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Posted at 07:47 PM ET, 07/07/2011

D.C. official: Ed Dept. now active in erasure probe

The U.S. Department of Education has been active in the District’s investigation into possible cheating on the DC CAS, a spokesman for the D.C. Inspector General’s office said Thursday.

Roger Burke, spokesman for D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, offered few details. But he confirmed that the Education Department’s IG office was playing a role. When or how its involvement started, or how extensive it might be, he would not say.

“I’ve gone further than I usually do,” he said.

Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for Education Department Inspector General Kathleen Tighe, declined to comment.

“Per our policy, we do not confirm or deny investigative activity,” she said.

Still, it appears that this is a part of a bid by Education Secretary Arne Duncan to get out in front of the cheating issue. Late last month he wrote a stiff letter to state school officers warning them to get tougher on test security. He also said he was “stunned” by recent revelations in Atlanta, where a state investigation has implicated more than 170 teachers and principals at 44 schools. Baltimore officials have also uncovered testing misconduct.

Burke made the disclosure as he responded to a query about resources his agency had committed to the investigation, which was triggered by USA Today’s investigation into high answer-sheet erasures at more than 100 D.C. schools between 2008 and 2010.

Burke said there was just “one agent specifically assigned,” who could draw other investigators as needed from various parts of the office. He would not offer a specific number of agents involved. He also said that the office had conducted 10 interviews with D.C. school personnel since Chancellor Kaya Henderson requested Willoughby’s help in late March. Another eight are scheduled, he said, adding that the probe has been slowed by the availability of school staff during summer break.

By contrast, the year-long investigation of cheating in Atlanta Public Schools, ordered by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) after he declared a local investigation “woefully inadequate,” was headed by two former prosecutors and staffed by nearly 60 agents and other personnel of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Investigators had subpoena power to compel testimony and offer immunity from prosecution to those who cooperated. According to the 800-page report, they conducted more than 2,100 interviews and reviewed more than 800,000 documents.

By  |  07:47 PM ET, 07/07/2011

 
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