ATLANTA (WRCB/AP) - A probe has found that more than 78 percent of Atlanta schools examined by state investigators engaged in cheating on standardized tests.

Some findings from the report were released by Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday.

"Nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring that today's students receive a first-class education and integrity in testing is a necessary piece of the equation," said Deal. "When test results are falsified and students who have not mastered the necessary material are promoted, our students are harmed, parents lose sight of their child's true progress, and taxpayers are cheated."

Deal said 44 of the 56 schools investigated took part in cheating. Investigators also found that 38 principals were wither responsible for the cheating or were directly involved in it. And they determined that 178 teachers and principals cheated. Of those, 82 confessed to the misconduct.

Deal said Tuesday that the results of the investigation are being forwarded to the appropriate prosecutors and that many of the cases could lead to criminal prosecution.

Teachers named in the report will have their cases referred to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

An outline of the findings of the investigation from the Governor's officer follows:

•Thousands of children were harmed by the 2009 CRCT cheating by being denied remedial education because of their inflated CRCT scores. 

     - We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined (78.6%). There were 38 principals of those 56 schools (67.9%) found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating.

     - We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that, there was test cheating in their schools.

     - We empathize with those educators who felt they were pressured to cheat and commend those who were willing to tell us the truth regarding their misconduct. However, this report is not meant to excuse their ethical failings, or exonerate them from their wrongdoings.

•The 2009 CRCT statistics are overwhelming and allow for no conclusion other than widespread cheating in APS. The BRC expert, Dr. John Fremer, wrote an op-ed article for the AJC in which he said there was widespread, organized cheating in APS.

•The drop in 2010 CRCT erasures confirm the conclusion above.

•Cheating occurred as early as 2001.

•There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored.

•Cheating was caused by a number of factors but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment.

•There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT.

•A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct.

•In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, we found other improper conduct: several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction.