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3 dozen school administrators and teachers indicted in Atlanta cheating scandal

An investigation by the state of Georgia found widespread cheating on standardized tests by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools, dating back to 2005. On Friday, 35 administrators and teachers were indicted by a Fulton County grand jury. 

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"We note that as far as has been disclosed, despite the thousands of interviews that were reportedly done by the governor's investigators and others, not a single person reported that Dr. Hall participated in or directed them to cheat on the C.R.C.T.," he said later in a statement provided to the Times.

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The tests were the key measure the state used to determine whether it met the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools with good test scores get extra federal dollars to spend in the classroom or on teacher bonuses.

It wasn't immediately clear how much bonus money Hall received. Howard did not say and the amount wasn't mentioned in the indictment.

"Those results were caused by cheating. ... And the money that she received, we are alleging that money was ill-gotten," Howard said.

A 2011 state investigation found cheating by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in, investigators said. Teachers who tried to report it faced retaliation, creating a culture of "fear and intimidation," the investigation found.

State schools Superintendent John Barge said last year he believed the state's new accountability system would remove the pressure to cheat on standardized tests because it won't be the sole way the state determines student growth. The pressure was part of what some educators in the system blamed for their cheating.

A former top official in the New York City school system who later headed the Newark, N.J. system for three years, Hall served as Atlanta's superintendent for more than a decade, which is rare for an urban schools chief. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009 and credited with raising student test scores and graduation rates, particularly among the district's poor and minority students. But the award quickly lost its luster as her district became mired in the scandal.

In a video message to schools staff before she retired in the summer of 2011, Hall warned that the state investigation launched by former Gov. Sonny Perdue would likely reveal "alarming" behavior.

"It's become increasingly clear that a segment of our staff chose to violate the trust that was placed in them," Hall said. "There is simply no excuse for unethical behavior and no room in this district for unethical conduct. I am confident that aggressive, swift action will be taken against anyone who believed so little in our students and in our system of support that they turned to dishonesty as the only option."

The cheating came to light after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

Most of the 178 educators named in the special investigators' report in 2011 resigned, retired, did not have their contracts renewed or appealed their dismissals and lost. Twenty-one educators have been reinstated and three await hearings to appeal their dismissals, said Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford.

APS Superintendent Erroll Davis said the district, which has about 50,000 students, is now focused on nurturing an ethical environment, providing quality education and supporting the employees who were not implicated.

"I know that our children will succeed when the adults around them work hard, work together, and do so with integrity," he said in a statement.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission is responsible for licensing teachers and has been going through the complaints against teachers, said commission executive secretary Kelly Henson. Of the 159 cases the commission has reviewed, 44 resulted in license revocations, 100 got two-year suspensions and nine were suspended for less than two years, Henson said. No action was taken against six of the educators.

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