Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick deserve credit for their extensive investigation into suspected cheating at George Washington Elementary School. They did not stop after initial denials of any wrongdoing from the school and went so far as to re-examine hundreds of test booklets to compare the pattern of erasures from one year to the next. That signals a willingness to dig deep for evidence of a scandal they would surely rather not have found.

From Ms. Grasmick's perspective, the public acknowledgment of the evident cheating, the replacement of the principal who was there at the time, the revocation of her teaching license and the acknowledgment to the U.S. Department of Education that its Blue Ribbon award for the school should be called into question, should settle the matter. There has only been one other comparable instance of apparent widespread cheating in the state in recent years -- in 2006, on the Eastern Shore -- and the thorough and public way she and Mr. Alonso handled the situation should send a message to other teachers or principals who might be tempted to take a shortcut to good results in high stakes testing.

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But Mr. Alonso faces a more difficult problem.

Even if the actions he and Ms. Grasmick took are enough to scare potential cheaters straight, he has to worry about how this incident feeds into a cynical narrative about Baltimore's students and the city in general. Many in this region are quick to discount signs of progress in Baltimore -- whether it's rising student test scores or dropping crime rates -- as politically motivated manipulations by those in power. If the statistics are getting better, the thinking goes, it's because somebody's cooking the books.

Mr. Alonso had no hand in creating this attitude, but he has to deal with it. As he has said many times, the success of his students depends in large measure on the belief by the community that they can and should achieve. The burden he faces is in finding a way to convince people that not only was this an isolated incident but that he has taken steps to make sure it can't happen again.

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