The story behind the story

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The story behind the story

In July 2011, a special state investigators’ report found organized and systemic cheating in Atlanta schools and named 178 Atlanta educators, including 38 principals, who were said to have taken part.

An AJC analysis in December 2008 first reported statistically improbable increases in scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test at an Atlanta school. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools.

The state investigation that followed the AJC’s analyses of test scores depicted a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. The state investigators’ report strongly contradicted denials of cheating from former Superintendent Beverly Hall and other top district executives. And it described organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children — many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school — of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

The document also provided a scathing assessment of the school system’s handling of the scandal, accusing district leaders across every level of unethical behavior and of hampering investigators’ efforts to uncover the truth.

The governor’s investigators gave copies of their files to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing. Allegations included possible felony charges of lying to agents or investigators and the destruction or altering of public records. In August 2011, a Fulton grand jury issued a subpoena seeking comprehensive information dating back to 1999 from the district, including signed copies of “any and all oaths of office” taken by Hall when she was superintendent. Then in May, Howard hired the state’s leading expert in racketeering prosecutions to help in the ongoing investigation.

Deep coverage

Browse 10 previous stories by the AJC that capture key moments in the cheating investigation.

Who's who: Administrators and principals are among the 35 people accused Friday

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