In the end, some adults cared about what APS students learned

Sonny Perdue testifies in the trial his investigation spawned, Atlanta, November 2014.

Sonny Perdue testifies in the trial his investigation spawned, Atlanta, November 2014.

It was almost five years ago that a visibly angry Sonny Perdue, in his last few months as governor, visited the AJC’s offices one late summer afternoon to talk about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. Perdue’s temper is still mentioned from time to time under the Gold Dome, particularly this time of year when the end of a session is near and the arm-twisting is under way in earnest. But it wasn’t mere anger that animated Perdue that day. It was a righteous indignation at the way APS superintendent Beverly Hall and her fans in the city’s business community had tried to play down what appeared to be a massive, pervasive, long-running scheme in the district to cheat its way to surprisingly good test scores and the plaudits (and bonuses) that came with them.

The investigation Perdue launched — in response to what he considered a whitewash by APS in its own review of statistically unfathomable test gains and the wrong-to-right erasure marks that seemed likely to have generated them — culminated today with the criminal conviction of all but one defendant who went to trial in the APS case. A Fulton County jury found 11 former educators guilty of violating the RICO statute normally reserved for organized crime gangs, and several of the defendants were also convicted on charges of false statements, writings or swearings, as well as theft by taking, for those bonuses.

The prosecution that began two years ago with the trial (and subsequent acquittal) of one administrator continued as other defendants struck plea deals, and the trial of the final 12 began all the way back in August. Hall never made it to trial, being excused from standing alongside those dozen defendants because of advanced breast cancer that claimed her life last month. The entire endeavor was a risk for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who was criticized in some quarters for even bringing a criminal case against educators; the complaints had he lost the case would have been deafening, questioning the need to keep open, at taxpayer expense, a dark chapter of the city’s history for months after it might have been closed.

These convictions, despite the appeals we can expect, vindicate his decision. But they do much more than that.

Back in August 2010, after Perdue made that trip to the AJC, I asked in print what the children caught in the middle of this adult drama were learning about the value those adults put on honesty. “The clear lesson,” I wrote at the time, “is that the adults in these children’s world accept dishonesty and, when confronted with accusations, will lie, hide the truth and shift blame onto others.”

It took Perdue and other adults, black and white, Republican and Democrat, Atlantans and out-of-towners, people who otherwise didn’t cross paths often if ever with these children, to ensure a different lesson was taught. I hope the children at those schools were watching today to see that some adults, somewhere, cared enough about them to seek justice on their behalf. And I hope no child, anywhere, has to go looking for such a lesson again.

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14 comments
TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

As an educator of some forty years I am horrified by the acts of these criminals. They are not educators by any reasonable definition. I would also like to thank Judge Baxter for putting them where they belong.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I also hope the children involved don't carry around a grievance and excuse for the rest of their lives.  After the lie was outed, I hope they and their parents buckled down and worked hard to remediate the deficiencies, so that they could have a chance of success.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I haven't seen or heard an update on one item. 


Have the incentives and bonuses paid for improving test scores been removed? 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Just here to give you an "attaboy" and to concur with every word in this post.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I'm with you, Kyle, to the last paragraph. Prosecutions do not serve justice for crime victims. In many, if not most cases, true justice for the victims cannot be served in this world.

notagain
notagain

Hopefully none of the kids will go on to be politicians.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Now let's get the bankers who robbed the country and caused much harm to our country. Let them share cells

Point
Point

What has been done to identify and give support to the students who were affected by this?  If nothing, then those in power that  have followed are just as guilty.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Point This is true; the most significant way in which these students themselves were cheated was losing out on the extra help to which they'd been entitled had it been clear they weren't passing the tests.

I don't know the answer to your question.

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

I was worried, for a while.  It was evident, to me anyway, that APS was doing bad things well prior to anybody in power bothering to notice, or at least notice overtly.  APS, the BOE, the business community, were going to get away with the famous Georgia "Nothing to see here, move along (nudge-wink)."  But Sonny called BS, and the rusty wheels of Justice groaned and creaked to bring us to this point:  a revised BOE, a new superintendent (two, in fact), and, today, guilty verdicts.  The biggest crook escaped our justice system, presumably to answer to a higher Judge.  Karma is a boomerang; it's just nice to watch it happen. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

So character does count, at least the court believes it does.  Sorry that the kids had to witness this lack of integrity and character exhibited by their teachers and administrators.    

332-206
332-206

Surprising verdict. Good for Paul Howard.

But as you point out, better for the kids. On two fronts.

Bhorsoft
Bhorsoft

Kyle, for the first time in my life I agree with you 100%.  Why did this have to happen on April 1?