Our trust was breached with the Atherton CRCT test cheating scandal. The decision of then Atherton Principal James Berry and Asst. Principal Dorothea Alexander to change test scores was an act of such reckless, unethical gall, not only did they deserve to be fired, they should be permanently banned as educators in the State of Georgia. But how did our Superintendent Crawford Lewis initially react? He quickly sent out a memo to all DCSS employees asking "the entire system to reach out to Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander and show your support".
Lewis failed to mention that both Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander at first DENIED changing test scores. Only after the investigation went public did they admit to their heinous actions. Lewis' memo shows he was more concerned about the scandal reaching the public and the District Attorney investigation: "As Superintendent, I was both concerned and surprised that this investigation was elevated to the front page of Sunday's AJC newspaper and warranted a probe by the District Attorney's office."
Read Lewis' memo carefully. He does not write that all DCSS employees should be held accountable to high ethical and moral standards, that cheating is never, ever acceptable, and that any form of cheating breaks the trust that students, parents and taxpayers should have for the school system. WIth all of the major errors in judgement by Superintendent Lewis over the past few years ($14 mil for Heery Mitchell lawsuit, the Pat Pope situation, the California trip, the $500k for Judge Thelma Moore, the addition of scores of unneeded administrator positions, his questionable gasoline purchases, the bait and switch of Arabia Mountain High School first for overcrowding but then changed to a magnet, etc., etc.), his support of a principal and asst. principal who knowingly changed test scores may be his biggest error in judgement.
CRCT cheating details revealed
By Kristina Torres
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
On a late June day two years ago, two DeKalb County school administrators panicked. A few dozen of their elementary school students had just finished high-stakes summer retests — exams first taken in spring but not passed. With just a glance at the answer sheets, Atherton Elementary School Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander saw they were in trouble. “We cannot not make AYP,” Alexander said. Not making AYP, or adequate yearly progress, meant not meeting a required federal benchmark. These students, all fifth-graders, also faced being held back if they did not pass. “OK,” Berry answered. He pulled a pencil from a cup on Alexander’s desk. “I want you to call the answers to me.” With that, he began to erase the students’ answers.
State officials announced Wednesday that 191 schools — 10 percent of Georgia’s public elementary and middle schools — will be investigated for possible cheating on state tests. It was the second time in as many years that the state’s testing program has come under fire. The first was last year, when Berry and Alexander got swept up in a groundbreaking audit by the state that included an “erasure analysis” of student answer sheets. In the subsequent scandal, officials found tampering at three other elementary schools besides Atherton, including those in Atlanta and Fulton and Glynn counties.
The state sanctioned 13 educators, banning them from its public schools for at least 90 days. None of those cases, however, was resolved as fast as Berry’s and Alexander’s. Both were the first to be investigated and both received among the harshest penalties. The state banned Alexander for a year; Berry’s ban lasts for two years, the harshest sanction the state imposed. Neither appealed. Now, their case files are public. Obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the files reveal details for the first time how Berry and Alexander cheated — and how cheating may have occurred in other schools. Both Berry and Alexander signed affidavits. Berry admits to erasing and replacing answers; Alexander says she called out the correct answers to Berry but did not personally alter tests. Both also initially denied that they had knowledge of improper activity during the administration of the tests at their school, according to the files.
Berry’s attorney, Jackie Patterson, said Berry acted out of a misguided belief that he was helping his students. “He acknowledges he made a major mistake,” Patterson said. Neither Alexander nor her attorney, Don Samuel, returned calls for comment.
Denials, then confessions.
According to the files, both “adamantly denied” to state investigators that they cheated or knew of any irregularities. Only after the state made its findings public the following June did both confess to DeKalb school officials. DeKalb authorities charged both with falsifying a state document, a felony that carries a potential two- to 10-year prison term. Berry pleaded guilty to that charge in December. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. Alexander completed 40 hours of community service at a local food bank and faces no further action.
To: All DeKalb Employees
From: Dr. Crawford Lewis, Superintendent
Subject: Message From the Superintendent
Date: 24 June 2009
As you know by now, Atherton Elementary School was recently implicated in the CRCT cheating scandal that has been a source of much publicity by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).
As Superintendent, I was both concerned and surprised that this investigation was elevated to the front page of Sunday's AJC newspaper and warranted a probe by the District Attorney's office. Dr. James Berry and Mrs. Doretha Alexander are good people who made a grave mistake. They both acknowledged their involvement and accepted their consequences. They have served the DeKalb School System with distinction for many years. It is important that you know that the school district was not consulted nor played any role in their recent arrests. While we do not condone their actions in any way, they should be allowed to move on with their lives.
DeKalb County School System is a family, and during difficult times family should come together. As a family, I am asking the entire system to reach out to Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander and show your support. An e-mail, card or phone call will go a long way towards showing Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander that we still care about them. The DeKalb County School System is a great school district working together to ensure that all of our students are successful and prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.