The high cost of test cheating

James Guthrie, professor at SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, talks dollars and cents of school cheating.

By Ty Tagami and Ernie Suggs

Thousands of dollars to media consultants. Hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers. Millions of dollars to teachers and administrators who do no work and who, in fact, are suspected of doing harm. Taxpayers have already paid about $6 million for the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, and they’ll likely pay a lot more.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of the costs associated with the scandal concludes that the public will wind up paying at least $3 million more to root out and rectify what investigators described as a culture of corruption at APS.

Atlanta taxpayers aren’t the only ones paying, either. The state of Georgia spent nearly $3 million investigating suspicions of cheating in the administration of the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The probe produced a searing report that uncovered widespread cheating at dozens of Atlanta schools.

“Is this how expensive it is these days to tell people not to cheat?” said James W. Guthrie, director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University. “Why don’t they fine the adults who were involved and make them pay for this? I think the public is being cheated.”...