Of the 180 teachers and other district workers fingered for taking a part in the massive test cheating scandal uncovered last year by the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, 12 have been recently cleared to return to work. Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools Erroll Davis said that there was not enough evidence against them to permanently relieve them of their jobs. Davis, who issued his decision after the district-led investigation into the cheating, is now being accused of closing his eyes to the severity of the problem.
In August 2010, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed the special investigators to determine whether there had been extensive cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The investigators uncovered years of systemic cheating at APS and depicted a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up wrongdoing. Their report strongly contradicted denials of widespread cheating by top-level APS officials.
Erroll B. Davis was appointed superintendent after the previous head of APS, Beverly L. Hall, resigned after the cheating was uncovered. Hall was called the Iron Lady by the then-president of the teachers’ union for her dismissal of 90% of Atlanta’s school principals for failing to raise test scores sufficiently. She was named superintendent of the year twice for the impressive score increases she obtained — even getting a mention from the U.S. Secretary of State Arne Duncan for her achievement. Her painstakingly tended reputation as a reformer who got results collapsed, however, after a state-led investigation found evidence of cheating at nearly 180 district schools.
As was reported earlier at the AJC, the PSC (Professional Standards Commission) voted to revoke the teaching certificates of three administrators and to impose two-year suspensions on eight teachers. Some of the educators were from Parks Middle School, cited by state investigators as an egregious example of the test-cheating culture in Atlanta Public Schools.
To help repair the damage caused by the scandal, Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed appointed Erroll B. Davis Jr. to become the new superintendent after Hall left in the summer.
The investigation fingered Peyton Forest Middle School as the district school with the most suspicious number of the wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets. Eight of the 12 educators getting a green light to go back to the classroom are from Peyton.
The news that the educators are going back is an unwelcome one to at least one of the authors of the report that found confirmed teaching incidents at Peyton and 43 other schools. Former state Attorney General Mike Bowers said that the district’s decision, in light of the report’s findings, just proved that administrators have learned nothing from events of the previous year.