Did any school district in the country have a tougher week than the one in Atlanta? Criminal investigators began digging anew into accusations of widespread cheating on state standardized tests that had been plaguing the district for two years, reports the New York Times. The allegations, which center on dozens of employees who are suspected of changing test answers to improve scores, have already been the focus of investigations by the state and the Atlanta school system that have cost more than $1 million. The new investigation led an influential group of black pastors to call a news conference to denounce what they say is a “witch hunt” on educators who–however misguided–were just trying to help children.
“Now we want to put teachers in jail, which is absurd,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald, a leader of the group, the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta.
At a meeting on Monday, the group vowed to monitor the criminal investigation, and it criticized The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported the cheating accusations and has thoroughly chronicled the district’s troubles. The Atlanta school board, meanwhile, is in such disarray that a team from the regional agency that provides accreditation for the 49,000-student district showed up on Wednesday for its own investigation into whether infighting was keeping the board from governing properly. At City Hall and in corporate offices around town, the talk is about how best to find a successor for the schools superintendent, Beverly L. Hall, who announced her resignation last month. Dr. Hall, who has been with the district for 11 years, and people close to her said the move was long planned, but others maintained that her resignation was linked to the district’s troubles. Civic leaders worry that finding a top candidate to take over will be daunting, given the messy state of affairs in a district that for much of last decade has been considered a model of self-improvement…
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