A Georgia state commission decided Thursday to revoke the teaching licenses of eight teachers and three school administrators in the Atlanta Public Schools, imposing the first sanctions in one of the nation's largest school cheating scandals.
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted on the first batch of cases from a state probe released in July that revealed widespread cheating in nearly half of the district's 100 schools dating as far back as 2001. The commission is expected by year's end to take up the rest of the nearly 180 cases in Atlanta.
The eight teachers sanctioned by the commission can reapply for their licenses in two years, while the administrators' revocations are permanent. All rulings can be appealed up through state administrative and the Atlanta area's Fulton County Superior Courts. Some cases could take years to be resolved under the appeals process.
"These are 11 cases we felt like had compelling evidence to give to the commission," said Kelly Henson, head of the licensing agency. "Education is the most honorable profession, and part of our job is to protect not only the students, but the integrity of the institution."
The commission did not release the names of the educators sanctioned, noting they have 30 days to appeal.
The educators named by state investigators also could face criminal charges as investigations continue in Fulton and DeKalb counties in the greater Atlanta area.
The testing problems in Atlanta schools first came to light after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable. The state released audits of test results after the newspaper published its analysis.
Investigators said that educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after students had turned them in. Teachers who tried to report the cheating were retaliated against and punished, creating a culture of "fear and intimidation" in the district, investigators reported.
A state probe also has led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General and the Georgia Department of Education, which says the district could owe thousands in federal money for low-income schools that have high test scores.
State investigators found that former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who retired just days before the probe was released, either knew or should have known about the cheating. Hall has denied the allegations and apologized for not doing more to prevent such behavior.
And the district risks losing its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and School over issues with its school board. The national agency placed the district on probation in January and is expected to rule in coming weeks on whether to revoke accreditation entirely.
Dorie Turner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/dorieturner.