In its continuing coverage of cheating on standardized tests across the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the haphazard manner in which many states and school districts handle reports of cheating on high-stakes achievement tests. Officials often minimize such allegations, treating them as mere aberrations. This is the case in several cities that join Atlanta in “extreme concentrations of suspicious test scores”: Mobile, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, and East St. Louis, Ill.
In some cases, investigations uncovered wrongdoing and led to punishment for a handful of educators. In others, inquiries glossed over glaring irregularities. Nearly always, officials focused narrowly on a single classroom or, at most, a single school — the approach the Atlanta Public Schools used for years before a scandal over systemic cheating erupted three years ago. Fewer than a dozen teachers or administrators lost their jobs over cheating in the 130 cases the Journal-Constitution examined. Three of them, all from the same middle school in Houston, also faced criminal charges. The majority of cases, including those in which investigators said they found “severe” or “sloppy” or “unallowable” violations, ended with no more than a warning, if even that.