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View Blog Archive WebSchoolPro Blog > Atlanta Cheating Scandal Reverberates

Category - General
Posted - 04/06/2013 11:28am
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Atlanta Cheating Scandal Reverberates
Published Online: April 4, 2013

Atlanta Cheating Scandal Reverberates

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, center, heads towards the Fulton County Jail to turn herself in on Tuesday in Atlanta. Hall is among the 35 Atlanta school system educators named in a 65-count indictment last week that alleges a broad conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating, or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster student test scores and, as a result, receive bonuses for improved student performance.
—Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

Ms. Hall, a one-time national superintendent of the year, and her former school system colleagues were named in a 65-count indictment by a Fulton County, Ga., grand juryRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader that alleges the educators engaged in a broad conspiracy to make student performance in the Atlanta district look better than it actually was. The indictment, which includes racketeering charges, alleges that Ms. Hall and the others cheated on state exams, hid the cheating, and retaliated against whistleblowers who tried to expose it. Many of those who were charged, including Ms. Hall, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance bonuses that were based on the fraudulent scores.

“The wider repercussions of the Atlanta case are very troubling,” said Daniel A. Domenech, a former superintendent of the Fairfax County, Va., schools and the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, based in Alexandria, Va. “The problem is that any school systems that have accomplished great turnarounds of schools are going to become suspect, and people will assume that there must have been some cheating involved.”

Ms. Hall—who retired in 2011 after 12 years at the helm in of the 48,000-student Atlanta district and was admired widely for the steady academic progress the system appeared to have made on her watch—turned herself into the Fulton County jail on April 2 and was released a few hours later on a $200,000 bond. The charges against her stem from a state law typically used to prosecute organized crime and are very unusual for educators accused of wrongdoing.

If convicted, she would likely become the highest-profile public school administrator to be held criminally accountable for cheating. Late last year, former El Paso, Texas, schools chief Lorenzo García pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud and was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in manipulating students’ scores on state tests.

Ms. Hall’s lawyer, David J. Bailey, said the former Atlanta superintendent is innocent of all the charges.

“We intend to defend her vigorously and look forward to clearing her name,” Mr. Bailey said in an interview. “Certainly, this is an unprecedented situation.”

In 2009, the AASA named Ms. Hall the national superintendent of the year. Mr. Domenech said the organization’s governing board would likely take the unprecedented step of revoking the award if she is convicted.

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