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Atlanta, Dougherty CRCT investigations moving forward

ALBANY, Ga. -- State investigators continue to interview teachers, administrators and staff members regarding test results of the Criterion Reference Competency Tests a state audit suggested had been changed from wrong to right, school officials say.

Dougherty County School System Attorney Tommy Coleman said Wednesday that investigators have been in Albany for several weeks and likely would be here for quite some time compiling information and conducting interviews.

"They've been going around to the various schools, interviewing faculty and staff. ... We're urging them to be as open and honest as they can be. We don't have anything to hide," Coleman said.

State investigators were dispatched to scrutinize the Atlanta School System and the Dougherty County School System after an audit by state officials revealed higher-than-typical erasure marks on the standardized CRCT tests results for both systems.

School system officials have maintained neither they nor their staff took part in any wrongdoing, but Gov. Sonny Perdue dispatched the investigators to the systems after what he said were "disturbing" test results.

Since they arrived in Albany, the investigators, accompanied by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have met with Superintendent Joshua Murfree, former superintendent Sally Whatley and Renee Bridges, the head of the system's test administration, to give an overview of what they would need during the course of their investigation and what they are expecting from system officials.

Coleman said the system is working closely with investigators to ensure they have all the documentation and cooperation they need.

While the investigation is one of the first of its kind in terms of large-scale test-tampering allegations, it's being handled like any other criminal investigation. If evidence of wrongdoing is found, it could rise to the level of a criminal offense if investigators find that public documents were in fact altered.

In Atlanta, teachers have hired lawyers to advise them through the course of the investigation. Coleman said he doesn't believe any local teachers have obtained outside legal representation.