The Atlanta Skyline
A skyline shot of Atlanta. Reuters

Four Atlanta area superintendents and two principals lost their jobs on Tuesday, the first of what is likely to be a spate of firings after investigators uncovered systematic cheating by Atlanta educators.

Khaatim El, the most recent chairman of the school board, also resigned, saying in a farewell address that his warnings of widespread corruption had gone unheeded as public officials sought to protect former superintendent Beverly Hall.

I take no solace in knowing my disbeliefs have been confirmed by the governor's report, El said, adding that I failed to protect thousands of children.

A state investigation found evidence of cheating, including falsifying test results to make students appear to be peforming better than they were, in 44 of 56 Atlanta schools. The investigation named 178 educators, including 38 principles, and implicates Hall for perpetuating the practices by instilling a culture of fear and pushing for ever higher scores on annual Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

The revelations discredit the rapid gains made by Atlanta schools under Hall's tenure, which both earned her the 2009 Superintendent of the Year award and drew the suspicion and scrutiny of investigators. Some opponents of high-stakes testing have said that scandal vindicates their belief that federal education policy is too closely wed to test scores. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal echoed that sentiment when the scandal first broke.

I think the overall conclusion was that testing and results and targets being reached became more important than actual learning for children, Deal said. And when reaching targets became the goal, it was a goal that was pursued with no excuses.

Interim Superintendent Errol Davis vowed upon learning of the cheating that anyone who cheated or was responsible will not work in front of children in Atlanta again, and he appears to be making good on that promise.