35 Indictments of Administrators, Principals, and Teachers in Atlanta Test-Cheating Scandal

Even the jaded Barometer is stunned by this one.  Thirty-five folks who were formerly with the Atlanta Public School system have been indicted for the roles they played in perpetuating false test scores for the school children there. One teacher explained that cheating on the standardized tests had been going on for so long that they looked at it as part of their jobs.  Then there was the fear factor.  Dr. Beverly Hall, the APS superintendent, gave principals three years to get those scores up.  If test scores did not improve, they would be replaced.  In her decade of reigning supreme, she replaced 90 percent of the principals.

However, the tragedy is seeing, through tape recordings made by teachers who wore wires after confessing to investigators, the realization among administrators that there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.  One who wore a wire for investigators was Milagros Moner, the testing coordinator at an elementary school in Atlanta.  She confessed that she carried the tests into her principal, Clarietta Davis, who then put on gloves and made the changes necessary to the answer sheets to get the scores she needed to avoid Hall’s wrath and retaliation.  In a recorded conversation between the two in Ms. Davis’s car in a McDonald’s parking lot, the wire picked up the tragic reality of their fates:

Ms. Moner:  I can’t eat. I can’t sleep, my kids want to talk to me.  I ignore them . . . I don’t have the mental energy.

Ms. Davis:  You wouldn’t believe how people just look at you.  People you know.

Ms. Moner:  You feel isolated.

Ms. Davis:  There’s no one to talk to . . . See how red my eyes are?  And I’m not a drinking woman. You just have to pray for everybody.

Ms. Davis was one of the 35 who was indicted.  Wearing gloves whilst changing children’s answer sheets on standardized tests will get you that result.  And taking a school’s percentage of proficient readers from 24 percent to 78 percent in one year will raise a few statisticians’ eyebrows and bring in the investigators. The charges range from conspiracy to racketeering to theft by taking (the bonuses).

There were 178 teachers, principals, and administrators disciplined. Most lost their jobs.  Many lost their teaching certificates.  And the students?  Well, they are trying to make up for years of lost education.  That’s a tall order, particularly when their test scores convinced them that they were smart.  One of the investigators commented that it was sad to see because they seemed to really care about the kids.  Funny, faking test scores doesn’t seem to be the best way of showing it.  All are punished, the guilty, the innocent, the indicted, the unindicted co-conspirators, and the kids they cared about.

For more information on the scandal, Michael Winerup, “35 Indicted in Test Scandal at Atlanta Schools,” New York Times, March 30, 2013, p. A1.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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