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.
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