at the number and percentages of 5th grade “Exceeds Expectations” math scores coming out feeder elementary schools and then comparing those scores to 6th grade middle school scores should have been able to put two and two together and come up with a lie. Longitudinal data is the only real data, and a student who scores 870 in math in 5th grade and then fails in 6th grade is a student whose 5th grade answers got changed. Middle school teachers have known for years that there was something might strange going on when students with fantastic 5th grade scores walked into our classrooms not knowing the four basic operations and unable to tell a noun from a verb. Or when we checked our students’ PR folder and learned that the only CRCT’s they passed were the ones in 3rd and 5th grade. Sure give away.

Karma

November 30th, 2010
6:35 pm

@ Springdale – I’m afraid I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on that one. That woman knew. There is no way she did not know. But I do agree with you that we probably won’t get to see if the Fulton Co. jail system has a jumpsuit big enough to fit her. However, if indictments are made, and plea bargains are made where someone exchanges testimony for immunity… I don’t know, it could happen. If I were a principal and was facing 10 years I’d certainly hand the old hag over. Just sayin…

chillywilly

November 30th, 2010
6:45 pm

@Karma – I agree with you. Beverly Hall had to have known. It’s time for folks to stop protecting her. Tell all!!

Who’s responsible for investigating APS Central Office cheating? If we’re going to clean house, lets start from the front and work our way toward the back. If you know of anyone, ANYONE that has engaged in wrong doing at APS central office, turn them in. Now is your opportunity.

Dog

November 30th, 2010
6:50 pm

I am a primate, you are a primate, we are all primates. Biology 101.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

November 30th, 2010
6:58 pm

@karma–I hope you’re right. It would send a powerful message, and would help chillywilly’s commendable efforts to put APS Central Office under an investigative microscope. This whole system needs to be disassembled and reassembled. No way some new super comes in and makes subtle changes and gets results.

David Sims

November 30th, 2010
7:10 pm

@Inquiring Mind. OF COURSE white students are primates, too. Primate is the order to which all hominids, including all humans, belong.

Not only did I not refer blacks as primates in my first post, I didn’t explicitly mention blacks AT ALL in that post. Without my having to say so, “Real” was able to infer (correctly) that I was comparing the competitive shenanigans of monkeys to the corruption of blacks in positions of authority. How could he have done that, unless the comparison were so especially apt that no one with any knowledge of blacks could have missed it?

I’ve putting my comments, censored here, on my own blog, with a link back to here.

Magilla

November 30th, 2010
7:53 pm

This is indeed entertaining. More fun than a barrell of monkeys.

Angus

November 30th, 2010
8:15 pm

From Creative Loafing –

“J. Tom Morgan, APS’ outside counsel for the test tampering investigation, said in a statement:

Atlanta Public Schools will cooperate fully and completely with the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, just as the school system has done with the state investigation. Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall has repeatedly demanded that every employee cooperate with investigators or face termination. If any employees violated criminal laws during the course of their employment with the Atlanta Public Schools, they should be prosecuted. Dr. Hall believes strongly that such prosecutions are in the interest of the community at large, and especially in the interest of school children who may have been harmed by these actions. If Atlanta Public Schools has reasonable evidence that someone has violated an ethical standard required of all our educators, the Superintendent will immediately move to terminate that individual’s contract, without waiting for criminal prosecution.”

Enjoy.

Nameless in Seattle!

November 30th, 2010
8:38 pm

From the extensive research I have done, Dr. Hall was accused by Gov. Perdue of ‘not acting quickly enough’ — it seems she wanted to do her research before accusing anyone… ya know, sorta like they do in courts around our country. You’ve heard the term, ‘Innocent until proven guilty.’ I’d recommend all of you doing the same…do your homework.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 30th, 2010
8:46 pm

CRCT cheating extends beyond teacher- and administrator-manipulation of answer sheets. CRCT-related cheating extends to educratic misrepresentation of the test data. A “satisfactory” score on a CRCT subtest does not denote a minimal 70% accuracy rate on subtest items or performance at the appropriate, nationally-normed grade-level. Rather, a “satisfactory” score on a CRCT subtest appears to be the minimum score which allows a satisfactorily large number of statewide testees to “pass.” Who’re being cheated? How ’bout students who want first-rate educations? Parents who want first-rate educations for their kids? Teachers and admins who want first-rate educations for their students? Georgia taxpayers? Of what are we all being cheated? A better future.

john konop

November 30th, 2010
9:11 pm

……criminal prosecution…..

We have the criminal system ie courts, jails…..overwhelmed with cases and prisoners and now we want to put teachers in jail? Obviously what the teachers did was wrong and they should be fired. What next, throw in jail any office holder who voted and or supported the teach to the test one size fit all failed “ No Child Left Behind” that is the root cause of this problem? We should fix the problem and stop the grandstanding at tax payers expense!

An American Patriot

November 30th, 2010
9:13 pm

Makes you wanna puke….don’t it? :) I will make a prediction……by the end of 2010, BH will be gone…..ridden out of town on a rail

Sarah

November 30th, 2010
9:28 pm

@Springdale Park parent..as an APS teacher, you are delusional…You are a parent on the outside looking in…

Spark stinks

November 30th, 2010
9:40 pm

Any word on the trash from C.W.Hill that we got stuck with at Spark? And I am referring to the teachers, not Principal Brown.

Kwanza

November 30th, 2010
10:19 pm

Dear commentators on GetSchooled,

The cheating was unfortunate for our students. Let’s not waste anymore time and let’s work tirelessly until students have a world class education and are competitive sans any smoke and mirrors.

Today marks the launch of the Education Culture Scholars Project. I am working with Atlanta Tutors and Essential2Life Urban Youth Solutions to provide inner-city students with quality one-on-one SAT prep and foreign language tutoring. Select students–all of whom are juniors at Douglass High School in Atlanta–have been hand-picked to receive supplemental education so as to enhance their student profiles and competitiveness in the college application process.

The reality is that these students need one-on-one tutoring to score in a competitive range when they take the SAT next year. High quality tutoring is expensive, but often less expensive than SAT prep courses. Atlanta Tutors, a local tutoring service that is known for superior quality in teaching and raising scores, has been generous enough to offer their services at a discount for these select Douglass students. Today I am challenging each of my family members and friends to buy at least one hour of SAT or foreign language tutorials for these high school students. Tutorials with some of the most qualified, experienced, and effective tutors in Atlanta are $50/hour. The goal for each student is to have ten weeks of classes, two hours per week. That’s $1000 for 20 hours, but compare that with $2599 for the same amount of time with Kaplan or $2400 with Princeton Review. If you are going to give this holiday season, please give to the effort to not only help close the achievement gap by producing competitive college applicants, but to also develop a class of nationally competitive juniors among Atlanta’s own.

How you can help
You can help these students improve their chances of getting into college with the purchase of an hour or more of tutoring on the Atlanta Tutors at https://atlantatutors.net/payments.php. Please put “Essential2Life” in the student name field so that the credit will be applied to this project. You can also send a check made out to Atlanta Tutors – P.O. Box 450442 Atlanta, GA 31145-9998 – 678.412.5457. Please write “Essential2Life” in the “For” field.

Per request of the donor, student progress reports will be provided to show how together, we can ensure that our students achieve.

Also, if you have any new or used SAT books or foreign language (Spanish or French) learning materials, please notify me at cultureofeducation@gmail.com

Kwanza

gogither

November 30th, 2010
10:56 pm

If you could speak to your girl Beverly about donating the bogus ( I mean bonus) money she has collected over the years and get the principals to return their ill gotten bonuses you could fund all of what you need. It would take a lil courage for that though.

Once and Future Springdale Park Elementary Parent

November 30th, 2010
11:09 pm

@spark stinks: Who do you think hired those teachers?

Race plays an interesting role here. If Yolonda Brown were white, she’d have been run out of town long ago. But because she’s black, guilt-ridden white parents more interested in appearing progressive than representing their childrens’ best interests put up with her incompetence and autocratic behavior.

Brown was hired on the basis of a CV that we now know to be fraudulent. She can’t manage even routine projects (parking lot last year, gym this year) and she banished a gifted teacher to a ghetto school because the teacher wouldn’t kowtow to her.

But it’s the personnel decisions she’s made that stand out as the most damaging consequence of her installment as principal. Oh, and @Sarah–outsider? Really? What, now you’re, Opus Dei? It’s not hard to see how things work — or don’t–at APS. Even the worst employees don’t bother trying to hide their lack of ability–or their contempt for activist parents.

But that was the point of your post, wasn’t it?

Get your facts straight

November 30th, 2010
11:33 pm

@Spark stink AND Once and Future Spark parent…

There are only 2-3 CW Hill teachers at Spark. The TRASH came from Mary Lin and Morningside (because they wanted to keep their good teacher, they sent the TRASH there)…this is very KNOWN. We just discussed this a few days ago on the other article (but you seem to ignore the real facts).

Just for the record I am not a teacher at Spark, but I know alot about it :)

@ Once and Future Spark Parent, you STILL haven’t responded to my comment about most of the classrooms at CW Hill not being flagged. Use the data and just your own emotions.

Burroughston Broch

December 1st, 2010
1:39 am

@ Kwanza

What a lot of rubbish you write! You first dismiss the subject of the blog and then try to blow smoke in everyone’s face about your newest pet feel good project. Rather than enriching a few handpicked students at Douglass, how about some focus on graduating a majority who are proficient in the three Rs?