Fulton County is seeking criminal prosecutions of APS educators

I understand that investigators for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office have been interviewing Atlanta educators this month for possible criminal prosecutions in the CRCT cheating scandal.

I was told that the investigators are telling witnesses that prosecutions are possible, regardless of whether educators still work for APS.  The investigators are asking for detailed accounts of what happened during the 2009 CRCT, including actions of principals and assistant principals.

Those reports make sense now in view of the AJC story today that Howard has asked the PSC, the state agency that licenses teachers, to suspend hearings for educators accused in the scandal. Howard contends that the PSC hearings could impede his criminal investigation.

According to the AJC:

Earlier this month, the PSC voted to revoke the teaching certificates of three administrators and to impose two-year suspensions on eight teachers. Some of the educators were from Parks Middle School, cited by state investigators as an egregious example of the test-cheating culture in Atlanta Public Schools.

Hearings for other educators had been planned for November and December, but are now canceled at Howard’s request, said Rick Eiserman, PSC spokesman.

“Unless there is an unanticipated delay, the staff of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission will resume submitting APS CRCT cases to the Commission at our January, 2012 meeting,” he said.

“We anticipate being able to conclude this work by April or May, 2012.”

“While our preference would be to continue our work without interruption, this is a reasonable request, and we will support it,” Eiserman said Monday morning.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

72 comments Add your comment

chillywilly

October 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

I believe that some indictments of APS central office managers are forthcoming. According to the “Street Committee”, investigators are looking at some contracts & hiring practicies. I’m confident that s#$t is about to hit the fan, BIG TIME!

Beverly Fraud

October 31st, 2011
4:51 pm

Is there not a distinct possibility, if the board had acted on Hall sooner, APS wouldn’t have to be paying, particularly in the case of administrators, untold thousands of dollars until their cases play out?

If that is the case is it not fair to ask if Maureen is willing to take any accountability for being a Hall cheerleader and maintaining, in the face of the devastating evidence that cheating was widespread and systemic, that Hall stay to provide “stability” for the system?

Is it not fair to ask if that “stability” our blog moderator so advocated for is now costing taxpayers untold thousands of dollars that could have been saved if Hall had been removed before rubber stamping certain administrators’ returns?

Given THIS particular blog topic, (vis a vis previous requests to stay on topic with relevant comments) are these not indeed fair and legitimate questions to ask, as well as being germane to the topic at hand?

Atlanta mom

October 31st, 2011
5:03 pm

Howard asking the PSC to stop it’s investigation will now cost the school system another $4-6 million. Thanks Howard.

Larry Major

October 31st, 2011
5:08 pm

Did District Attorney Howard mention what specific crime(s) he is investigating that would fall under his authority to prosecute?

Maureen Downey

October 31st, 2011
5:18 pm

@Larry, Not sure, although we have reported that likely charges could be giving false statements to investigators or altering public documents. From what I understand, there is a lot of interest in evidence submitting false scores to the state.
Maureen

Rockerbabe

October 31st, 2011
5:20 pm

So, I guess the DA’s office has run out of domestic violence prep, murders, robbers, con artist, public drunks, rapist to prosecute? Leave the educators alone; the school boards and licensure folks will take care of them. Cheating on a school test is not a criminal act when compare to rape, robbery or murder; or is it?

another comment

October 31st, 2011
5:31 pm

What about the irony of Paul Howard’s wife being a media specialist at one of the school. But then again the Howard’s wouldn’t put their own son in APS, schools. He attends Woodward and plays on the basketball team, where dad is the biggest cheerleader in the stands. Who is paying the tuition Paul out of the $120K or so DA salary, is he paying the $22k Woodward Tuition. Or is Cousin Dwight paying it, then Paul got it as part of his payment as his attorney reviewing his multi-million dollar contract right out of a little private Christian School.

Your Conscience

October 31st, 2011
5:31 pm

Rockerbabe October 31st, 2011 5:20 pm

It is criminal when you falsify information for financial gain.

In my opinion, it is criminal to cheat black children out of an education because you want to look good in the eyes of the public as well as reap a financial bonus for doing so.

Don’t forget the children, they are the ones most impacted by this behavior.

Maureen Downey

October 31st, 2011
5:38 pm

@Another, Not sure why you think a DA and a school employee can’t afford to send a child to a private school, especially if one of the two salaries is $120,000. Plenty of folks who earn less are paying that much and more for college.

Really amazed

October 31st, 2011
5:38 pm

Maureen, totally off topic, I attended one of my children’s teacher conferences today and spoke with the principal. She had told me, she just finished up with a meeting about future students attending college. She said that over the next 3 to 6 years we can see the SAT/ACT being eliminated from college admissions to an online portfolio of a student’s academic school performance. Mind you, this is from very reputable private school prespective. Have you heard of this new change and how it would play out for HOPE scholarship? We all know that HOPE is looking to reduce by even more over the years. What have you heard? Sorry for any typos or grammar errors before hand!

TaxWatch

October 31st, 2011
5:40 pm

It’s disappointing that the prosecutor has limited his probe only to the cheating & cover-up scandal. The only way the public will ever regain a degree of faith in our school system is through a complete house cleaning!

Maureen Downey

October 31st, 2011
5:46 pm

@Really, I see no sign of the top tier schools eliminating the SAT/ACT. As an author I interviewed recently noted, even schools that do not require the SAT use it to recruit students. He pointed out that these schools look at the scores of high schoolers and send packets to kids with high scores about their programs and their merit awards.
I am aware of the SAT optional movement, but don’t think we will see the tests go away as they still serve as a means of culling students.
Maureen

Milking us Dry!

October 31st, 2011
5:54 pm

The PSC’s suspension of hearings will be much longer than four months. I guarantee you that Hall’s high profile criminal defense attorney ($480 per billable hour + expenses…..he’s noted for defending high profile heroin dealers) will drag her case out for many more months, perhaps a year or longer.

Why not? APS is paying all of Hall’s legal bills. If a teacher is accused of criminal wrongdoing, the district pays nothing. Fat Beverly’s attorney is going to milk us dry!

Horrible

October 31st, 2011
6:02 pm

The APS mess is sickening. I agree with so many of the comments that the district needs to be disbanded. Anything would be better than the current situation. My God!

Running with the LOOT

October 31st, 2011
6:05 pm

Running with the Loot!

Good God!!!: Salary as reported by the AJC for the 2010 school year was $415,000 and she received $518,000 in bonuses while serving as the superintendent. We are talking about taxpayers money being fraudulently taken.

What kind of board do we have in the first place, passing out payola of this magnitude? Other school districts of similar demographics don’t pay ridiculous salaries like this!

Mark my words!

October 31st, 2011
6:09 pm

Be patient….often the wheels of justice turn slowly. I am sure Beverly Hall and co. are not in a relaxed state of mind. I would imagine their current siege of anxiety is mercilessly torturous.

Yes, their living in the House of Horror

Zero Tolerance!

October 31st, 2011
6:15 pm

Destroying or altering government records is a felony in Georgia, carrying a prison sentence of as much as 10 years.

Hall, Augustine & co. must be given the maximum. Our children must see what happens to such vermin.

Ranking of Scum Bags

October 31st, 2011
6:20 pm

Generations of children were denied appfropriate educational learning opportunities over the past 12 years, and they will be condemned to a life of missed chances. Hall and her gang of thugs are scum bags of the lowest order. Christ will have no mercy on Hall!

Really amazed

October 31st, 2011
6:48 pm

Maureen, just as I suspected even private schools are trying to convince parents of the smoke and morriors movement. How do these schools find out about sat/act score, other than if merit awarded if a student didn’t send scores????? My understanding is that students/parents need to send scores to colleges if they want them reviewed. Thanks. It is very nice to see someone understanding, without a motive.

Observer

October 31st, 2011
7:15 pm

@ Beverly Fraud, 4:51 pm.

Give it a break, this repeating over and over your charge that Maureen once was “a cheerleader” for Beverly Hall and her gang. It’s tiresome. That was way before the state investigators’ report came out. Maureen has run plenty of blogs since that have encouraged criticism of the APS administration.

Move on.

Maureen Downey

October 31st, 2011
7:26 pm

@Really, I believe the schools pay the College Board for the names and scores. I think I read it was 35 cents per name, but I will double check that.
Maureen

carlosgvv

October 31st, 2011
7:31 pm

So, Howard thinks that prosecutions are possible and then wants the PSC to suspend hearings for educators accused in the scandal. Something about this just does not sound right. I’m beginning to suspect that this is just gradually going to fade away with few, if any, educators actually being punished.

catlady

October 31st, 2011
7:46 pm

I don’t know why the Board would pay Bev’s attorney fees. What she is accused of doing was WAAYYY outside her contracted responsibilities. Or, they could pay them and then attach/garnishee her pension, etc, when she is found guilty to recoup what they spent defending her for actions outside her scope of office.

If I perform an illegal act, the school system would not defend me against lawsuits. My job description does not include illegal acts, and they don’t have to defend me.

Attentive Parent

October 31st, 2011
8:41 pm

Really amazed-

That elimination is in fact in the works. Must eliminate any objective measurements of knowledge you see.

Education became a taxpayer funded weapon against our own futures.

As Beverly and others know. That’s why they have leverage. APS was a pilot for what is now being nationalized. If it didn’t work well there . . .

Working poorly must be a feature, not a bug.

Really amazed

October 31st, 2011
8:47 pm

@Attentive Parent, How very sad, but how very true! What is happening to society as a whole??? No, don’t respond to that!! I know all too well.

Jack

October 31st, 2011
9:01 pm

Howard will never prosecute Hall. Ain’t gonna happen and everybody knows that.

Thanks Maureen for Not Discriminating

October 31st, 2011
9:07 pm

If Beverly Hall and her crew are not punished, NO ONE SHOULD BE PUNISHED!!!!

No Jail Time

October 31st, 2011
9:20 pm

I agree with the above comment that Hall will not be successfully prosecuted. Rarely do criminals who can afford quality legal representation go to jail, especially for “light weight” actions such as destroying documents or perjury.

It just doesn’t happen.

Shar

October 31st, 2011
9:28 pm

Catlady, Dr.Hall’s contract with APS specifically included payment of legal fees arising from employment-related litigation.

I believe that criminal conviction of teachers and administrators whose crimes are committed during the performance of their professional duties lose their pensions and other benefits. That’s why it is worthwhile for the District Attorney to prosecute these cases. There may also be a clawback right for any bonusses that were received by the convicted person.

Desperate in Sumter, SC

October 31st, 2011
9:34 pm

Mr. Randolph Bynum is now the superintendent of Sumter School District. He brought two appointees with him when he began his tenure here on July 1, 2011. Dr. Cassandra Dixon is our Chief Teaching and Learning Officer, and Dr. Lisa Norman is our Chief Curriculum and Accountability Officer. Teacher morale is at an all time low. Our teachers and administrators are working in a culture of fear and intimidation. This trio has implemented an “instructional audit” for our teachers to be sure that they are “effective.” The document was distributed throughout the district and riddled with grammatical errors. Most feel that this “audit” will produce “cherry-picked” data which will be used by Mr. Bynum to implement and justify his future decisions. Mr. Bynum is a 2007 Fellow of the Broad Superintendents Academy. Comments and insight regarding the performance of these three individuals in Atlanta would be appreciated!

Public HS Teacher

October 31st, 2011
10:20 pm

I am all for chasing criminals, but I think that in this case the cost isn’t worth it.

If their certification is revoked, then these criminals will have to find another career. This may mean going back to college with the cost and time and all that includes.

I feel that this is enough “punishment” for that crime, and certainly not worth the millions of dollar to pursue it any further.

@ Desperate in Sumter, SC (9:34 pm)

October 31st, 2011
10:55 pm

The only urban superintendent deemed a miracle worker in the last decade was none other than our Beverly Hall. Sadly, but truthfully, poverty stricken inner-city youngsters as a whole are not going to make dramatic academic gains. A few might beat the odds, but they are the exceptions. We continue to keep our heads in the sand, afraid to speak out.

This mess has been going on now for over thirty years, since the end of a failed attempt to desegregate schools. Our society is not ready for true integration (race, class, etc.) so until that day comes we must continue to say all children can perform equally. If they cannot, it is the fault of educators. Give me a break!

We in essence have an apartheid society. I suggest if you have not already, read Jonathan Kozol’s “Savage Inequalities.”

Good luck there in Sumter, SC. I am confident that the folks in South Carolina are no different than those here….they don’t truly want equal opportunities for children. So to keep the lid on things, you must be able to show that your students can outperform those at the Christian academies and other private schools.

The rich people don’t want their kids around middle class children, and the middle class folks don’t want their kids around poor children…the same for whites and blacks…..etc. Before you bloggers scream at me, this is not true of everyone; just an overwhelming majority of us.

Regretfully, you Sumnter educators will have to cheat in order for everyone to be proficient by 2014!

UGAprof

@ - Public HS Teacher

October 31st, 2011
11:10 pm

Sorry, this involves thousand of ruined lives and untold millions of dollars. So many youngsters were denied remedial assistance based on hyper inflated test scores, and as a result, will not be viable contenders for advanced opportunities. Generations of our youth have been lost and will suffer the agony of economic disenfranchisement!

Perhaps none of these students were your children. Personally, I want to see the primary architects (Hall & Augustine) face the harshest punishment possible.

These two selfish brutes are guilty of genocide!

SCLCrev

just watching

November 1st, 2011
12:09 am

How in the world would action by the PSC impede the DA’s office? Other professional licensing boards take action against folks (APA, AMA, etc) separate from legal action. The PSC would be taking action on a professional basis over an ethics matter. I suppose a defendant’s lawyer could come back and say that prejudiced the jury though.

Ugh. I just want this taken care of so APS can stop having to pay all these folks that aren’t working. I still don’t understand why they can’t make them sweep floors, empty tray or maybe serve lunches.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 1st, 2011
12:18 am

Any APS educator or any other APS employee who has violated GA law in conjunction with the various testing improprieties in question should be prosecuted to the fullest extent under that law and should be punished accordingly.

The GAPSC proceedings are administrative in nature, suspect in accuracy, and insufficient in punitive effect to express strongly enough the indignation felt by The People of Georgia toward anyone who would undermine the educational opportunities of even one of our children.

Public HS Teacher

November 1st, 2011
12:43 am

@Public HS Teacher….

I agree that Hall and the top folks should get the most severe penalty. Especially since most of them have already feld to another State. The ‘ring leaders’ of this should serve prison time.

However, for a regular classroom teacher to lose their license is rather severe. This is especially true if the teacher was in any way threatened into doing it.

While I agree that many children were ruined, I just disagree that millions more of our tax payer dollars in Fulton should be used to chase after that type of classroom teacher.

Without a license, that teacher cannot teach in Georgia. And, they cannot even move to another State to teach because there is no license to transfer. They ruined their own career and now must start again in square one in another profession.

Considering this and also the rather LARGE lawyer costs involved, I just don’t think it is worth it. Won’t you rather see that money used to help those children impacted by this?

Beverly Fraud

November 1st, 2011
3:01 am

It’s called “accountability” Observer.

There is a distinct possibility that allowing Hall to remain on board is now costing THOUSANDS of dollars extra. Cheerleaders in the media and business community provided the fertile ground for the board to feel comfortable enough to make that decision, AND to allow Hall to keep those people in place.
Can you tell us SPECIFICALLY Observer, why that isn’t an issue worth raising? Did the AJC drop the cheating scandal story, because APS officials repeated refused to acknowledge the existence of cheating?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 1st, 2011
4:50 am

KUDOS to the AJC for having the fortitude to investigate, investigate, and investigate educational malfeasance in Georgia. Too bad for our kids and our future that newspapers in other Georgia cities have chosen not to follow the AJC’s lead.

Jenna

November 1st, 2011
5:59 am

@Dr. Craig Spinks…please stop! You are making me want to barf…Yes…I applaud the AJC for breaking the story…but the truth is…if the educators are to be held accountable..so should some of the agencies that knew about this and never reported this to the Federal government. The Professional Standards Commission received numerous reports over the years…The Teacher Organizations..GAE, AFT, PAGE…etc…even the Georgia Department of Education…why didn’t they go to the State or Federal government…they continued to ‘report’ to APS’s Office of Internal Resolution…Can you or Dr. Trotter answer this question?

mountain man

November 1st, 2011
6:31 am

Everyone keeps saying “thousands of kids lives were destroyed”. That is untrue. Even if these kids’ true scores had been revealed, they would not have benefitted from remedial action. Most would have just dropped out of school sooner. These are not good students caught in bad circumstances, these are the failing students who will always fail until they (and their parents) decide to turn their own lives around. They are not stupid, but they do not value education.

Inman Park Boy

November 1st, 2011
7:30 am

My thought is that if Fulton County is doing the prosecuting, the potential defendants have no worries.

@ mountain man

November 1st, 2011
8:06 am

I deeply respect each person’s viewpoint, but ou are dead wrong. Mountain Man I pray that you are not a teacher.

SCLCrev

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 1st, 2011
8:14 am

Hall will throw her weight around and get real heavy handed with these prosecutors. Believe me, she is no lightweight.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 1st, 2011
8:15 am

Mountain is precisely correct.

SCLCrev <–is the name supposed to carry some weight? All it does is make you more suspect.

AKA

November 1st, 2011
8:17 am

Paul Howard isn’t a successful prosecutor from past experience and he is “johnny come lately” with his request to the PCS to stop its investigations at this juncture. All of the investigations need to continue to facilitate Hall and crew being prosecuted as soon as possible.

Get your Popcorn

November 1st, 2011
8:54 am

The hard drive of Augustine’s administrative assistant (Pam DeFrain) is going to “bring the house down!”! I suggest that you get a bag of popcorn and get ready for the show!

The Inside Scoop
3rd floor,
130 Trinity Ave.

Jerry Eads

November 1st, 2011
9:18 am

Always interesting to see how many different tracks show up in one of these. I’ll pick two:
1. The SAT and ACT are some of the most carefully and best made measures of student performance in the world, and they are developed to do ONE thing and ONE thing only: To predict FIRST YEAR college survival (okay, in their terms, “success”). NOT intelligence, NOT probability of college graduation, NOT quality of past education, etc. The ONE thing they do, they do not very well at all, not because they’re bad tests, but because we’re just not very good at measuring the radically varied factors that contribute to first year college success, much less student performance. Maureen notes that it’s likely that many colleges will continue to use the tests to help them select students. No doubt. But most of said colleges recognize that the tests are not much help, and many, for that reason, have stopped requiring one or the other. Again, the ACT and SAT are among the best made tests in the world, and they’re not very good at what they do. Imagine, if you will, what that might suggest about low-bid minimum competency tests that are used to deny kids promotion or graduation in public schools.

2. A number of you seem to relish berating Maureen for having supported various people who have later been shown to be less than sterling. I’ve often wished that she had been more astute as to the competency of various appointees too, but let’s remember that her role here is not that of investigative reporter, and let’s remember she hasn’t been at this business for a lifetime like others of us here. The lady does a right decent job bringing this business to us, and from my perspective has grown greatly in her wisdom about said business in a very short period of time. The paper seems to think so too, as witnessed by its placement of her work both in print and here. Very, VERY few cities have the benefit of such astute access to the “ed biz” as the AJC provides Atlanta. Chew her out when she deserves it, but remember also what she does for us.

HS Public Teacher

November 1st, 2011
9:25 am

I think that the Board of Education members of APS should also be prosecuted. They certainly are the final gate keepers for that school system.

Maureen Downey

November 1st, 2011
9:25 am

@Really, Here is a good story on how colleges that do not require SAT scores still buy the scores to identify high-achieving students to pursue:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-19/bowdoin-says-no-need-for-sat-while-buying-college-board-scores.html
Among the points in this story:

Colleges from Bowdoin in Maine to Pitzer in California dropped the SAT entrance exam as a requirement, saying it favors the affluent, penalizes minorities and doesn’t predict academic success. What they don’t advertise is they find future students by buying names of kids who do well on the test.

Pitzer buys as many as 100,000 names a year based on test scores from the College Board, owner of the SAT, to search for applicants, even after the school became “test-optional” in the 2003-2004 year. Wake Forest University, which stopped requiring the SAT or rival ACT test for students entering in 2009, also buys names, as does Bowdoin, which made scores optional in 1969.

Students are being duped by some schools into thinking that test scores don’t matter, when they matter a great deal for marketing outreach and prestige, said Leon Botstein, president of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, which neither requires the tests nor buys names. Test-optional colleges that buy names of high-scoring students are hypocritical, he said.

“They take a stance that looks principled but is strategic,” Botstein said in an interview. “They say ‘I’m going to show myself to be open,’ but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test.”

The College Board sells names to more than 1,000 colleges, using biographical information students provide when they register for the preliminary SAT and SAT exams. Students can opt out of having their names in the company’s search service. The company and its competitor, Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT Inc., both nonprofit, sell names for 33 cents apiece.

@ HS Public Teacher

November 1st, 2011
9:40 am

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