By Jay Kernis
The Atlanta Public Schools System is still recovering from the worst cheating scandal in American history.
This past July, investigators appointed by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue issued the results of a 10-month probe into alleged test tampering. Investigators Bob Wilson, a former Dekalb County district attorney, Mike Bowers, a former state attorney general, and former Atlanta police detective Richard Hyde concluded that 178 teachers and principals had cheated in 44 schools across the Atlanta system.
Investigators were looking specifically at the results of the spring 2009 CRCT, the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test taken by 1st through 8th graders. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement had conducted an erasure analysis on the standardized tests and there were just too many wrong-to-right erasures in too many classrooms.
Before they began their own inquiry, the investigators called in Dr. Gregory Cizek to double check the state’s erasure study data. Cizek is professor of Educational Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of “Cheating on Tests: How to Do It, Detect and Prevent It.”
Cizek told Rock Center’s Harry Smith that scanning machines, processing 500 answer sheets a minute, can easily spot erasures that are statistically impossible to achieve without some outside help.
Cizek said, “It was just sickening. It was really heartbreaking to see the scale. I saw answer sheets with 25 erasures—the student’s entire performance had been altered. Whole classrooms of kids were told: you’re performing well—when, in fact, it was an educator or some other adult doctoring their answer sheets. It was just awful.”