Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal

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The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal refers to the accusation that teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) district cheated on state-administered standardized tests and the subsequent fallout.

The scandal began in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published analyses of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results which showed statistically unlikely test scores, including extraordinary gains or losses in a single year.[1] An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released in July 2011 found that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the 2009 CRCT.[2] 178 teachers and principals were found to have corrected answers entered by students.[3] The size of the scandal has been described as one of the largest in United States history.[3][4][5]

The scandal thrust the debate over using high-stakes testing to hold educators accountable, mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, into the national spotlight.[6] Teachers who confessed to cheating blamed "inordinate pressure" to meet targets set by the district and said they faced severe consequences such as a negative evaluation or termination if they didn't.[6]

Prior to the scandal, the APS had been lauded for making significant gains in standardized test scores. Between 2002 and 2009, eighth-graders' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test jumped 14 points, the highest of any urban area.[5] Superintendent Beverly Hall, who served from 1999 to 2010, was named Superintendent of the Year in 2009.[7] The GBI's report said Hall "knew or should have known" about the scandal.[2] Hall's lawyer has denied she had any knowledge of cheating practices.[5] In 2013, she was indicted in relation to her role in the matter.[8] On September 6, 2013, Tamara Cotman, an Executive Director, represented by Benjamin Davis, was found not guilty of influencing a witness.[9]

On September 29, 2014, the trial of the teachers accused of tampering with students' grades began in Atlanta. It was expected to last more than three months. On March 2, 2015, the superintendent at the center of the scandal, Beverly Hall, died of breast cancer, aged 68.[10]

On April 1, 2015, eleven of the twelve teachers accused of being involved in the scandal were convicted on racketeering charges.[11] Dessa Curb was the only teacher found not guilty on all charges.[12]


  • Donald Bullock: Weekends in jail for 6 months, $5,000 fine, 5 years of probation and 1,500 hours of community service.
  • Sharon Davis-Williams: 20 years in prison, to serve seven, $25,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service.
  • Tamara Cotman: 20 years in prison, to serve seven, $25,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service.
  • Michael Pitts: 20 years in prison, to serve seven, $25,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service.
  • Dana Evans: 5 years in prison, one to serve, and 1,000 hours of community service.
  • Angela Williamson: 5 years in prison, two to serve, $5,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.
  • Tabeeka Jordan: 5 years in prison, two to serve, $5,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.
  • Diane Buckner-Webb: 5 years in prison, one to serve, $1,000 fine, 1,000 hours in community service and first offender treatment.
  • Theresia Copeland: 5 years in prison, one to serve, $1,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service.
  • Pamela Cleveland: 5 years probation, home confinement for a year from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. and community service.
  • Sentences for Cotman, Pitts & Davis-Williams were reduced from 7 to 3 years and fines to $10,000.[13]

Film adaptation

Ryan Coogler will work with Michael B. Jordan for a fourth time in the upcoming film Wrong Answer, based on the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.[14]


  1. ^ Vogell, Heather; Perry, John (October 19, 2009). "Are drastic swings in CRCT scores valid?". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Flock, Elizabeth (July 11, 2011). "APS (Atlanta public schools) embroiled in cheating scandal". Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Patrik (July 5, 2011). "America's biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal unfolds in Atlanta". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  4. ^ Resmovits, Joy (July 5, 2011). "Atlanta Public Schools Shaken By Cheating Report". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Koebler, Jason (July 7, 2011). "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal". U.S. News. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Sarrio, Jaime (July 10, 2011). "Cheating scandal adds fuel to debate over high-stakes tests". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  7. ^ Vogell, Heather (November 20, 2010). "Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall to step down". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  8. ^ Staff report (March 29, 2013). Ex-APS Superintendent Beverly Hall, others indicted. WSBTV
  9. ^ Niesse, Mark (September 6, 2013). "Jury finds Cotman not guilty in first Atlanta cheating trial". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  10. ^ Judd, Alan. "Beverly Hall dies; criminal case — and her legacy — unresolved". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  11. ^ WXIA-TV (1 April 2015). "11 Atlanta educators convicted in cheating scandal". USA Today. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  12. ^ Murphy, Rodney Harris, Adam. "Dessa Curb only educator found not guilty in APS cheating trial".
  13. ^ CNN, Ralph Ellis and Elwyn Lopez,. "Sentences reduced for 3 in Atlanta cheating scandal - CNN".
  14. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (27 November 2015). "Creed Director Ryan Coogler on His Chemistry With Michael B. Jordan". Time. Retrieved 13 January 2016.

External links

  • "Cheating Our Children" on the Atlanta Journal Constitution
  • Educators Cheating on Tests Not New; Doing Something About it Would be, Richard P. Phelps
  • The Atlanta Scandal: Teaching in “A Culture of Fear, Intimidation and Retaliation”, Erich Martel
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