Once named “Superintendent of the Year,” with the claim that her leadership “turned Atlanta into a model of urban reform,” on April 2, 2013, Beverly Hall (the former Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools) was one of 35 educators indicted in the country’s largest cheating scandal. According to CNN, Hall was among 27 others who turned themselves in to the Fulton County Jail that day.
While community members, the School Superintendents Association and others wanted to believe in Hall’s successful turn-around of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS), the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” newspaper wasn’t so sure. Investigative reporting called into question such a dramatic change in test scores across the district, and the state soon followed up with its own investigation.
Result of state’s scrutiny
After a series of investigations, spanning a time period of no less than four years, the fallout found could only be described as devastating. According to the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” newspaper, “A Fulton County grand jury indicted Hall and 34 others on charges that they conspired to cheat on federally mandated standardized tests from at least 2005 to 2010.”
According to CNN, the indictment against Hall suggested that she “placed unreasonable goals on educators and protected and rewarded those who achieved targets by cheating.” After the state’s review, it was found that fully half of all Atlanta’s elementary and middle schools had participated in the standardized test alteration. At first, no less than 180 teachers were also implicated in the cheating scandal.
Clearly, this was a widespread exercise under the leadership of Superintendent Beverly Hall.
Pressure on teachers to comply with cheating
According to former Atlanta Attorney General Michael Bowers, “Not only were the children deprived [of the education they deserved], a lot of teachers were forced into cheating, forced into criminal acts.” Of course, these same teachers could have resisted the demands by Hall and others, but many felt pressured.
So bold was this activity that there were sanctioned cheating pizza parties, in which educators would get together as a group to alter test scores. As the ring leader, Hall was determined to use any means necessary to achieve her aims.
Why? According to the Atlanta newspaper, “Hall, several top aides, principals and teachers engaged in the scheme for their own financial gain.” During the investigation, teachers revealed that they also participated for reasons of pride, the desire to boost their career standing and simple fear of job loss.
Where does that leave the community, parents and children?
Reeling from this cheating scandal, it quickly becomes apparent that the biggest harm was done to the children of Atlanta, many of whom had been failing in their classrooms, but otherwise appeared to be winning via their test scores. Fully half of all students in the APS were deprived of solid academic support for at least four years, time that cannot be regained.
To say Atlanta parents are disappointed is clearly an understatement.