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CRCT Bowers: 450 interviews in cheating probe have been conducted; GBI’s work is complete

By   /   October 13, 2011  /   Comments


By Kevin Hogencamp


Dougherty County Schools Superintendent Joshua Murfree indicates in an outline distributed to the Board of Education that he’s putting together an eight-point plan to deal with the fallout from a state investigation into allegations of cheating on Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Meanwhile, a lead investigator in the case said Tuesday that about 450 interviews – mostly of school system teachers and administrators – have been conducted, and more than 200 interviews remain.

“We hope to be through in Albany in a couple of weeks and then there’s a write-up period … which will probably take two to three weeks.”

From there, the fate of the team’s work will be in Gov. Nathan Deal’s hands, Bowers said.

Some of those who have been interviewed are students, said Bowers, who added that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s work on the case is complete while seven of members of the three lead investigators’ staffs remain on the job.

In an outline titled “The Plan”, Murfree lists eight steps that he indicates he is prepared to take after the investigative report is presented to Deal.

The steps are:

1. Identifying the possibilities of lost positions

2. Planning for job announcements

3. Checking the teacher pool

4. Interim positions for administrators if needed

5. Prepare for the community

6. Hold press conferences based on facts !!! (a) status of students; (b) status of teachers; (c) status of administrators; (d) status of the community

7. Moving forward

8. We are not going to claim guilt for anyone without evidence!!!

Mufree’s spokesman, R.D. Harter, said Tuesday that Murfree hasn’t developed details to go with his outline.

“It was just a sheet to let the board know Dr. Murfree intends to be ready for whatever the report says. I currently have no expectations and am just waiting to see what is brought out from the investigation,” Harter said response to a reporter’s inquiry.

Murfree refuses to be interviewed by The Albany Journal.

A state audit of erasures made on 2009 tests indicates that systematic CRCT cheating in the Dougherty County School System is likely. The team of special investigators began its work in Dougherty County in August after issuing a scathing 800-page report last month on the Atlanta Public Schools, revealing that 178 teachers from the Atlanta area from as early as 2001 cheated by falsifying CRCT test results.Additionally, 38 principals were linked to the scandal either by directly participating in the changing of wrong answers or allowing the changes to be made when they knew, or had the responsibility to know, what was going on.

Like Atlanta, Dougherty County was flagged by state officials in an analysis of erasures and wrong-to-write answer changes on the 2009 CRCTs; teachers and administrators at 14 of Dougherty County’s 26 schools are suspected of cheating.

A former Georgia attorney general and one-time gubernatorial candidate from Atlanta, Bowers refused to say Tuesday whether all Dougherty County school personnel are cooperating with the investigation. Meanwhile, he also said that investigation tipline, which Bowers says “has generated quite a few calls”, remains operational. The number is (404) 962-8349; callers can remain anonymous.

Responding to a reporter’s question Tuesday, Bowers also said that it is likely – but not certain – that school personnel who “were in a supervisory role and knew or should have known” about CRCT cheating will be identified in the report.

The Atlanta and Albany investigations are not only exploring who altered tests – but why. Motivations for doctoring tests include job preservation because of expectations placed on educators for their students’ to pass standardized testing, along with appeasing school leadership by meeting expected performance goals. A less selfish, yet misguided, motivation for some educators who cheat could be to advance low-performing students to boost the students’ self-esteem.

Former Dougherty Schools Superintendent Sally Whatley, who was in charge of the school system in 2009, has said that if cheating occurred on CRCT tests during her tenure as superintendent, she would accept full responsibility. Still, Murfree has said that educators with information about cheating should discuss the matter with him first. Murfree also said he would encourage investigators to ignore anonymous information provided to them during the probe. Later, without addressing his concerns about anonymous tipsters, Mufree said he is encouraging his staffers to cooperate fully with investigators.

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