Bill Rankin, Heather Vogell, and Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal-Consitution, November 30, 2010
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.
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.
Stories in the AJC in 2008 and 2009 revealed some Atlanta public schools were posting statistically unbelievable scores on state CRCT. In February, state officials announced they had found suspicious erasures on answer sheets for last year’s tests in hundreds of classrooms at Atlanta elementary and middle schools.
Some teachers’ representatives have complained about the GBI’s approach in questioning educators.
“It’s very intimidating for teachers,” said Michael McGonigle, director of legal services for the educators’ advocacy group the Georgia Association of Educators. “They really do feel badgered and bullied.”
APS Superintendent Beverly Hall, who has announced plans to leave when her contract expires in June, issued a memo to all employees earlier this year instructing them to cooperate with the state investigation. She had not given similar orders during the blue ribbon commission’s investigation.