Hall says she's accountable for failing to prevent cheating

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall accepted responsibility Friday for her failure to prevent rampant cheating on standardized tests.

But, in an op-ed piece that will appear Sunday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hall cautions the public not to condemn the entire district for actions of a few.

“To the extent that I failed to take measures that would have prevented what the investigators have disclosed, I am accountable, as head of the school system...” Hall said. “I sincerely apologize to the people of Atlanta and their children for any shortcomings.”

“If I did anything that gave teachers the impression that I was unapproachable and unresponsive to their concerns, I also apologize for that,” Hall said. “Where people consciously chose to cheat, however, the moral responsibility must lie with them.”

Hall said the report, which Gov. Nathan Deal released Tuesday, “shocked and saddened” her.

Culminating a 10-month investigation, the report found widespread cheating in Atlanta schools and says Hall ignored a culture of cheating, cover-ups and obstruction that blossomed during her 12-year tenure.

“The instances of cheating they have documented are serious and cannot be ignored,” Hall said. “I am particularly concerned for those students who have been affected by misconduct and whose education has fallen short as a result. I am also disturbed by the repeated references to statements by teachers and other professionals declaring that they cheated or chose not to reveal cheating because of a perceived atmosphere of intimidation and retaliation.”

The state report said Hall stressed meeting annual academic targets by whatever means necessary, dismissed mounting evidence of misconduct and hindered the investigation by destroying or altering complaints.

Hall said during her tenure the school district made academic progress measured by federally-monitored tests.

“I do not apologize for the reforms my staff and I implemented during my tenure as superintendent,” Hall said.

The 800-page report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating, including erasing and correcting mistakes on students’ answer sheets. It concentrates on, but was not limited to, state tests given in 2009.

More than 80 APS employees confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.

On Thursday, APS interim Superintendent Erroll Davis began to dismantle Hall’s administration, promising academic reviews for students affected by the system’s cheating scandal, ethics training for teachers and closer scrutiny of test scores.

Hall, who left the system June 30, said she is confident Davis can get the district on track.

“It is my hope that APS parents and supporters will not read the report as a sweeping indictment of the Atlanta Public Schools and the accomplishments of the past decade,” Hall said.

Pick up a copy of Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution to read Beverly Hall’s op-ed article and more in-depth coverage of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.