Students taking tests
An investigation has revealed widespread cheating on tests by teachers and administrators in Atlanta schools. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The public school system in Atlanta has come under heavy fire because an investigation has revealed widespread cheating on standardized tests. Nearly 200 administrators and teachers have been found or confessed to have corrected test answers to elevate student scores.

Nearly 200 teachers and administrators participated

An audit of the state of Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test or CRCT administered at Atlanta schools in 2009 released in February of 2010 found anomalies indicating cheating by teachers and administrators. In the fall of 2010, then-governor Sonny Perdue ordered an investigation. The just-released report found that answers were changed in 44 of the 56 Atlanta area schools audited in order to boost test scores, according to the Washington Post.  At least 178 teachers and administrative staff were involved. Six of them pleaded the Fifth Amendment, and 82 confessed to cheating. Auditors looked for instances of erased answers and patterns in answers that were erased and changed. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, teachers were threatened with being fired if they didn’t alter test scores. Whistle-blowers were retaliated against to keep them from reporting wrongdoing.

Education legend tainted by scandal

The report on cheating in Atlanta public schools has severely tarnished the legacy of former Superintendent Beverly Hall. Hall, according to the Christian Science Monitor, presided over a dramatic improvement in Atlanta schools, starting with her hiring in 1999. Atlanta was considered a model for school reform. Hall was awarded “U.S. Superintendent of the Year” in 2009. She announced in 2010, the same year accusations of cheating on standardized tests surfaced, that she would retire from the Atlanta Public Schools system at the end of the 2011 school year. A video was shown to school staff in June of this year, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, in which she told teachers and administrators that “alarming” behavior would come to light.

Numerous scandals throughout nation

Since the No Child Left Behind Act instituted more standardized testing and incentives for good performance and consequences of poor performance, there have been rumblings of cheating throughout the nation. In March of this year, cheating was found to have gone on in Washington, D.C., public schools during the tenure of Michelle Rhee, the superintendent who was a media darling for years. Testing scandals have broken out in Texas and Florida in recent years. The popular book “Freakonomics” had a chapter describing how Chicago public school teachers were cheating, taken from a paper co-written by Steven Levitt, one of the book’s authors and an economist at the University of Chicago. In that paper, written by Levitt and Brian Jacob, the authors stated that high stakes testing, like standardized tests, encourages teachers to cheat to enhance performance though only a small minority actually do.


Christian Science Monitor:

Seattle Post Intelligencer:


Washington Post:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Levitt and Jacob paper “To Catch a Cheat” from the University of Chicago (PDF – Requires Adobe Reader):

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