After two years of investigative reports by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution claiming a culture of teachers and school district officials manipulating scores on student tests, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is moving towards criminal prosecution of those involved.
Howard announced Monday the appointment of two special assistant district attorneys, Mike Bowers, the former state attorney general, and Bob Wilson, the former DeKalb district attorney, to finalize the investigation and handle the indictments. A special investigative grand jury may also be forthcoming, according to Howard.
Both men were appointed in August by Gov. Sonny Perdue as special investigators. Howard said that Bowers and Wilson “presented my office with clear-cut, direct, eye-witnessed evidence” that student tests were improperly altered by Atlanta Public School employees.
Starting in October, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assigned over 50 agents to look into the allegations of cheating after the state rejected the district’s own probe as “inadequate.” The state ordered the district to look into the activities of 58 schools suspected of systemic cheating, after an “erasure analysis” found troubling evidence in hundreds of classrooms.
The GBI said that teachers would not be subject to criminal prosecution as long as they were truthful with agents.
The AJC has maintained that numerous teachers have admitted to changing answers on tests, providing answers to students, and watching others change tests. The AJC began looking into the testing process in 2008 after district schools began posting statistically unbelievable test results on periodic standardized tests used to monitor students’ progress.
The Atlanta Public School System has used the improving student grades as evidence of their success in turning around the poorly-performing school district.