Friday, March 29, 2013

Beverly Hall, other school officials, indicted in APS cheating scandal (Update)

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall

A grand jury has indicted former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall and more than two dozen other former educators on an array of charges, including racketeering, for their alleged roles in the school system's test-cheating scandal.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard this afternoon announced that Hall and 34 principals, administrators, teachers, and other APS officials were indicted on 65 counts, including violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, theft by taking, influencing witnesses, conspiracy, and false statements. (Here's the DA's announcement. And here's a link to the indictment.)

Hall, who joined APS in 1999, was considered a star administrator who turned a poorly performing school system into a success story. But in late 2008, the AJC conducted an analysis into suspiciously high gains on test scores. Reporters Alan Judd and Heather Vogell continued digging and found more instances of changed answers and other signs of possible cheating. The state took notice and launched its own investigation in early 2010.

In July 2011, Hall, who has denied any wrongdoing or involvement in a cheating scandal, resigned from APS. A few days later, the state released its report. It was depressing. According to its authors, "[a] culture of fear and a conspiracy of silence infected this school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct. From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS leadership in our attempt to gather evidence."

After the jump, comments from APS Superintendent Erroll Davis and Mayor Kasim Reed.

Says Davis in a statement:

Today, the Fulton County District Attorney's (DA) Office announced indictments against 35 former employees of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The former employees are accused of wrongdoing in connection with the administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in 2009 and, in some cases, previous years.

As an APS family, we are ready to put this troubling episode behind us. Our official role is to allow the legal process to run its course. We have an obligation to treat any indictment as a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the DA's office.

At the same time, we will maintain the expectation that all employees conform to the highest ethical standards established in APS. Over the past two years, we have taken action to renew our organization's collective commitment to students, parents, employees, partners and community members. From requiring all employees to complete annual ethics training as a condition of employment to strengthening safeguards on test materials, we have done considerable work both to prevent and to punish cheating.

Our focus now is where it should be: cultivating an ethical organization, supporting the more than 95 percent of individuals who were not implicated in the scandal, and most importantly, providing a quality education for our children. We are keenly focused on serving our 50,000 students and approximately 3,000 teachers and principals; they accept their profession as a calling and understand that educating a child is the most honorable job in the world. I have nothing but admiration for our teachers and principals. I know that our children will succeed when the adults around them work hard, work together, and do so with integrity.
Thank you for your positive contribution to Atlanta Public Schools.

Adds Reed:

"The allegations in the indictment against former Atlanta Public School Superintendent Beverly Hall and other administrators and teachers are painful to read... This has been a very difficult process for our city's public schools. But right now, we need to allow the judicial process to proceed and focus on what matters most - - the young people in our city's classrooms who deserve a quality education and the unwavering support of their teachers and administrators. As a city, we will get through this challenge and continue the vital business of educating our children so they can grow up to be confident, responsible and productive members of our city and nation."

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