Set the record straight on APS, then let’s move on

The cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools is a tragedy.
Students were cheated out of an appropriate education. Parents were misled about progress their children were making. Taxpayers’ money was misused, and those same taxpayers are funding investigations and prosecutions.
Along the route this scandal took, some leaders, upon recognizing the situation, acted quickly to respond and change the course of the situation. For example, when Erroll Davis took over as APS superintendent, he immediately sought to rid the district of teachers alleged to have cheated, a process that included painful tribunals. He also set up remediation efforts for affected students.
The tragedy is compounded because this scandal has dragged on for years. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard sought indictments more than a year after state investigators, appointed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, issued their report. Now we likely face a long and arduous prosecution, as Howard seeks to prove a widespread conspiracy. Expect witnesses and the accused to have many long days in court.
As difficult as it was, many players dealing with this sorry matter forced themselves to take appropriate and difficult actions.
Which brings us to the Metro Atlanta Chamber. From the beginning, the chamber should have sought the entire truth and supported every effort aimed at finding it. In our view, that’s not what happened.
A report April 21 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bill Torpy detailed how the chamber was far too slow in reaching the inconvenient truth that cheating allegations within APS warranted a no-holds-barred investigation. Worse yet, chamber leaders publicly supported a blue ribbon commission’s probe that was quickly labeled as deeply inadequate, if not approaching a whitewash. The group’s public stance came as its leaders privately expressed serious doubts about the chamber-backed commission’s processes and draft findings.
Their broad goal appears to have been to contain the damage and limit the scope of inquiry into suspicions of widespread test cheating.
Since then, chamber leaders have declined to explain why they acted as they did. Their continuing obfuscation does a disservice to both their legitimate aims and those of this metro area.
It’s time for the chamber to say, yes, we made some big mistakes. We may have been too concerned about the “brand” of Atlanta, and we may have gotten things out of order.
Only then, in our view, can the chamber get back to its important work of selling Atlanta’s many legitimate strengths. Until that happens, Atlantans will continue to harbor deep suspicions about the chamber’s motives. And those doubts will help keep metro Atlanta spinning its wheels when we should be rolling forward.
The T-SPLOST’s defeat last July provides an instructive example. The chamber in our view acted courageously in leading the campaign for the controversial penny transportation tax.  Yet in a poll conducted for the AJC in November, after the T-SPLOST’s nearly 2-to-1 drubbing at the polls,  fewer than half of metro Atlantans surveyed thought business leaders such as the chamber were “helpful to progress in the region.” Voters felt similarly about government too.
Such civic cynicism cannot endure. It will leave us at best treading water when we should be swimming ahead toward new horizons. At worst, such distrust of leading institutions will leave us more vulnerable to the decline that’s sapped the lifeblood of many American metros.
The chamber’s normal work is vital to guard against that happening. As the APS scandal continues to make national headlines in coming months, we must rebuild Atlanta’s image. So there’s tangible value in continuing to trumpet the “brand” of this still-successful metropolis. That’s rightly Job 1 for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
But they can’t effectively do that job until their actions around the APS mess are clearly and plainly aired and dealt with. The best marketers can excel only when their sales pitches are built on a bedrock of truth and openness.
That can only happen after there’s no longer any doubt about the motivations and actions of the chamber. The group must quickly get its house in order.
The chamber’s leaders and the broader business community must demand that. And they must have the courage to make any changes necessary to do so.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

10 comments Add your comment

Jesus Christ Crushes NWO, DBMs

April 29th, 2013
1:38 pm

Mary Elizabeth and Catlady,

It’s difficult for me to believe that they won’t post your comments because they are so similar to the others that appear.

But as for me, when they have the audacity to delete my comments as was done today, I simply quit posting. I won’t allow any moderator to control my God-given freedom of speech.

Amen?

Jesus Christ Crushes NWO, DBMs

April 29th, 2013
12:04 pm

In the course of human events, there are unsavory records visited upon us that can’t be set straight. These records include but not limited to the assignation of America’s last President, John F. Kennedy, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the 911 attack on the World Trade Center, and the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the wherewithal surrounding the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal.

Amen?

n

April 29th, 2013
8:44 am

Cheating is forever, honesty is ephemeral. My mother was a monitor on the regents tests. She would come to my test and point out the correct answer. The result was I got high scores and was accepted to a prestigous university.
Everone marveled at my stupidity, could not understand my being in their presence. Imagine what that did to my sense of self worth.
The teachers in this cheating scandal have done some damage that could very well last a long time with the students. Ever scince I have tried to convince others that I know what I am talking about.

MM888

April 29th, 2013
4:07 am

The AJC has done a public service by clearly calling attention to the role of the Metro Chamber in the sordid APS mess. This statement by the Editorial Editor will definiely not be popular in influential quarters. The next redemptive step should be a frank acknowledgement that the slow response by the AJC to the impossible claims of CRCT score improvements worked to prolong the cheating several years beyond an unavoidable minimum. If both the Editorial Board and the Education column can admit fault a big step toward putting this in the past will be accomplished. I for one would applaud such a bold move.

MM

April 29th, 2013
4:05 am

The AJC has done a public service by clearly calling attention to the role of the Metro Chamber in the sordid APS mess. This statement by the Editorial Editor will definitely not be popular in influential quarters. The next redemptive step should be a frank acknowledgement that the slow response by the AJC to the impossible claims of CRCT score improvements worked to prolong the cheating several years beyond an unavoidable minimum. If both the Editorial Board and the Education column can admit fault a big step toward putting this in the past will be accomplished. I for one would applaud such a bold move.

Mary Elizabeth

April 28th, 2013
7:11 pm

(1) The boldprint subheading, located directly beneath the title of this article in today’s print edition reads: “As various leaders continue the hard wordk of dealing with the APS cheating scandal, it’s time for the Metro Atlanta Chamber to both fully explain its actions in and around this mess and remain engaged in bettering education.”

(2) In the question and answer column, entitled, “On the Record,” directly to the right of the print version of this article, AJC reporter Bill Torpy asks chamber President Sam Williams, “The investigative record suggests that you and chamber officials were more concerned about Atlanta’s brand than the integrity of its schools and education of its children. How do you respond?”

Williams answered, “We were concerned about the impact on the children and the integrity of our schools. Our interests are focused on ensuring that we have an educational system that is designed to enhance opportunities for every child that enters the classroom.”
===================================================

As a retired instructional leader, I would caution the public to be wary of both of the statements that I have presented, above. Business leaders, including those within Metro Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce, not only have power but also the ability to use that power, even for educational purposes. However, except in rare combinations, business leaders do not, also, have educational knowledge of depth.

I am wary of the headline in the AJC that mentions that the Chamber should “remain engaged in bettering education,” as well as Williams’ response that, “Our (the Chamber’s) interests are focused on ensuring that we have an educational system that is designed to enhance opportunities for every child that enters the classroom.”

Both of those statements are relatively generic and benign. However, the public must be wary. If business leaders of power are granted the responsibility, and the authority, to establish overall educational mandates for educational leaders to implement, then unrealistic targeted goals may be the result. One wonders why, for instance, Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools, met “one-on-one with each principal and demanded a signed guarantee of exactly how many points their test scores would increase.” (Source: AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog, 4/12/13)

And, Michelle Rhee is an educator who should know child development and educational principles in depth, not a businesswoman. However, in my opinion, Rhee was following a business model for educating children, not an enlightened educational model, when she mandated those unrealistic targets for the principals under her command to implement. The public must ask, “Why?”

The public must, also, ask if former Superintendent of Schools of the APS, Beverly Hall, engaged in a similar business model of unrealistic targeted goals for the principals and teachers of the APS to implement? If Hall did so, then the public must ask if the duress and intimidation required to implement those unrealistic educational goals were influential in creating the Atlanta Public Schools’ educational “mess”? The article, above, is correct to state that the Chamber must get to the heart of the matter and “set the record straight” before it and the APS can move on. Perhaps my reflections, as a retired educational leader, will help in that process of uncovering truth with depth. I hope so.

Catlady

April 28th, 2013
10:04 am

Mary Rlizabeth, my comments yesterday did not appear, either!

Catlady

April 28th, 2013
10:03 am

Certain leaders of the CoC should be indicted and jailed for their roles in the coverup. Might help instill the idea that they have to follow the law, and it is in the business community’s best interest to deal in TRUTH!

Mary Elizabeth

April 27th, 2013
7:31 pm

As a retired educator, with 25 years in educational leadership, I am truly dismayed that you would not publish my comments which would have helped many students and teachers throughout Georgia.

I hope that you will reflect upon why you would not publish my thoughtful comments.

Bernie

April 27th, 2013
4:42 pm

This Editorial is not likely to win any new friends. The Members of The Lucky Gene Pool Club will not like how it reads. The Masters of the Universe ( Leaders) will like even Less. ShowTime is coming soon. All the cards will be laid on the Table for ALL to see. As for me, I cannot WAIT!