ALBANY, Ga — State investigators probing suspicions of Criterion-Referenced Competency Test cheating within the Dougherty County School system in 2009 said Wednesday that cheating has been found at each school probed so far.
"We have confirmed evidence of cheating in every school we have been to," Investigator Richard Hyde said. He said his team has visited five DCSS schools, nine left to go. He also confirmed that investigators have begun to use polygraphs for some interviews.
Investigators declined to identify which five schools they have visited "We've done a number of polygraphs and the results are very telling," Hyde said. "It's proving to be a very good investigative tool. We used them in Atlanta, but not to the degree of success we are having here.
"We already have enough evidence to begin making arrests, but have yet to do so."
The investigation into the exams administered to first- through eighth-graders in Atlanta and Dougherty County school districts began a year ago at the direction of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. At issue is the number of erasures on the 2009 CRCTs in which wrong answers were corrected.
State officials were concerned that at some of the schools there were too many of those corrections, and eventually focused on Atlanta and Dougherty County.
The findings of state investigations into Atlanta's school district were announced July 5. Among other things, the governor's report found cheating in 44 of the 56 Atlanta schools examined and said that 178 teachers and principals in the schools had been involved in the cheating or should have known it was going on.
"When we started our investigation in August of last year, the governor (Perdue) gave us three tasks:," Investigator Mike Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general, said. "One, get to the truth of the CRCT cheating. Two, develop information to remove teachers and administrators who cheated from the system. Three, develop information for criminal prosecution.
A preliminary probe in February of last year flagged 56 Atlanta schools. Dougherty County had the state's second-highest number at 14 flagged, more than half of the system's 26 schools.
"The first phase of the (DCSS) investigation is between 40 to 50 percent complete," Bowers said. "The biggest difference here is the scope is not as large as in Atlanta and we've had complete cooperation of administrators, teachers, parents and students here. I attribute that to (DSCC Superintendent Joshua) Dr. Murfree and (DCSS Attorney) Tommy Coleman."
Just over two weeks ago, Bowers, Hyde and 12 Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents fanned out across the county in perhaps the largest state probe in Dougherty County's history.
"We have a smaller group of case agents here because the scope of the investigation is smaller," Bowers said. "But the case agents here are the core of the group from Atlanta and they've gotten to be really, really good at it.
"We've identified suspects more quickly here than Atlanta," Hyde said. "We've also had more involvement with students and parents here at a significant grass-roots level. That's been a whole different angle."
Hyde said he anticipates taking a "month or so to fill in some holes" and expects to release a final investigation report by "around Thanksgiving."