Perdue’s probe obtains admissions of cheating on CRCT

APS staff members have either confessed to changing answers on the CRCT or watching others tamper with tests, according to a story in this morning’s AJC.

The admissions came from an investigation ordered by Gov. Perdue in August after internal probes by  Atlanta and Dougherty County school officials yielded no clear picture of how 2009 CRCT  answer sheets were changed or who did it.

However, it is unclear whether those staff members who confessed to tampering in any way are among the 108 employees that Atlanta schools  have already  referred to the state Professional Standards Commission for possible disciplinary action last August as result of their own investigation.

But the admissions will provide a clearer picture of how cheating occurred and how to stop it in the future. For the most part, the investigations by the schools themselves yielded no admissions. It is likely the presence of GBI agents influenced some people to come clean with what they knew.

I find this interesting as I had talked to someone involved with this probe earlier this year and he complained that school employees, particularly in Dougherty County, were not being truthful. So, I wonder if the GBI, brought in by the governor in  October, made a difference.

The next step now is the release of the information and the possible prosecution of those who cheated. Stay tuned.

According to the AJC:

Numerous Atlanta Public Schools employees have confessed to changing students’ test papers, providing answers to students or watching others manipulate tests, according to an official briefed on the state’s investigation into cheating on standardized tests.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some teachers are telling investigators, “I’m guilty. Here’s what I did. Here’s what I know happened.”

The revelation comes as criminal charges against APS employees appear increasingly likely as a result of the state’s investigation. GBI director Vernon Keenan and two special investigators on Monday met with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

A spokeswoman for Howard confirmed the meeting took place but declined to comment further. Luz Tellez, the spokeswoman, said an announcement is expected today. Keenan and the investigators — former Attorney General Michael Bowers and DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson — also declined to discuss the meeting.

But one possibility is that Howard would deputize Bowers and Wilson as special assistant district attorneys, said defense attorney Don Samuel. That would elevate their status to state prosecutor, giving them the ability to present evidence of possible wrongdoing by school officials to a Fulton grand jury.

At the moment, none of the three investigators has the power to turn their findings into criminal cases, even though two of them — Bowers and Wilson — are lawyers.

“Obviously, this means it’s moving forward,” Samuel said.

Bowers, speaking for the investigators, declined Monday to comment on any possible confessions.

GBI officials have said teachers are not targets for criminal charges as long as they are truthful with agents and investigators. But administrators may be.

Potential felony charges that educators could face include lying to agents or investigators, which could bring up to five years in prison, and the destruction or altering of public documents, which could result in up to 10 years in prison.

Atlanta district spokesman Keith Bromery said, “We are fully cooperating with this investigation, wherever it may lead,” but declined to comment further.

The official who spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not know how many school system employees have confessed or provided evidence against superiors.

It is unlikely, the official said, that the number has exceeded the 108 Atlanta educators that were referred to the state Professional Standards Commission for possible disciplinary action last August.

In August, Gov. Sonny Perdue named Bowers and Wilson as special investigators to determine whether Atlanta and also Dougherty County school officials falsified scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

–By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schoooled blog

74 comments Add your comment

Susan Wilder

November 30th, 2010
7:07 am

What a sad day for APS.

Concerned 1

November 30th, 2010
7:09 am

Children deserve to be taught the correct way. This whole episode in the history of APS is a sad one. Perhaps eventually testing, testing, testing will lose its dictatorial status in our society. We have all lost our way in education. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Atlanta Daily, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Perdue’s probe obtains admissions of cheating on CRCT http://bit.ly/f0s0Mr [...]

Educator 4 life

November 30th, 2010
7:37 am

The CRCT tests the students once a year on essential subjects. Lets not conclude that the test is at fault because individuals acted improperly during the administration. Sure, teachers and schools shouldn’t be so test centered, but that doesn’t mean that we should throw away a means for evaluating the effectiveness of instruction. Before the advent of standardized testing, the only way to evaluate what was occurring in the classroom was through guesswork and occasional questionable research. Lets improve learning through better instruction and student work and lose the focus on testing. Scores will increase if students are learning.

Focus on instruction, not the test and scores will improve. Focus on the thousands of teachers who are working hard and doing the right thing and not on the few who are being dishonest.

Educator37

November 30th, 2010
8:17 am

I have been in education in Georgia for 37 years and have seen so much come and go .. mainly because the people at the top don’t have a clue what they are doing. They have brought this cheating on themselves because we put too much attention on these tests and brow beat teacher into doing whatever it takes to make high scores. The finger is never pointed in the right directions… first at the students and their parents who do pull their share of the weight.. and second at those fat cats in Atlanta who don’t have a clue.

Educator37

November 30th, 2010
8:18 am

That should be “students and parents who DON’T pull their share of the weight.”

mystery poster

November 30th, 2010
8:36 am

Not too sound too cynical, but was anyone really surprised by this revelation?

David Sims

November 30th, 2010
8:58 am

And the first wave of confessions are in the hands of GBI and the state’s investigation team. Like ripples in a pond, the information provided by those wise enough to have confessed early will lead to others who are guilty, but who have not confessed yet. Those who confess later might be dealt with more harshly, while God help those who don’t confess at all but who are proven guilty in a courtroom. The state might have to contract with prisons as far away as Florida or Texas to hold those folks.

A tip for the ladies. If you are given a choice between serving your sentence in Broward Correctional Facility in Florida, or in MTV-Gatesville Texas, choose Texas. The Ft. Lauderdale prison is a really bad pest hole. I had a pen pal in there for a while, until I lost contact with her for some unknown reason. Maybe those big rats ate her.

Shar

November 30th, 2010
9:12 am

Susan Wilder, I have to disagree. This may be a sad day for those at APS who chose to cheat and lie, but it is a long-awaited joyous one for those who want to rid the system of the liars and cheaters and return the focus to student success. Identify the criminals, put them on unpaid leave (including those principals who Beverly Hall deemed ‘questionable’ but who continue to lounge at taxpayer expense) and lift the pressure on the teachers and administrators who strive to address problems rather than cover them up.

Paddy Crabtree

November 30th, 2010
9:15 am

@Educator37, Good point, investigation does need to be directed at the Fat Cats at APS that created this systemic cheating pressure.

What I get from the article is that if teachers come clean up front, they will not be prosecuted. The investigation does want the higher hanging fruit downtown. Glad this is the case. Would be a shame to punish teachers and not get to the source of the problem. All illegal bonus money should be returned by teachers and administration.

I’ll go a bit further. Cheating schools and others that have not made AYP, which is the majority of APS schools, should allow those students have vouchers to go to private schools or other schools out of district, like Riverwood Charter in Fulton County allowing the local money to go with the student.

Cheaters Rule

November 30th, 2010
10:08 am

Cheating teachers and administrators—keep their fat salaries and obscene pensions, get a slap on the wrist! What a country!!!!

Chris

November 30th, 2010
10:09 am

Gotta love it! What do you expect when you put black people in charge? They make terrible leaders! Especially in this city! Funny how Atlanta used to be great before the first black mayor was elected and it all went downhill. Oh well.

Greg

November 30th, 2010
10:13 am

GBI=Subpeona=Potential Perjury=Snitch! Nothing like the propect of prison to loosen tongues and refresh memories.

Raquel

November 30th, 2010
10:19 am

Who wants to bet that we’ll hear from Shirley Franklin, Andy Young, Alexis Scott, Jeff Dickerson and the other Beverly Hall apologists with their sob stories about how “the man” is trying to take down “our” system?

I’m glad more of the truth has come out. Our children deserve that much, at least.

Cammi317

November 30th, 2010
10:22 am

There is a reason why Georgia’s educational system has consistently been at the bottom of the barrel. There is no moral excuse for what these teachers and administrators did, but the system was set up to breed these incidents. The CRCT is dumb anyway. It only measures how students are doing against other students in this failing state and who cares about that? The ITBS is a much better measure since it measures our students on a national scale.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

November 30th, 2010
10:30 am

Let us hope and pray that those who choose to stand up to relate testing(and other yet-to-be-uncovered) abuses in our state’s public school systems have the courage to remain standing when the “push-back” from the cheaters, their sponsors and their minions surges forth. Let us also hope and pray that those of us who are interested in good schools in GA will rally to the defense of the courageous who blew the whistle on testing irregularities in our state’s public schools.

Masters Degree

November 30th, 2010
10:30 am

These might be the same ones already indicted. This is rehashing the story.

Educator37 <— I thought your job was to make them interested about pulling their share of the weight?

My kids are home schooled by the way.

Darryl D. Moore

November 30th, 2010
10:37 am

Lock up everyone involved!!! I had the unfortunate experience of working in APS for 3 years. They are corrupt as heck. The system is very much a clique of buddies and they give anyone not in the cliques pure hell. You reap what you sow. Time to pay up!!!

South GA transplant in ATL

November 30th, 2010
10:39 am

This makes me feel better about how arrogant people around here think Atlanta schools are so superior versus South Georgia Schools. Well at least we did not cheat.

APS Spokesman

November 30th, 2010
10:46 am

But.. but..but..We closed the gap!!

CC

November 30th, 2010
10:51 am

Educator 37 you are correct… This cheating stems from the pressures f/up top, past the school level. As educators, we need to refocus away f/the test and teach children truthfully. Educators are pressured across the board to achieve on these test. APS teachers and admins. are not the only ones but they were caught. Teachers and school level Administrators who have students not performing on level are penalized terribly, even moved somethimes f/their jobs. This is not fair and has to stop. All educators and educated people should know, knowledge and practice of knowledge must be reinforced at home. We have to stop blaming socioeconomics and raise the bar for families and students. Make students and their families responsible for their child’s education. We must push them harder. Parents must read to their children or get them the help they need. Push them to do their homework. We need more community outreach because it is true that some parents may lack the educational background or comfort for to really help their children. We must realize, schools can not raise our children. Education starts in the womb.
As an educator, I witness teachers and admnitrators across the spectrum doing more than teachers ever did when I was in school. We have afterschool and weekend reviews; establish online turtorials; stay late to tutor students; call homes in bulk to explain school procedures; etc. Ask how many students show up or parents support us… When I was in school, teachers never did so much w/students but sadly again, parents were raising children…
Please wake up People because otherwise your children are in trouble…

td

November 30th, 2010
10:52 am

@ Maureen, Did I read somewhere that in the past some type of money for either the teacher or the administrator was in place for APS to improve the CRCT test scores?

Teacher

November 30th, 2010
10:53 am

Getting wet around here, did a dam just burst or something?

Maureen Downey

November 30th, 2010
10:59 am

@Td, I believe there were bonuses for schools that improved and achieved targets.
Maureen

Raquel

November 30th, 2010
11:07 am

@TD, yes bonuses from federal and state sources were paid to the schools based on CRCT improvements. Most of the Dirty Dozen schools paid out bonuses to principals, teachers and building staff. Information on specific amounts can be found on the school summaries from the “Blue Ribbon” report.

I think there should be legislation to claw back any bonuses paid based on fraudulent scores.

V for Vendetta

November 30th, 2010
11:08 am

I’m shocked. Just totally shocked.

I mean, really, really shocked.

Shocked.

What's best for kids?

November 30th, 2010
11:13 am

Let me get this strait:

Schools and teachers got bonuses if their students’ scores went up.
Teachers and administrators, in order to get said bonuses, cheated because they wanted to be paid more.
And we think that merit pay based on student scores is a good idea because…?

mystery poster

November 30th, 2010
11:17 am

@Cammi
The CRCT is NOT a measure of how students do against other students. It’s a criterion referenced test, which means that the test is scored on what percentage of the questions the student gets correct (the “cut-scores” of those tests is another discussion).

By contrast, the ITBS is a norm references test. That means your score is based on how others do on the test.

Norm-referenced vs Criterion-referenced

Bama Bill

November 30th, 2010
11:29 am

No surprise ! Hall was tainted when APS hired her and the astonishing academic improvements were never believeable ! She should be fired and held accountable immediately ! Jeff Dickerson and other defenders (for hire) have now challenged their own creditability – PR representation is one thing, fabrication, lying and cheating are quite different.

Raquel

November 30th, 2010
11:40 am

@Bama Bill,

Jeff Dickerson, Alexis Scott and Andy Young don’t care about credibility. They are only concerned that the checks continue to roll in.

Censorship is boring....

November 30th, 2010
12:01 pm

Don’t forget that Maureen Downey was Beverly Hall’s biggest apologist and cheerleader. Ha!

td

November 30th, 2010
12:20 pm

Thank you Maureen. I hope someone brings this up as an example when merit pay is being advocated. One can not base the pay of employees on the achievement of individuals that said employees have very little control. All that happens is the temptation to manipulate the data is way to strong.

Knew it but didn't want to believe it...

November 30th, 2010
12:23 pm

So should I expect to see SACS come back into the picture? I mean they were all over the school board for a legal shift in power…isn’t this a little more important? I’m an APS parent, so the LAST thing I want to see is a loss of accreditation….but I would like to know if this investigation puts APS at risk. Maureen? Anyone?

catlady

November 30th, 2010
12:31 pm

If proper procedures were being followed, no TEACHER could change the results. It would have had to be an administrator. And, if proper procedures were NOT followed, the blame would fall as much on the test administrator not properly seeing to the administration and to any teacher who changed answers.

I really, really would have liked to be in the room when the APS leaders found out the state had done an erasure evaluation! I can just imagine their faces! “Wh- wh- what do you MEAN, erasure analysis! Oh, no! Quick, think up a “reason” for the erasures!” “Wait, I know, we will tell them that we TOLD the students to mark any answer and then go back and change their answer to the correct one!”

[...] 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. [...]

DACS

November 30th, 2010
12:33 pm

Right now, believe it or not, SACS has no pony in this show. Since APS is only accredited from grades 9-12, it is out of their jurisdiction. All Elgart wanted to do was attempt to bluff the BOE into compliance with the minority and he was used as an instrument of the Powers that were in the APS system.

Now if they start investigating the high schools……well???????

I Find it Funny

November 30th, 2010
12:36 pm

There are always two ends of the spectrum….We are so involved with the number of eraser marks that were on these answer sheets but I would like to see the information about schools who have ZERO eraser marks…

We are talking about school age children (mainly 1st -8th) grade and the number of times that they have erased on an answer sheet. What about Districts/Schools/Teacher/Students who do not have any eraser marks?

I am a adult and even when I take test I find that I go back to check my work (a strategy that I was taught long ago), but there is no information regarding the lack of (ZERO) eraser marks…

Also it bothers me highly that the only schools “IMPLICATED” in this investigation are predominantly African American and focused on basically one section of the town. There were 58 schools and of the 58 you decided to “focus” on these 12. Where is the follow up on ALL the schools in question? APS was NOT the only district to be listed under having a high number of eraser marks but yet it has been the only district vilified in the press and in the media. What happened to the other districts in the State of Georgia who had questionable eraser marks? Everything else has gotten put to the side and a “FOCUS” has been placed on APS….

If they (APS) are not the only ones then why are they(APS) the only ones WE continue to hear about?

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2010
12:42 pm

This is not an APS issue. This is a product of “No Child Left Behind”. It amazes me that in the Metro Atlanta area that APS is the only school system with “cheating issues” yet we have schools that have high immigrant non Englisg speaking population and those schools seem to pass the CRCT without issue. I would think that it would be difficult to take a test that you can not read due to a language barrier. Is there more to this probe than just cheating? Fulton County Schools, Gwinnett County Schools and Cobb County Schools all have schools that fit this profile yet no one is probing cheating in those schools. And we all know there is nothing criminal about cheating the crime is lying about cheating while under oath. Hell I would tell the truth too if I faced jail time for doing what was necessary to keep my job, and keeping the state from taking over my school.

TopSchool

November 30th, 2010
12:44 pm

See facebook community page: Top Public School Corruption Atlanta

How many sociopaths are leaders in Atlanta Public Schools?
How many will remain.
If the top is bad…birds of feather flock together.

Youtube search: TopAtlantaSchool

The number one school in Atlanta Public Schools, Principal Lorraine Reich at Jackson Elementary was accused of paying out “Bonus Money” and giving “Attendance Favors” for helping to cover up FRAUD.

Evaluate this situation…If they were cheating on test scores…don’t you think their might be some money issues, too.

The investigations need to go deeper.

TopSchool

November 30th, 2010
12:47 pm

ITP Mom

November 30th, 2010
12:49 pm

@I Find It Funny: For a better understanding of the erasure analysis, please go here:
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2010/02/17/a-primer-on-erase-to-the-top-by-our-expert/

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2010
1:10 pm

@Top School. If they did that then you would not have people on here talking about how corrupt things are when African Americans are in power. How the city went downhill after the first African American mayor was elected. How African American studedents can not achieve without cheating. I see cheating in affluent areas all the time. Parents doing AP work for kids while they participate in athletics and other extra curriculum activities. Parents writing essays for students or paying someone to write essays for their child. That is not cheating though. That is a parent involved heavily in their child’s education.

Just Wondering

November 30th, 2010
1:18 pm

@DACS you’ve received some bad information. SACS was brought into the situation by Yolanda Johnson and Khatim El in June. Ms. Johnson inquired with SACS about the impact of a policy change on accreditation and Mr. El had several discussions with him prior to their discussions with him on that change. Those two have not been as “transparent” as they have portrayed themselves as being and this does not include the deal not to censure Mr. English for ethics violation. After SACS got a full review of the situation in September, Mr. El invited Mr. Elgart to the September meeting to present his initial opinions on their proposed actions. When it wasn’t what as Mr. El said “he (Elgart) told me in July” then it became “why are they sticking their nose in our business”. SACS doesn’t show up uninvited but it just so happens that the folks (foolish 5) that thought SACS was going to be on their side found out it was not. And they inadvertently opened this can of worms.

The CRCT is beyond SACS role. And for those

@ITP Mom & @ I Find It Funny: the BRC report provides another level of erasure analysis that is used by districts across the country and also which schools got bonuses. The state’s was good but it didn’t go deep enough. The Feds are looking at the bonus issue and there may be some clawback.

Just wondering if we’re going to remember this in 2012 for the next election.

Again, MACE was right.

November 30th, 2010
1:19 pm

Just like in DeKalb, it appears that again MACE was right about the culture of cheating and corruption in Atlanta. For years now, MACE has shed a calcium light on the corruption in both of these school systems. Look at its website (www.theteachersadvocate.com) and go back for years in its archives. What took the traditional media so long? MACE is right about the phoniness of the SACS organization as well. When will the traditional media focus on this private, money-grabbing organization which is not accountable to any one in Georgia? We wait…like we waited on DeKalb and Atlanta.

I Find it Funny

November 30th, 2010
1:20 pm

@ITP Mom…thank you for the link…

But I totally understand the “analysis”. It still makes zero sense to me as a sensible adult let alone being a educator. You are trying to tell me on a standardized test with 40 plus questions a student will only make a mistake of a maximum two times? I took the Praxis test to become a educator and I remember going back and changing answers multiple times as an adult and I know there are other adults who will echo the same sentiment (Praxis, MCAT, etc.). So yes they have explained how they came up with this data but when placed in a actual live enviroment it is not sensible to me to think that especially elemetary school students will change their answer a max of two times!!

Just Wondering

November 30th, 2010
1:25 pm

@VoR – You’re late to the this. Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett did have schools that were investigated for cheating, however, APS had the most of any district. Over 100 schools across the state were identifed. This isn’t a Black or White issue it is a socioeconomic issue as most of the schools on the list were in poor communities.

And for corruption, that’s a personal issue not a race issue. For every black mayor, school administrator, etc. that is found to be corrupt I can find with a few clicks of the mouse a white one.

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2010
1:37 pm

@ Just Wondering. My remarks were directed at Chris who earlier in this blog posted those things. I agree with you that this is a socioeconomic issue but again the schools in Fulton Cobb and Gwinnett were all in socioeconmically depressed areas. Lets look at schools in North Fulton, East Cobb and North Gwinnett as deeply as we are the inner city schools. I live in North Fulton and I am amazed at how things work up here as opposed to how they worked when I lived in South Fulton. Again parents doing work for kids, or paying someone to do it for them. Schools guiding kids who could possibly hurt testing standards into special education and into the alternative high schools. Thats high tech cheating at its best. Most standardized test do not give you an actual score. It tells you if you met standards, did not meet standards or exceeded standards. What kind of none sense is that.

I Find it Funny

November 30th, 2010
1:43 pm

@VOR…

If that is not cheating what is?

For various different test as adults you sign a particular sections stating that you are the person listed on the answer sheet and that you are truthful in this statement…so if I take a test for someone else that is not cheating?…

a parent doing the work or writing a paper for their child is not cheating?

I am just trying to obtain a bit of clarity.

MZTHOMP12

November 30th, 2010
1:45 pm

This is pure comedy. Really….. who cares! I can’t even see why anyone is surprised. Money talks. No one cares about the students first off. And secondly, the students or parents could care less how they perform on it so all the stress is left up to the teachers. Maybe if Georgia gets a clue as to what educating a child really mans and stop blaming teachers and schools for everything this wouldn’t have happened. That little bonus that they received wasn’t even a 4th of what they should have been given whether there was cheating or not. AJC find some REAL NEWS to publish b/c this is redundant garbage. And by the way, I’m sure Atlanta isn’t the only place that it has happened.

What?

November 30th, 2010
2:07 pm

Ok, so, why would anyone speak to the GBI without their lawyer present? These poor teachers continue to make poor decisions.