Students Affected by Atlanta Cheating Hurt in English, Reading


Georgia State University has released a study examining the aftermath of the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools, finding impacts “in the range of one‐fourth to one‐half of the average annual achievement gain for a middle school student” in reading and English language arts.

The report, “The Long‐Run Effects of Teacher Cheating on Student Outcomes,” found through the use of test erasure analysis data that an estimated 7,064 students in the district likely had their test answers changed.  Over half of those students are still in the school system this year.

Written by Dr. Tim R. Sass from GSU’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and two doctoral students Jarod Apperson and Carycruz Bueno, the report discovered that “negative effects of the 2009 Atlanta Public Schools cheating are moderate and not uniform across students in classrooms identified as having irregular wrong-to-right test item changes in the spring of 2009.”

While little evidence was found that would suggest the cheating resulted in negative effects on student attendance or behavior, more significant results were found when considering reading and English language arts.  The negative effects discovered were equal to one or two times the difference in outcomes when taught by a new teacher compared to being taught by a veteran teacher for one school year, writes Ty Tagami for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.   

“Much effort has been devoted to identifying the teachers and administrators responsible for manipulating test scores in APS and bringing those responsible to justice,” the researchers wrote. “At the same time little is known about the victims of the cheating scandal. This report represents the first attempt to rigorously analyze the impact of teacher cheating on the long‐run outcomes of students.”

The same results were found when looking at learning in math for students in first and second grade during the 2008-09 school year.  While lesser effects on math skills were found in other grades studied, the same could not be said for reading and English language arts.  Those subjects were found to have significant effects in later years of study.

The report went on to say that black students were affected at a higher rate, with 98% of students found to have had the largest number of their answered changed (10 or more) being black, reports Maureen Downey for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The study did admit that it did not control for other variables such as teacher experience, teacher quality, and other cultural variables that could have affected students within the schools.