Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal

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The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal refers to the accusation that teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) district cheated on state-administered standardized tests, and the subsequent fallout. The scandal began in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published analyses of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results which showed statistically unlikely test scores, including extraordinary gains or losses in a single year.[1] An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released in July 2011 found that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the 2009 CRCT.[2] 178 teachers and principals were found to have fixed incorrect answers entered by students.[3] The size of the scandal has been described as one of the largest in United States history.[3][4][5]

The scandal has thrust the debate over using high-stakes testing to hold educators accountable, mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, into the national spotlight.[6] Teachers who confessed to cheating blamed "inordinate pressure" to meet targets set by the district and said they faced severe consequences such as a negative evaluation or termination if they didn't.[6]

Prior to the scandal, the APS had been lauded for making significant gains in standardized test scores. Between 2002 and 2009, eighth-graders' (the grade level at which the CRCT is taken) scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test jumped 14 points, the highest of any urban area.[5] Superintendent Beverly Hall, who served from 1999 to 2010, was named Superintendent of the Year in 2009.[7] The GBI's report said Hall "knew or should have known" about the scandal.[2] Hall's lawyer has denied she had any knowledge of cheating practices.[5] In 2013, she was indicted in relation to her role in the matter.[8] On September 6, 2013, Tamara Cotman, an Executive Director, represented by Benjamin Davis, was found not guilty of influencing a witness.[9]

On September 29, 2014, the trial of the teachers accused of tampering with students' grades began in Atlanta. It is expected to last more than three months.[10]


  1. ^ Vogell, Heather; Perry, John (October 19, 2009). "Are drastic swings in CRCT scores valid?". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Flock, Elizabeth (July 11, 2011). "APS (Atlanta public schools) embroiled in cheating scandal". Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Patrik (July 5, 2011). "America's biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal unfolds in Atlanta". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ Resmovits, Joy (July 5, 2011). "Atlanta Public Schools Shaken By Cheating Report". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Koebler, Jason (July 7, 2011). "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal". U.S. News. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Sarrio, Jamie (July 10, 2011). "Cheating scandal adds fuel to debate over high-stakes tests". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  7. ^ Thomas, Kristina; Vogell, Heather (November 20, 2010). "Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall to step down". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  8. ^ Staff report (March 29, 2013). Ex-APS Superintendent Beverly Hall, others indicted. WSBTV
  9. ^ Niesse, Mark (6 September 2013). "Jury finds Cotman not guilty in first Atlanta cheating trial". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Fausset, Richard (29 September 2014). "Racketeering Trial Opens in Atlanta Schools Cheating Scandal". New York Times. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 

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