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Davis on cheating scandal: We will 'put this sad episode behind us'

A letter from APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr. updating where the district stands one year after 178 employees were accused of participating in various testing improprieties.

The following letter was sent on July 5, 2012, to city of Atlanta residents by Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr.

Dear APS students, parents, employees, and supporters,

Much progress has been made in addressing district educators accused of wrongdoing by state investigators in the spring 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) case.

A year ago, state investigators released their report that named 178 APS employees for participating in various testing improprieties associated with the conduct of the 2009 CRCT. After taking a few days to read the 400-page report, I either removed or placed every employee named in the document on administrative leave. I also replaced 43 principals and the four regional administrators over the schools.

At the time, I was constrained from taking further action against most of these employees because the evidence needed to move forward was in the hands of the Fulton County District Attorney, who was reviewing the material gathered by the state investigators for potential criminal charges. In the meantime, most of the employees named in the report remained on administrative leave with pay while the wheels of justice slowly turned.

Late last year, the Fulton County District Attorney permitted APS attorneys to review evidence in selected cases so that we could begin the process of preparing administrative cases to terminate employees accused of wrongdoing. I am pleased to report that we have experienced progress in this area.

To date, 10 educators have been terminated through the tribunal process. One hundred and twenty-seven employees named in the report have resigned or retired. One employee was exonerated by a tribunal. Twelve employees have been reinstated because of insufficient evidence to bring administrative cases against them. And only about 30 employees remain on administrative leave from this matter.

Judging by the progress that has been made in resolving these cases so far, my expectation is that the vast majority of these cases will be adjudicated within in the next several months. Tribunal hearings are scheduled through August for the remaining employees named in the investigation report. And, I am fairly confident that none of the educators named in the report will be on the payroll by the end of the calendar year, except for those reinstated because of a lack of evidence to bring administrative cases against them.

I have believed all along that the only way to finally put this sad episode behind us is to effectively deal with the individuals who stand accused by state investigators of actively participating in testing improprieties and cheating. If they are culpable, it is vitally important for these individuals to be off the district payroll and out of APS once and for all.

Over the past several years, we have instituted highly effective measures to ensure the integrity of the testing environment since the spring 2009 CRCT administration. These measures include locked safe rooms to store testing materials in all schools that require keys and electronic access cards for entry; security envelopes with tamper-proof safety strips to hold test forms and answer sheets; the two-person rule for counting and accounting for testing materials; and strict chain of custody procedures for accessing and handling testing materials.

I have also emphasized with employees the importance of adhering to the highest ethical standards in everything they do in the workplace. In my view, ethics should always be more important than achieving goals and targets. Under my administration, ethics violations will always be much more severely punished than other performance issues. This is vitally important for us because despite policies and procedures put in place to make cheating and other improprieties more difficult, it is much more effective to have ethical employees who would never get involved in wrongdoing regardless of the opportunity to do so because their values and the district’s culture doesn’t condone it. My effort from here will be to continue to drive this culture change throughout the organization. Only when that happens will we be able to finally move beyond this scandal with a minimal risk of reoccurrence.

Sincerely,

Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr.

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