AJC investigative reporter Heather Vogell’s story in the weekend AJC raises troubling questions about the response of Atlanta Public Schools to CRCT cheating complaints. Vogell compares Atlanta’s responses and protocols to those of other districts.
APS does not fare well in the comparison.
For instance, Atlanta logged 20 internal complaints of testing misconduct over the past three school years.
Compared to other metro systems, Atlanta sometimes left allegations unresolved, turning up fresh questions about suspected irregularities but never scrutinizing them, according to Vogell’s report.
The district was more likely to mark complaints unsubstantiated. Fewer teachers stepped forward to help investigators and more complaints were anonymous, making eyewitnesses harder to find.
Over three years, Vogell found that the district began termination proceedings against just two teachers after cheating was found. Departures were more common in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb.
In Cobb County, educators appeared quick to report potential problems with testing protocol. When the district determined a serious breach was committed, the outcome was often severe: Five teachers resigned over the three years.
DeKalb and Fulton reported fewer complaints, but also stiff consequences for serious misconduct. Seven educators left as a result of 17 investigations in the two counties. Gwinnett had one resignation. Clayton reported few complaints and no departures.
In Atlanta, one of the teachers who left after after an investigation had been disciplined for an earlier testing rule offense.
CRCT cheating is in the news because of a state probe suggesting cheating occurred in schools in four districts, including one APS school. APS Superintendent Beverly Hall has challenged the state Board of Education’s decision to discard results from last summer’s fifth-grade CRCT math retests at Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy.
The state school board ruled against Deerwood and three other Georgia schools after an audit by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement found evidence of an abnormal number of erasures on the tests. The state investigation followed an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December about improbably steep gains at some schools on tests taken first in spring and then in summer.
Hall defended Deerwood and hired her own investigator who concluded that “irregularities” in the school’s testing process stemmed from negligent record keeping, laziness and not following the rules rather than deliberate cheating.
Hall’s reaction raised questions about whether APS is willing to honestly confront CRCT cheating complaints. Vogell’s story is likely to prompt more questions.