The former superintendent of Atlanta's public schools was one of 35 district officials indicted March 29 on charges that they participated in a years-long conspiracy to cheat on federal standardized tests, both for personal financial gain and to demonstrate improvements in student achievement that did not actually exist.
Shortly after becoming the superintendent of Atlanta's suffering public schools in 1999, Dr. Beverly Hall (shown in photo) “established increasingly tough performance targets for every school that would become progressively more difficult to hit,” reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Her mantra: 'No exceptions and no excuses.'”
Hall, district administrators, and even teachers were offered lucrative incentives to show that academic performance among students in the mostly poor, black school district was improving. According to a federal grand jury, the superintendent, district officials, and principals perpetrated a scheme that appeared to show the district was improving, got paid handsomely for it, and then lied in an attempt to cover their crimes when federal investigators began closing in on the fraud.
Reported the Journal-Constitution: “Hall inculcated an atmosphere that encouraged using any means necessary to achieve test-score targets, the indictment said, and then 'publicly misrepresented the academic performance of schools throughout [Atlanta Public Schools].' Pressuring subordinates to produce targeted scores, the indictment said, 'created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.”
Richard Hyde, one of the key federal investigators who uncovered what has become the largest academic cheating scandal so far in the United States, called the conspiracy “nothing but pervasive and rank thuggery.” The 66-year-old Hall, who retired in 2011, faces as much as 45 years in prison if convicted. Other top-level district officials indicted include Millicent Few, the district’s human resources director; and school supervisors Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman, and Michael Pitts. In addition, those charged in the scheme include seven principals, two assistant principals, 14 teachers, five testing coordinators, one instructional coach, and a school secretary. The charges include racketeering, theft, making false statements, and false swearing. “Authorities accused some educators of influencing witnesses by pressuring them to lie to investigators about cheating,” reported the Journal-Constitution.
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Photo of Dr. Beverly Hall: AP Images