Two Atherton Elementary School educators implicated in a test tampering scandal have been suspended from teaching in Georgia for up to two years after a state commission’s ruling.
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission suspended former Atherton Elementary Principal James Berry on Sept. 10 from teaching for two years, and former Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander was suspended for one year in what state officials and media outlets labeled a severe sentence.
Berry and Alexander could appeal the suspension in court, though that has backfired on educators, said Gary Walker, the commission’s director. A recent court case involving educators yielded additional evidence that ultimately led to even harsher rulings, he said.
“You take your chances,” Walker said.
The ruling against Berry and Alexander is also the beginning of a larger investigation. The commission approved investigations into additional educators across the metro Atlanta area named in the same state investigation months ago.
Berry and Alexander were arrested in June and charged with falsifying state documents, which could earn each between two and 10 years in jail, said Don Geary, chief assistant in the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
Berry resigned on June 11, and Alexander had been reassigned within the DeKalb County School System last week. Atherton Elementary was part of a larger state investigation into four Atlanta area schools suspected of changing scores on the state CRCT test to meet federal school improvement standards.
The probe, performed by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, looked at the number of times a wrong answer on a math test scorecard was erased and replaced with the right one. The CRCT test is given to students in grades one through eight statewide and designed to measure how well students at each grade level have learned the state curriculum.
The governor’s office looked at a summer retest of the exam’s math section in 2008 – the first year schools were allowed to use their retest scores to determine whether they would make Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal designation under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The state looked at 32 students’ tests and determined someone changed wrong answers on a Atherton student’s test to the right one an average number of 15.19 times, according to the state report. Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy had a 3.44 average number of changes.
No teachers or students were involved in test tampering, deputy superintendent Robert Moseley said.