APS cheating questions fall on Superintendent Beverly Hall

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.

16 comments Add your comment

catlady

August 30th, 2009
8:01 pm

Is this the same Supt. Hall who makes the megabucks? The same one who is supposed to be the “bestest” superintendent in the world?

My concern would be, “How can erasing the incorrect answer and remarking with the correct answer” be negligent record keeping and laziness. It sounds like pretty good work, for a cheater.

Virginia

August 30th, 2009
8:49 pm

I guess she’ll say anything to protect her ‘brothers’ and ’sisters’, thus lowering the standards in the schools. APS has enough socially promoted students who demand to get into college, yet can’t get past the easy courses to graduate. Makes you wonder how they survived high school-or did they (without her help)? Is this the same woman who was reluctant to admit that Sherri Johnson abused Stefan Ferrari?

jennifer

August 30th, 2009
9:18 pm

I’m a teacher in one of the other counties cited in this article. Whenever a student from an APS school transfers into ours, we know that the report card grades will probably be inflated and not a true indicator of the child’s performance. When their school records arrive, the test scores are often surprisinly high compared to the classroom work we see. Thank you AJC for bringing this problem to the public’s attention. I hope someone will look into it further and put a stop to it. The cheating is not doing the child any favors and will ultimately affect our society as a whole.

Ernest

August 31st, 2009
7:15 am

When I read this story in the Sunday AJC, I knew it would be a blog topic since many have requested this type of investigative report for a long time. Yes, this will prompt more questions but will the investigation go any further. Nonetheless, this is a good start.

jim d

August 31st, 2009
7:52 am

since the largest system in the state draws such little mention in the story I can only assume one or more of the following.

a) alvin is better at intimidating employees

b) Educators in Gwinnett have been better trained on how to cover up

c) the AJC fears alvin and the Chamber of Commerce

d) reports get lost in the shuffle (compter cliche)

e) All of the above.

or what the system would have you believe

f) cheating does not occur in Gwinnett County.

HS Teacher, Too

August 31st, 2009
9:22 am

jim d, having been in the system and been told to do some things that were not really within the rules, I can attest to a and b.

Sad Stuff

August 31st, 2009
11:31 am

Beverly Hall is a fraud. Clearly she won’t acknowledge that cheating occurs in her schools. She’s
shielded herself and her administration from it, but it’s going to catch up to her.

maureen's accountability metric

August 31st, 2009
12:47 pm

The question still has to be asked; why hasn’t Maureen featured this story in print, in her Learning Curve column, where it can have maximum impact?

Why won’t Maureen asks Andre Jackson, to come to this blog and explain why the editorial board won’t address this?

How can Maureen claim to have a single lens focus, on “what’s best for Georgia students” when she continues to ignore in the print edition allegations, that if true, have a damaging effect on an entire city’s worth of students?

mdowney

August 31st, 2009
1:58 pm

A few responses:
jimd,
I have worked at four newspapers in four states. I have never had an editor steer me from a story because of a local Chamber of Commerce. When I was a consumer reporter, I regularly did stories that irked advertisers. Never heard a word from an editor about any of them.
As to MAM’s point. I have talked to Andre about this story. Under the new format, an editorial runs only on Sunday and it focuses on region-wide issues. But feel free to e-mail him at aajackson@ajc.com.
During the week, the Opinion pages are limited to op-eds and guest columns. I do write a weekly column on education, and will do something on CRCT cheating in the new few weeks.
I would also recommend that someone willing to sign their name to an op-ed piece might consider submitting one to either me or Ken Foskett. I get most of the education op-eds and no one has submitted anything on CRCT cheating.

What you deserve

August 31st, 2009
2:22 pm

Maureen responded. Now people know why MAM is so persistent!

I truly hope, when you write your CRCT column, that you will specifically reference APS, and repeat this statement: “Hall’s reaction raised questions about whether APS is willing to honestly confront CRCT cheating complaints.”

The children of this city deserve no less than to have this newspaper’s editorial voices speak out for them it print. The only person who hasn’t failed APS children in this regard in Wooten, yet even he wrote only a single sentence. If this is important enough to be ongoing, and finally make the front page of the Sunday paper, how is this being ignored by the other editorial voices? There does seem to be a disconnect between what reporters write about and what editors write about; almost like two different agendas.

As for why you haven’t received anything on CRCT cheating, look to your own paper and the story this Sunday. Clearly teachers feel that if they speak out, chances are retaliation will follow. Look at what happened to the teacher in Gwinnett a few years ago when he tried to do the ethical thing when it came to the Gateway test.

Maybe someone like Dr. John Trotter would be willing to address it. He sure hasn’t minded addressing it here. What assurances are given to contributors that their words won’t be edited, and in the process, points distorted, or worse “softened”?

maureen's accountability metric

August 31st, 2009
2:32 pm

And by the way Maureen, did Crawford Lewis ever respond? Allegations of shutting down a teacher’s grievance hearing, in direct violation of state law, when that teacher was about to testify about a cheating scandal, are as bad as allegations of cheating itself.

Add to that, the person who allegedly shut down the hearing is a state senator, and if he did indeed do this, that would appear to scream ethics violation.

I would think you would have to agree Maureen, or else you wouldn’t have sent them to Lewis, that these are fair and legitimate questions. Why not turn up the heat a bit and at least hold him accountable for his unwillingness to respond?

mdowney

August 31st, 2009
3:28 pm

MAM, Still no word from Dr. Lewis. I need to call Dale and check with him.
Also, about an op-ed piece; I can’t guarantee zero editing of any pieces here, including my own. You have to write to length. (The print paper is now templated, which means that there is a set space every day. I have to write the same length every week.)
In the actual piece, you have to back up assertions – just all the basics of writing an opinion piece.
Maureen

maureen's accountability metric

August 31st, 2009
3:39 pm

Maureen,

Thanks for checking with your contact on Dr. Lewis. I can imagine dealing with those questions isn’t on his list of things he wants to do.

It’s why we need an aggressive free press, for often, the questions that government officials don’t want to answer, are the questions that the citizens most need an answer for. That’s where you come in!

You could probably even say, that’s why some readers get very disappointed, and persistent in expressing that disappointment, in that they recognize what a free press can do to check government, when members of the free press put their minds to it.

jim d

August 31st, 2009
5:14 pm

TRUE DAT MAM,

Understanding what a free press can do to check government, when members of the free press put their minds to it.

Not seeing it happen does indeed cause one to be a bit(or a lot) skeptical.

Seen it all

August 31st, 2009
7:48 pm

Maureen it sounds great to have an insider or other knowledgeable person who knows about the cheating/improprieties in schools write an op-ed piece. But the reality is that those person would IMMEDIATELY come under retribution and retaliation.

Even former insiders won’t speak out for fear of burning old bridges. Heck, even smart people are careful what they write on blogs like this and other places on the Internet. Why? Because they don’t want to get discovered.

EX- APS and LOVING IT!!!

September 1st, 2009
3:34 pm

I taught in APS for five years, ending in 2002. Words can hardly describe how Hall had poisoned the atmosphere there. As teachers, we were constantly pressured to create an illusion of progress for Hall and her team of administrators. Everything was for show. If we spoke up, they were like a gang that would come after us with both barrels. My principal held a 45 minute special Jerry Springer style faculty meeting solely to ostracize me as a “saboteur among us” for merely suggesting that we have two faculty members present in each room during standardized testing (which I still think is a minimal first step to discourage cheating).

I disagree with the consultant that $2,000 per teacher is not enough to corrupt results–that’s what, $120,000 to $250,000 teachers are pocketing per school??? I sure noticed the drop in integrity.

This article was dead on.