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Interim Chief Begins Cleaning up Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools interim head removes four superintendents as year-round classes start.

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Three year-round elementary schools in the Atlanta Public School system opened this morning, including two implicated in one of the largest cheating scandals in K-12 public education.

Boyd Elementary and Hutchinson Elementary both hired new principals earlier this week after their former principals were removed. Interim schools chief Erroll Davis Jr. has started cleaning up a district in which 178 teachers and principals were found to be cheating on standardized tests according to an investigative report by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Last week, the Atlanta school board gave Davis a yearlong term to help the district navigate through the scandal.

[Learn more about the Atlanta cheating scandal.]

Shake-ups in the beleaguered school district continued on Tuesday. Millicent Few, who served as human resources chief of the system since 1999, resigned after a state report claimed she "ordered the destruction of documents related to cheating."

"It is not compassionate to allow someone who has cheated to remain on payroll," Davis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "A major mistake leaders make is they show too much compassion for people and not the institution. I was hired to protect the institution and I will do it."

Davis began removing officials earlier this week, starting with area superintendents Tamara Cotman, Michael Pitts, Sharon Davis-Williams, and Robin Hall. Their status with Atlanta Public Schools is pending. The four were replaced with principals from schools that weren't implicated in the governor's report.

Former school board chairman Khaatim Sherrer El also resigned earlier this week. "I failed to protect thousands of children who come from homes like mine," he said. El was one of the first school board officials to put pressure on the government to investigate cheating allegations. He will take a job with a nonprofit in Newark, N.J. In his departing note to the community, El wrote that Atlanta made "a deal with the Devil that sold out a generation of children for the sake of the city's image."

Other cities have faced mysteriously high test scores, including Detroit, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Cheating has also been suspected in districts in Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and California. Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a national organization that tracks cheating, wrote in a USA Today opinion piece that cheating is to be expected because standardized tests play such an important role in the U.S. education system.

"The cheating spike is the predictable fallout from the pervasive misuse of standardized tests in public schools. When test results are all that matter in evaluating students, teachers and schools, educators feel pressured to boost scores by hook or by crook," he wrote. "Just as in other professions, some will cross the ethical line."

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