Resign or Face Termination: The Fallout from the APS Cheating Scandal

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Resign or Face Termination: The Fallout from the APS Cheating Scandal
In our coverage of the Atlanta Public School standardized test cheating story, the drama intensifies, and teachers have been given an ultimatum: resignation or termination.
The Atlanta Public School system has had more than their share of publicity this past year. When allegations of cheating on standardized tests arose in Atlanta Public Schools, an investigation was launched. The investigation resulted in the implication of many teachers and principals throughout the district in what quickly became a widespread cheating scandal. Once the facts began to materialize, the new acting superintendent became wrapped up in the foray. Today, the fallout from the scandal is continuing, as the teachers involved in cheating have been given an ultimatum from the top: resign or face termination.
 

Beginnings of a Scandal

Beverly Hall took over as superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools just before the turn of the century, when concern over the quality of education in Atlanta was at an all-time high. Hall worked hard to improve test scores in schools across the district and even received national accolades when the scores began to rise. However, the higher test scores began to gain the attention of the media and school officials, who wondered exactly how some schools were able to register such large improvements.

When an internal investigation was launched, an abnormal high number of erasures were discovered on many of the standardized tests in a handful of schools in the district. This discovery led to additional investigations, and the cycle continued for many months until the full scope of the cheating scandal could be identified. Currently, the district has implicated 178 teachers and principals in what has become a district-wide scandal. Now that the truth – or what some claim to be the truth – is revealed, the state and school system are taking matters into their own hands to punish those involved and help the district get back on the right track for the benefit of the students who go to school there.
 
What the Investigation Found
 
A state report conducted by the Office of the Georgia Governor over a 10-month period detailed widespread cheating in 44 schools that involved 178 school district employees. According to a report at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ex-superintendent Hall was accused of overseeing a district that created a culture of fear, cover-ups and obstruction when it came to standardized test results. While the report primarily focused on test results from 2009, it was not limited to tests taken during that particular year.
 
As a result of the report, the interim superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Erroll Davis, sent letters to all of the 178 school employees implicated in the cheating scandal. The letter put forth the ultimatum to the teachers and principals involved – resign within the next week or face termination by the district. Of the 178 that received the letters, more than 80 confessed to participating in cheating activity, while the rest were identified and implicated during the course of the investigation.
 
Who will Stay and Who will Go?
 
A later report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that 30 of the 178 employees have resigned or retired since receiving their letter, rather than go through the termination process. That leaves 130 to 150 educators still employed by the district, with district officials deciding how to proceed next. Interim Superintendent Davis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I’ll tell you what they will not be doing. They will not be going in front of children.”
 
Some of the teachers and principals on the list refused to resign because they plan to fight the district charges. According to a report at 11 Alive, the Atlanta Federation of Teachers (AFT) plans to represent at least 50 district employees who have decided to refute the allegations of cheating. The president of the AFT, Vidaillia Turner, told 11 Alive, “Through due process, and thank God for that, you do get a full hearing. You can restore your name, restore your professional name, save your career.”
 
The Fate of Implicated Teachers
 
The fate of the teachers implicated in the scandal will not rest solely with the district any longer. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that Superintendent Davis recently met with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Jr. to discuss how both entities would proceed in dealing with the situation. The teachers on the list could face the following penalties: criminal prosecution, job loss and certification loss. Decisions about certification would be made by the state’s Professional Standards Commission.
 
Employees will first face hearings by the district, which could take a number of months. Other county district attorneys have also launched their own criminal investigations, which they could then act upon if sufficient evidence against the teachers was revealed. Some professional groups working with the teachers have voiced concern over inaccuracies in the report, which is their basis for fighting any potential charges at this time.
 
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission is scheduled to begin their review of the APS cases this September. Sanctions by this group could range from a reprimand to loss of a teaching license. Both would remain on the teacher’s record, regardless of whether they resign or get fired.
 
In addition to the state investigations going on, the federal government is reportedly also looking into the situation. According to a report at WSBTV, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that he believes the department’s investigative arm is looking at the district, but a formal investigation does not appear to be launched at this time. A spokesperson for the Atlanta school district has said that school officials will cooperate fully with any federal investigation that may ensue.

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