By John Schaffner

Atlanta public school officials say that more people will monitor city schools as students take critical state tests and that security in the handling of test sheets will increase.

School system Chief of Staff Sharron Pitts said those recommendations were among several made by a firm hired to investigate potential cheating on critical state student tests.

On April 2, Pitts reported to a blue-ribbon panel overseeing an investigation of 58 Atlanta schools for possible cheating last year on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, according to a statement released by the school system. None of the public schools in Buckhead were included in those that required investigation.

Pitts said recommendations from Caveon Test Security included adopting a two-person rule for counting test answer sheets and minimizing the amount of time the sheets remain in schools after the testing. Answer sheets also will be sealed in envelopes.

Pitts’ report to the blue-ribbon committee that selected Caveon followed a meeting at which the investigators praised the city school system for adhering to state and district exam protocol, but also reported its recommendations for improvement.

“We have accepted them all,” Pitts told the panel.

According to Pitts, the system by next year will revamp its policies and training related to test security.

A state report in February claimed 191 Georgia schools should be investigated because they showed unusual patterns of erasures on CRCT answer sheets last spring. The tests are taken by first through ninth-grade students to help determine if schools meet federal benchmarks.

The panel hired Caveon and agreed to pay the company $100,000, plus up to $10,000 for travel and expenses for the job. The Atlanta Education Fund is seeking to cover those contract obligations with funds raised privately.