Former Superintendent Beverly Hall is accused of racketeering, making false statements and other actions as prosecutors revealed that some of the bonuses she received were tied to falsified scores.
The woman retired just a few days before a state probe was released two years ago. She previously insisted that she knew nothing regarding the cheating or ordering it.
During a news conference Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard cited the examples of two students who demonstrated “the plight of many children” in the Atlanta school system.
He tols reporters that a third-grader, who failed her benchmark exam and received the worst score in her reading class, took a separate assessment test not long after and passed it with flying colors.
The District attorney also revealed that the girl’s mother, Justina Collins, knew something was awry, but the school officials told the woman that her daughter was just a good test-taker. The girl who is now in ninth grade, reads at a fifth-grade level.
“I have a 15-year-old now who is behind in achieving her goal of becoming what she wants to be when she graduates. It’s been hard trying to help her catch up,” Collins said.
It took 21 months to investigate the case with the allegations dating back to 2005. Besides the superintendent, 34 people were involved in the scandal: four high-level administrators, six principals; two assistant principals; six testing coordinators; 14 teachers; a school improvement specialist and a school secretary.
The investigation was conducted at about 50 schools as well as hundreds of interviews with school officials, staff, parents and students themselves. There’re more than 50,000 students in the disctrict. Howard would not directly answer a question about whether Hall led the conspiracy.
“What we’re saying is that without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place,” he said. “It would not have taken place if her actions had not made that possible.”
In a video message to schools staff before she retired, the former superintendent Hall warned that the state investigation launched by former Gov. Sonny Perdue would likely reveal “alarming” behavior.
“It’s become increasingly clear that a segment of our staff chose to violate the trust that was placed in them,” Hall said. “There is simply no excuse for unethical behavior and no room in this district for unethical conduct.”
She added: “I am confident that aggressive, swift action will be taken against anyone who believed so little in our students and in our system of support that they turned to dishonesty as the only option.”
As The Huffington Post reports, the cheating surfaced after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.
Most of the 178 educators got in the list of investigators. Twenty-one educators have been reinstated and three await hearings to appeal their dismissals, revealed Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford.
Superintendent Erroll Davis said the district was focused on nurturing an ethical environment, with providing quality education and supporting the employees who were not implicated.
“I know that our children will succeed when the adults around them work hard, work together, and do so with integrity,” he said in a statement.