Whatley: If test cheating found, "ultimately, it was my responsibility."

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- Former Dougherty County schools Superintendent Sally Whatley said at a news conference Tuesday that if it is found there was cheating in county schools on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, it would be her responsibility as school chief at the time.

"Ultimately," she said, "it was my responsibility. It happened on my watch, and it certainly isn't the responsibility of Dr. (Joshua) Murfree. I was responsible for the system."

Murfree succeeded Whatley as superintendent in July of last year.

Reader poll

What do you believe the results will be from the current CRCT investigation?

  • There will be no proof of cheating. 11%
  • Isolated cases involving erasures/cheating will be confirmed. 44%
  • Widespread evidence across the system will be revealed. 0%
  • I think the investigation is a waste of time and money and should be stopped. 0%
  • Cheating did take place and criminal charges should be filed. 44%

9 total votes.

Whatley said the CRCT probe by the state is difficult, but she still stands by the testing procedures that were in place when the tests were taken in 2009. She also said she hopes the controversy that has been hanging over the system for more than a year will come to a conclusion.

While she said there could have been isolated instances of cheating, she does not believe it was widespread. "I absolutely do not believe there was extensive cheating," she said.

Speaking at a news conference at School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman's law office, Whatley that she never had any resistance from administrative officials during the system's internal testing audit.

She said state investigators, however, do not believe the internal review by the system was thorough enough.

"The CRCT audit report clearly states that collateral evidence (of cheating) must be found," Whatley said. "The audit taken in isolation (by itself) doesn't prove cheating."

Whatley said she could not explain the high percentage of erasures that changed wrong answers to right on the 2009 CRCTs, but she said that a large percentage of the erasures -- more than three of every five -- was in grades one and two.

"I can't explain things like how 63 percent of the test sections flagged in the 13 elementary schools (had erasures)," Whatley said. "Those tests are administered orally. Six- and 7-year-olds are just learning to take standardized tests and mark everywhere on the answer documents. What's the point of cheating in the first and second grades?

"In addition, in 39 percent of the elementary grade levels flagged, the 2009 CRCT scores were lower than the 2008 test scores."

State investigators came to town in force Monday and spent three hours interviewing Whatley. GBI agents were expected to begin interviews with school personnel as early as Tuesday.

Whatley said state investigators were fair in their questioning.

"They asked about my background, particularly my educational background," she said. "And I told them I do not believe there has been massive cheating in the Dougherty County School System. I had a great deal of confidence in the teachers and people of the school system.

"And I still do."

Lead investigator Richard Hyde said Monday the inital phase of the investigation that he and 12 other investigators will conduct should be completed in 30 to 45 days.

"From there, we will look at the information we have gathered and begin looking into more specific areas," Hyde said.