Atlanta School Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall
ATLANTA - As parents of students in Atlanta's public schools learn more about widespread allegations of cheating on the Criterion Reference Competency Tests, the woman in charge of the school system at the time, Dr. Beverly Hall, has become difficult to track down.
Gov. Nathan Deal released a report Tuesday evening to the Associated Press containing evidence and confessions of cheating in Atlanta's schools. The report names former Superintendent Hall, who retired last month.
"The APS General Counsel told us that one of her main duties was to provide Superintendent Hall with 'deniability.' Her aim was to insulate Dr. Hall from the burden of the responsibility for making difficult decisions," the report said.
"A culture of fear and a conspiracy of silence infected this school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct," the report's authors wrote. "From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS leadership in our attempts to gather evidence. These actions delayed the completion of this inquiry and hindered the truth-seeking process."
11Alive's Center for Investigative Action has been working to find Dr. Hall. Investigative Journalists Ross McLaughlin and Shawn Hoder would like ask the former Superintendent about the report's allegations.
The report, completed by the Office of the Governor's Special Investigators, alleges that teachers were often pressured into meeting "targets" of achievement. Teachers interviewed during the investigation said targets were often set at unreasonable levels. Failure to meet those targets resulted in professional humiliation and job termination. "Fear of termination and public ridicule in faculty and principals meetings drove numerous educators to cross ethical lines," the report said. "Further, because targets rose annually, teachers found it increasingly difficult to achieve them."
"Dr. Hall and her senior cabinet accepted accolades when those below them performed well, but they wanted none of the burdens of failure," the report said. "Dr. Hall stood to financially gain based on whether the district met targets," the report said. "Over the years, she received tens of thousands of dollars based on the reported CRCT results."
McLaughlin and Hoder have made attempts to reach out to Hall at her home in Atlanta. They've also reached out to family and friends in an attempt to let Dr. Hall share her perspective. So far, attempts to contact Hall have been unsuccessful.
Hall released a statement Wednesday afternoon. That statement read as follows:
"We are still reviewing the CRCT Report to Governor Deal that was made available to us only this morning. Even so, one very important fact is obvious. There is no direct evidence in the entire 410-page narrative report or in the accompanying 400 pages of exhibits to show that Dr. Hall knew in 2009 that widespread cheating on the CRCT was occurring or had occurred.
"Apparently, not one of the 82 persons who allegedly "confessed" to cheating told the Investigators that Dr. Hall at any time instructed, encouraged, or condoned cheating. The Report's conclusion that Dr. Hall actually knew of any such cheating is based entirely on supposition. The further conclusion that Dr. Hall "should have known" rests on negative inferences from selective, circumstantial evidence.
"We reaffirm Dr. Hall's position that she most definitely did not know of any widespread cheating on the CRCT in 2009 or any other year. The certification Dr. Hall issued in connection with the 2009 CRCT was based on her honest belief that test protocols and security procedures had been followed and that those involved had acted appropriately. Although the Investigators accuse Dr. Hall of failing to cooperate fully with their efforts, they do not cite anything that Dr. Hall herself did in that regard, nor do they cite evidence to show that any so-called "obstruction" resulted from any direction on her part. We deny that Dr. Hall has engaged in any intentional wrongdoing whatsoever.