Former Atlanta schools chief, Beverly L. Hall, was indicted yesterday on charges of cheating to make under-performing schools look better on state testing, allowing herself and other school administrators to profit. Hall and 34 others were indicted by a Georgia grand jury that found rampant cheating between 2005 and 2010. Hall was a celebrated school superintendent, who had been praised by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and even invited to the White House.
The indictment outlines how Hall instructed selected teachers to change test answers so administrators could receive bonuses that were tied to the federally-mandated testing. Often the higher test scores would enrich administrators, but leave poor schools too over-qualified to receive much-needed funding. Hall had told the New York Times that in 2011 that "I can't accept that there is a culture of cheating". She retired later that year, but now faces up to 45 years in prison for her involvement.
Paul Howard, the district attorney prosecuting Hall told reporters that "She is a full participant in that conspiracy. Without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place, particularly in the degree it took place."
Similar scandals have rocked school districts in Ohio and Texas, with administrators looking to profit from the school reform movement's insistence on paying exorbitant bonuses for excellence in testing. The Times writes,
"[Hall's] focus on test scores made her a favorite of the national education reform movement, nearly as prominent as the schools chancellors Joel I. Klein of New York City and Michelle Rhee of Washington... But she was also known as someone who held herself aloof from parents, teachers and principals. The district spent $100,000 a year for a security detail to drive her around the city. At public meetings, questions had to be submitted beforehand for screening."
Hall is denying the allegations of the indictment.