All In   |  April 01, 2013

35 indicted in Atlanta public school cheating scandal

A cheating scandal in Atlanta rocked the city’s public schools back in 2011, and the 35 teachers, principals, and school officials who were indicted on Friday. Pedro Noguera from New York University, Derrell Bradfrom from the Better Education for Kids, and The Grio’s Goldie Taylor discuss the latest developments.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> suspects in an atlanta cheating scandal which involved more schools and teachers than any other in american history have until the end of the day tomorrow to turn themselves in.

>> according to the district attorney's office, test answer sheets were altered, fabricated, and false lay certified. test scores were inflated, and did not reflect students' actual academic performance.

>> these are 34 teachers, principals and other school officials indicted on friday. accused of covering u in which teachers would help thousands of students teach on standardized testing to achieve higher scores. as of now, zero have turned themselves in. the indictment paints a picture that awarded cheelters and covered up deception. according to a report in the "new york times," teachers sat in a locked windowless room every week of testing raising students scores by erasing wrong answers and marking them right, but they allege it went all the way to top. also indicted was former atlanta schools superintendent dr. dr. beverly hall. what makes it so remarkable was hall was a bona fide rock star . she was named superintendent of the year in 2009 , earning her an invitation to the white house , and she also eamanaged to earn over $500,000 during her tenure as superintendent. as testing becomes higher means of behavior and has president obama 's race to the top reward teachers and schools for producing higher scores, we shouldn't be surprised this also incentivizes cheating. we have seen the superintendent of el paso schools going to prison for boosting test scores along with investigations showing test irregularities and other states. this is not just a story about the atlanta school district . this is a story about the grand national experiment we're undertaking in public education in this country and its little discussed dark side . joining me at the table, goldie taylor, and atlanta resident, terrell bradford, executive director of better education for kids, and pedro novera. great to have you here. goldie, you're fresh omthe plane from hot atlanta . thank you for coming. it's great to have you here. this must be a huge story in atlanta .

>> it's a big story , but it has been for a long time. i was among the parents who hosted beverly hall. we were really looking forward to, you know, a grand new day of reforms in the atlanta public school system . what we got was a widespread pervasive cheating scandal that is thus far unparalleled across the country.

>> she was really popular, there for a really long time, maybe a decade, on the order of that, which is hard to find a compare comparis comparison. and she became this kind of star figure in certain ways. and i think this is something we have seen acrosss the country, which is the figure of the school turn around artist has become a kind of celebrity in our culture. michelle reese on the cover of newsweekly, and beverly had that stature in atlanta .

>> it's ironic. she had that stats among educators in the country, among the media. she quickly lost it among parents and teachers in atlanta .

>> did she lose it before there was a 2011 report that was the precipitating event, which was a report by investigators of this cheating ring.

>> she did it on the basis alone, aloof, disconnected, unlike any superintendent we had.

>> i can't comment on her style of leadership. i will say she was recognized throughout the country for what she had done. before we buy into the indictment, we have to acknowledge that --

>> good point.

>> there was other data showing that the progress in atlanta was real. s.a.t. scores were reeled. noen nobody said they cheated, the naep scores were raised.

>> which is a snalsh standardized test .

>> it's ironic we have a superintendent who is now, what, $7.5 million bail. we haven't --

>> 45 years, 45 years in prison.

>> this is -- and we should not make light of cheating at all, and there should be accountability and a thorough investigation, but there's not been an indictment yet against a banker in this country, and the disproportionate kind of pressure --

>> that's a cop-out, though. i mean, i agree with you. they should indict some bankers, but if you're running a cheating ring, you should pay some consequences.

>> absolutely. so the real question then is was she running a cheating ring?

>> right.

>> and is this investigation that needs to occur here in atlanta going to really shed light on how it happened and why it happened, because atlanta is not alone.

>> let me interject this quickly because this is important, right, i don't want to convict her on cable news. we never do that in cable news. if there's a cable news due process . this is someone who is under indictment. she has denied charges in the past. she also, and this is important, the statute that the indictment stems from is georgia's version of the rico, right? which is a conspiracy statute which is something prosecutors use to -- which often allows them to sidestep showing some kind of direct moment of implicated guilt in the guilty party, right? if you're part of a conspiracy you should have known or did know, so one could say the fact they have chosen to indictment her using that statute is slightly exculpatory, just to put that on the table.

>> i also don't want to tar and feather her on national television. she's got due process and she does maintain her own innocence, but i feel like on one side, the fact that the ostensible punishment, right, the bail, that it's sort of like a rico kind of gambino kind of thing, is sent a very strong message to communities in america that this can't be tolerated. this kind of behavior is absolutely unacceptable, particularly when the kids are, you know, overwhelming minority and overwhelmingly poor. they need the most transparency and the most help.

>> which is the case. my kids attended atlanta public schools and graduated from atlanta public schools , but when you look at the schools that were most impacted, they were the black and brown schools. 100 atlanta schools, 58 impacted. they are largely black and brown. to say that there is not a robbery going on here, when these teachers reap benefits, these principals reap financial benefits, which beverly harper herself reaped benefits while the same schools were robbed of their collective futures, i think there ought to be a high dollar for that when she's off on vaxz today.

>> we need to make a distinction whether she's accountable for this.

>> even though you noted earlier this is like the largest scandal of its kind, under an investigation in the history of the country. it's 33 teachers and a superintendent and there are a lot more people doing the right thing, who are in classrooms, who are not behaving in this way. it's really important that when we find instances of this, and if this is revealed to be what it certainly looks like, that you don't throw every other teacher under the bus.

>> but --

>> but 33 are under indictment. there is supposedly hundreds who were fired.

>> originally 178 teachers and principals.

>> you can have to keep it in perspective, a new york city problem, a houston problem, a d.c. problem, and that begs the question, what is going on here? why is cheating become such a fixation in our schools?

>> i want you to hold the thought because i want to answer the question after we take this break. [