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No Dougherty teachers in probe

ALBANY, Ga. -- A dark cloud that has hovered over the Dougherty County School System since Feb. 10 may be on its way to dissipating.

That was the date when officials with the Governor's Office said its analysis of erasures in standardized tests said several Dougherty schools were in the "serious concern" category for wrong-to-right changes of answers. On Wednesday, it was announced that the state was investigating 11 educators from five school districts.

Superintendent Sally Whatley told The Albany Herald Thursday that none of the 11 are from the Dougherty system.

"None of those educators are from our district," Whatley said. "We are not one of those five (school systems)."

Questions about possible cheating a number of Georgia schools were raised when the Governor's Office of Student Achievement released its first statewide erasure analysis of last spring's Criterion Referenced Competency Test. The state analyzed the number of wrong answers that were changed to correct answers on individual student answer sheets.

Kathleen Mathers with the Governor's Office of Student Achievement told the state Board of Education on Wednesday that about half of the 34 school systems cited in GOSA's February report have been cleared, although she didn't specify which districts those were. The report showed that there was possible cheating on standardized tests in about 20 percent of Georgia elementary and middle schools last spring.

On April 28, independent consultant James Wilson of Marietta's Education Planners, who was hired by the Dougherty County School System, found no evidence of improper testing during his CRCT audit of the state's erasure analysis investigation. Wilson's investigation included talking to teachers and studying scoring sheets of third- to eighth-grade students at the Indianapolis, Ind., headquarters of test vendor CTB-McGraw Hill. Gerald Eads, the coordinator of evaluation and research for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, and DCSS Test Coordinator Renee Bridges teamed with Wilson on the Indianapolis trip.

"We are confident that the investigation, conducted by Education Planners LLC, and the findings of the monitors that the state assigned to our schools to monitor our procedure during this year's testing, will exonerate us from unprofessional behavior as was implicated by the early reports of the audit," DCSS Public Relations Director R.D. Harter said.

Harter did note that the Governor's Office of Student Achievement had not reviewed Wilson's report or the one compiled by Whatley on the school system's investigative efforts in acco0rdance with the state's requirements.

"We have learned that specific information about districts that are cleared of suspicion and those still under investigation has not been released by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement," he said. "We were told that the review of all system reports is not yet complete and ours is one of those that has not yet been reviewed."

Mathers couldn't be reached for comment either through an e-mail sent to her Wednesday evening or a phone call left Thursday.