Investigation: Students given crossword instead of test

by: Manuel Bojorquez Updated:

ATLANTA,None —

An Atlanta-Journal Constitution investigation has raised new questions about whether teachers and administrators tried to manipulate test scores and grades at Atlanta Public Schools, only this time at the high school level.

One parent filed a formal complaint against the district after a September 2009 incident at Carver High School of Technology in Southeast Atlanta.

Deirdre Cox told investigators her daughter, who has a learning disability, was "removed for the testing room, placed in an empty classroom and given a crossword puzzle."

Cox goes on to write in the complaint, "I have learned that other students with disabilities like my daughter and 'who could possibly jeopardize Carver's test scores' were not allowed to take the GHSGT test."

Atlanta Public Schools settled the case with the mother, and told Channel 2 Action News that there was no attempt to exclude students from the 11th grade writing test.

A spokesman for the district said the students, who did not take the test that day, did not have the credits to qualify as full-fledged juniors and were allowed to take it later.

A statement from APS said, "The results of the writing test are not used in determining whether or not schools have earned Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status anyway, thus there would have been no reason not to allow these students to take the test for school performance reasons had they been eligible to take the writing test in September."

Still, some said the same scrutiny applied to elementary and middle schools during the state's CRCT cheating investigation should be applied to high schools.

"While we're looking at it, we need to clean up everything," Verdaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta Federal of Teachers, said.

She said it's time to look into whether high schools were under the same pressure to meet certain goals, no matter what it took.

"If there's a culture of cheating and everyone works for the same school district, then it's logical that you would need to look at the entire school district," Turner said.

The district's new superintendent, Erroll Davis, said that while he does not believe there was systemic cheating at the district's high schools, he has ordered an audit of test scores and graduation rates in an effort to detect any irregularities.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered reports of irregularities at the high schools after reviewing thousands of pages of reports from the district's internal investigations, public records and compiling interviews with educators, parents and students.

The newspaper also looked into reports of grade-changing, and delved into whether the system's approach of developing smaller, academy-style high schools is working or simply driving up administrative costs.

The newspaper will publish the results of its investigation in this Sunday's edition.