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Beverly Hall In First TV Interview After Atlanta Cheating Scandal: 'I Can't Make You Cheat'

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First Posted: 11/28/11 03:17 PM ET Updated: 11/28/11 03:44 PM ET

In her first official television interview since investigators uncovered one of the largest cheating scandals in public school history, former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall said she takes responsibility for not recognizing the need for heightened test security, but doesn't acknowledge personal accountability for the individual cheating teachers or the scandal as a whole.

"I can't make you cheat. Nothing that I could ask of you ... would be an excuse for you to cheat," Hall told NBC's Harry Smith on Rock Center. "We did not emphasize testing at the expense of integrity."

Over the summer, findings from a two-year investigation found widespread cheating among at least 44 Atlanta schools and implicated 178 educators involved in test tampering, including erasing students' incorrect answers on standardized tests and replacing them with correct ones. The findings shook the country and "stunned" U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Why did the teachers do what they did?

"I can't subscribe motives to other people," Hall told Smith. "I can only think that either they were not secure in their ability to do the job, or they didn't believe the children -- even if they did their job -- could learn. Or a combination of the two. I can't explain it any other way."

The initial 800-page report criticized Hall for breeding "a culture of fear and intimidation," in which teachers feared speaking out about cheating by coworkers that they became aware of, and in which educators were pressured to meet or exceed annual goals for test results. Hall told The New York Times that how she's been portrayed in the media is an image "foreign" and "crazy" to her.

Hall has also repeatedly denied a culture of cheating or fear, first telling The Times in September that she "can't accept" its existence, and noting on Rock Center this week that she "can't imagine where the fear and intimidation came from."

The district's high test scores after Hall's arrival at APS propelled Hall's status to National Superintendent of the Year, brought her $580,000 in bonuses and reaped in nearly $1 million in federal funds for Atlanta schools -- which were under threat following the investigation.

In July, Hall repeatedly denied being aware of widespread cheating during her tenure. She told WXIA-TV that she "absolutely knew nothing about the cheating."

Hall retired from her top spot at APS just before investigators released their report. The district is now led by interim Superintendent Erroll Davis.

In the first sanctions imposed in Atlanta's cheating scandal, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission decided to revoke the teaching licenses of eight teachers and three school administrators. The agency has temporarily halted investigations, however, until the district attorney completes criminal investigations.

Watch the rest of Smith's interview with Hall above, and visit NBC to watch his conversation with the investigators who uncovered the scandal.

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Filed by Emmeline Zhao  |