Atlanta Gives Interim Chief a Year to Clean up Cheating Scandal

Atlanta Public Schools interim Superintendent Erroll Davis will get a one-year term to clean up schools.

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The Atlanta school board has suspended a search for its next superintendent as the city tries to figure out what to do amidst one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history.

School board officials decided Thursday to give interim chief Erroll Davis Jr. a one-year term to clean up a school system that suffered from widespread cheating on state standardized tests, according to a report released Tuesday by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. More than 75 percent of the 56 schools investigated cheated on a 2009 state standardized test. More than 80 teachers confessed to changing students' answers and other misconduct.

Davis outlined his initial plan for cleaning up the school district at a special school board meeting Thursday, which was open to parents. Key action points include a plan to investigate all schools whose test scores increased by a larger-than-usual percentage. These "trigger points" haven't been set, but would set off an "automatic" investigation, Davis said. The board also plans to assess the culture at schools in the district, after the report said a "culture of fear and conspiracy of silence" kept many teachers from speaking up about cheating.

"I plan to take the time required to painstakingly go over the state report so that we address each and every issue it identifies," Davis said in a statement. At the meeting, he said anyone involved in the scandal has "forfeited their right to remain in [Atlanta's] system."

The district says test security restrictions implemented in 2010 will be continued and expanded next year and in the future; additional adults will monitor schools and classrooms during tests, answer sheets will be sealed in envelopes, and the amount of time teachers have access to the tests will be reduced. Additionally, teachers will undergo extra training focusing on testing protocols before proctoring exams.

Students affected by the scandal will also undergo academic reviews—thousands of struggling students may receive extra tutoring and attend after-school programs, according to Davis.

Davis formerly served as chancellor of the University of Georgia system and has also served on the board of the University of Wisconsin system and Carnegie Mellon University.

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