Under Pressure in Atlanta: School Accountability and Special Education Practices During the Cheating Scandal
by Brittany Aronson, Kristin M. Murphy & Andrew Saultz — 2016
A 2011 report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) confirmed a widespread cheating scandal among teachers, principals, and administrators in the Atlanta Public School system (APS) from 2009–2011. To date, it is the largest cheating scandal of its kind in the United States. The vast public investigation of this scandal provides an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of school accountability practices, particularly as they pertain to the education of students with disabilities. The purpose of this article is to draw from the lessons learned from the APS scandal with particular attention paid to the unintended consequences of high-stakes accountability practices, especially for students with disabilities. First, we examine the policies and practices related to disability referrals and identification practices at the federal level during the 2009–2011 school years. Second, we explore what literature on accountability practices and disabilities suggests about the APS scandal. Finally, we discuss broader implications for policy, practice, and future research related to the education of students with disabilities in high-stakes test driven classrooms.
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