Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes. Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.
Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.
Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.
“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.
In one case, Hall’s chief Human Resources officer Millicent Few “illegally ordered” the destruction of early, damning drafts of an outside lawyer’s investigation of test-tampering at Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy, the report said.
At Venetian Hills, a group of teachers and administrators who dubbed themselves “the chosen ones” convened to change answers in the afternoons or during makeup testing days, investigators found. Principal Clarietta Davis, a testing coordinator told investigators, wore gloves while erasing to avoid leaving fingerprints on answer sheets.
At Gideons Elementary, teachers sneaked tests off campus and held a weekend “changing party” at a teacher’s home in Douglas County to fix answers.
Cheating was “an open secret” at the school, the report said. The testing coordinator handed out answer-key transparencies to place over answer sheets so the job would go faster.
When investigators began questioning educators, now-retired principal Armstead Salters obstructed their efforts by telling teachers not to cooperate, the report said.
“If anyone asks you anything about this just tell them you don’t know,” the report said Salters said. He told teachers to “just stick to the story and it will all go away.”
Salters eventually confessed to knowing cheating was occurring, the report said. He could not be reached Tuesday.
At East Lake Elementary, the principal and testing coordinator instructed teachers to arrange students’ seats so that the lower-performing children would receive easier versions of the Fifth Grade Writing Tests.