35 Atlanta educators indicted in massive cheating scandal
This is hard to believe, but true. The Atlanta school district has been caught red handed altering student test scores so that the conspirators could realize cash bonuses to their pay due to improved marks.
In the two and a half years since, the state's investigation reached from Ms. Parks's third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.
Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.
During the decade she led the district of 52,000 children, many of them poor and African-American, Atlanta students often outperformed wealthier suburban districts on state tests.
Those test scores brought her fame -- in 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named her superintendent of the year and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hosted her at the White House.
And fortune -- she earned more than $500,000 in performance bonuses while superintendent.
On Friday, prosecutors essentially said it really was too good to be true. Dr. Hall and the 34 teachers, principals and administrators "conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistle-blowers in an effort to bolster C.R.C.T. scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores," the indictment said, referring to the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.
Reached late Friday, Richard Deane, Dr. Hall's lawyer, said they were digesting the indictment and making arrangements for bond. "We're pretty busy," he said.
Parks was one of 7 teachers and educators who locked themselves in a room during the week of testing and deliberately erased wrong answers and added correct ones. She wore a wire to school and caught dozens of educators in her net, including the Superintendant Beverly Hall.
This is not surprising given the stakes for school districts. Millions of dollars are at risk if the kids underperform on the tests and, of course, those juicy performance bonuses were a further temptation to cheat.
It makes you wonder how many more school districts have organized cheating cabals that do nothing but harm children who need the most help.