Eleven educators in Atlanta’s public school system were convicted last week in what’s being called the largest cheating scandal in American history. The group included teachers, testing officials and school administrators in the state of Georgia.
The cheating was discovered through an unrelated data analysis by state officials in 2009. They examined standardized tests from schools across the state and found that an overwhelming number of Atlanta’s public schools reported tests where the wrong answer was erased and replaced with the right answer.
“What the takeaway is, as state prosecutors just proved, is there was a district wide conspiracy to cheat on these standardized tests,” said Rose Scott, a reporter and co-host of A Closer Look on WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station.
It’s still unclear, said Scott, whether teachers influenced students to change test answers or changed the answers themselves. “It’s a combination of both according to state officials and state investigators,” she added.
The analysis was fair overall, said Scott, because the state officials had not singled out public schools in Atlanta.
“But when the data came back, it showed that there was a high number of wrong to right erasures,” she said.
The cheating has raised other questions about the Atlanta public school system - for example, 80 percent of the students in it are at or near the poverty level, said Scott.
“A huge percentage of them need additional resources for taking this test, but those additional resources did not mean teachers changing answers just to pass them on to the next grade or teachers changing answers to meet a high standard that was set by the district to begin with,” said Scott.