Indictments in School Cheating Case Exposed by Atlanta Journal Constitution
Heather Vogell, Alan Judd, and John Perry of the Atlanta Journal Constitution won the 2012 Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalism for their expose of suspicious standardized test scores in the Atlanta public school system. They found a pattern of suspicious erasures that pointed to the biggest academic fraud in American history.
The State of Georgia has taken the AJC’s reporting very seriously. The coverage sparked an official investigation that proved wrongdoing once and for all. Thirty-five educators linked to the scandal were indicted on Friday, including ex-superintendant and alleged ringleader Beverly Hall:
In a scathing report released in July 2011 that was the blueprint for the grand jurors, state investigators uncovered what they called a decade of systemic cheating in Atlanta Public Schools and concluded that Beverly Hall knew or should have known about it. Investigators named nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests.
The report’s release culminated more than two years of inquiries into Atlanta’s huge gains on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis first detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at one Atlanta school in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools. The newspaper’s reporting ultimately led to the state investigation.
ProPublica has compiled a brief history of America’s greatest standardized test cheating scandals from 1987 to the present day, including the Atlanta scandal.
As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post yesterday, “It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.”
[Photo credit: Jasper Nance, Creative Commons.]