A day after officials threw out results for four Georgia elementary schools for cheating on state tests, Gov. Sonny Perdue publicly blasted Atlanta's top educator for defending a city school cited in the scandal.
"It is outrageous that Atlanta Public Schools' Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall has simply ignored all of the evidence that [state schools] Superintendent [Kathy] Cox, the state board, the other systems and I found so compelling," Perdue said in a statement released by his office.
"The evidence is overwhelming," Perdue added, "and any reasonable person can see that cheating occurred and children were harmed."
The state Board of Education on Thursday voted to discount the results of last summer's fifth-grade math retests on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests from Atlanta's Deerwood Academy, DeKalb County's Atherton Elementary School, Fulton County's Parklane Elementary School and Glynn County's Burroughs-Molette Elementary School.
The vote came after Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, which launched the cheating investigation, told board members that officials in Atlanta are the only ones still disputing evidence that someone at each of the four schools had erased wrong answers on some of the tests and replaced them, largely with correct responses.
Mathers said Atlanta officials took the position that since no one confessed, no cheating occurred.
After the vote, Atlanta's Hall expressed disappointment and said the system would appeal the sanction.
The system, she said, "does not condone cheating, [but] based on our internal investigation and an investigation conducted by an external party, the preliminary results show that cheating could not be proven on these ... tests."
The state investigation followed an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December about improbably steep gains at some schools on tests taken first in spring and then in summer.
The analysis showed the increases on the retest were statistically unusual to a high degree — so much so that one researcher who reviewed the newspaper's findings likened them to a snowstorm in July.
Passing rates on the CRCT spiked for the four schools after the retests, enough that each school was able to meet federal standards.
Now, with the state board's action, the schools did not make the required AYP, or adequate yearly progress, for the 2007-2008 school year.
If they also don't make AYP this year — results are expected as soon as next week — they will be classified as "needs improvement" and face a variety of sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. At least three also may have to return some money.
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