AT ONE SCHOOL, teachers organized weekend changing “parties” where students’ answer sheets to standardized tests were altered. Another had a group of “chosen ones” who would gather in a locked office in the afternoon to erase wrong answers penciled in by students. So sophisticated was one school in its approach that it created plastic transparency sheets to make it easier to change wrong answers. The details of the massive cheating scandal embroiling Atlanta Public Schools are sickening. Why is it then that some are apparently willing to look beyond those who behaved so dishonorably to instead — incredibly — blame the tests?
A yearlong investigation ordered by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal found a pattern of cheating by educators in Atlanta’s public schools. A 800-page report focuses on the 2009 administration of the state’s standardized competency tests but makes clear cheating occurred before that year and as early as 2001. Of 56 schools examined, misconduct was found at 44, or 78.6 percent, of the schools; of 178 educators implicated, 38 were principals. Most devastating was the charge that former schools superintendent Beverly Hall knew about the allegations but either ignored them or tried to cover them up. She has denied wrongdoing, but in an op-ed published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she accepted responsibility for any shortcomings that permitted cheating to go undetected.