APS bringing in two national experts to review test data

A lot of you were skeptical that Atlanta Public Schools would bring in credible experts to review test score swings that an AJC investigative team uncovered in a series of reports. For those stories, the AJC presented the findings of reporter Heather Vogell and data-base investigative reporter Johny Perry to national experts who called them hard to believe.

Now, Superintendent Beverly Hall is going to ask Andrew Porter, education dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and Douglas Reeves, a nationally recognized consultant on improving student achievement in K-12 schools, to conduct a review that is expected to take several months.

According to the AJC story:

Hall announced three weeks ago that she would seek outside help after an analysis published in October by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that 19 schools statewide reported extraordinary gains or drops in state test scores between spring of last year and this year. A dozen of those schools are in Atlanta, including the city’s West Manor and Peyton Forest elementary schools where students went from among the bottom performers statewide to among the best over the course of one year. According to the AJC analysis, the odds of making such a leap were less than one in a billion.

On Friday, Hall said Porter would look specifically at testing data at the 12 schools. Reeves will visit classrooms and talk with teachers and administrators to determine what factors at their schools may impact student achievement.

Are you feeling more confident now that this will be a legitimate review?

27 comments Add your comment

Dr. John Trotter

November 14th, 2009
1:57 pm

I don’t trust a single person whom Beverly Hall may bring in and compensate — either directly or indirectly. A bling man can see that the test scores of schools like West Manor are bogus. An explanation of “outliers” is so sophomoric; you cannot change the Law of the Large Numbers anymore than you can change the Law of Gravity. The “I’m bringing in outside experts” is a ruse by Beverly Hall. Hall, just admit that you guys got caught. MACE has been saying for years that systematic cheating has been taken place on a regular basis. Welcome to the bangwagon, folks! Welcome aboard! (c) MACE, November 14, 2009.

Dr. John Trotter

November 14th, 2009
1:59 pm

A blind man (but also a “bling” man!) can see that this great disparity is due to the manipulation of the data. Sorry for the typo but college football games are on now. See you guys next week.


November 14th, 2009
2:46 pm

Perhaps the real question we should be asking ourselves is, why is SO much pressure placed on a single test that all these educators feel compelled to cheat? I’m not excusing or dismissing what they did, but we need to take a real hard look at whether or not this one standardized test should be used to judge dynamic little people’s learning and the hard work many teachers put in.


November 14th, 2009
3:14 pm

Ms. Downey: please do some digging. Find out how Dr. Hall has come into contact with these men. Same professional organizations? Also, post their pictures, CV, and publications. Let someone with NO ties to K-12 schools, but a specialist in psychometry, evaluate these “evaluators.” I am guessing you will find some stinky fish.


November 14th, 2009
3:57 pm

And just how behind are the poor students if they can’t pass a dumbed-down test like the CRCT?

Ed Johnson

November 14th, 2009
7:55 pm

Douglas Reeves, The Leadership and Learning Center, at http://www.leadandlearn.com/about-us

Action Research (AR) and Systems Thinking (ST) seem central to Reeves’ work. If so, then engaging him may trigger a very long overdue fundamental transformation within the APS. Let’s pray it does.

Of Reeves’ several books, his The Learning Leader (google amazon.com)seems an especially relevant read, since “learning” re “leadership” has become an obviously rare concept within the APS over the past ten years.

Earle in Florida.

November 15th, 2009
7:41 am

Alison, it’s only partly about student achievement; thousands of dollars of teachers bonuses are paid out based on improvement in these test scores. The system is ripe for fraud and abuse. Without questioning the credentials of the outside experts, I can’t imagine much insight coming from interviewing the teachers involved. They are the foxes in the henhouse. Rejecting the statistical evidence in this case is like denying a DNA match. But then there’s the OJ case….


November 15th, 2009
10:02 am

Don’t expect anything from Atlanta.

Toni Hunter

November 15th, 2009
10:05 am

I agree with Dr. Trotter. I too would not trust a single person(s) whom Beverly Hall might bring in to investigate this disgraceful situation for Atlanta Public Schools. I have worked in with APS, and I too know (the school that I worked for in 2006-2007) cheated on a statewide test. When I brought this concern to my principal, I was terminated. When I tried to reach Beverly Hall, and tell her all what this principal was doing, I was brush off. I watched Beverly Hall allowed a principal to cover up cheating on tests, and both physical and mentally abuse to students that was going on in this particular school. I would not trust Beverly Hall with nothing, I will be glad when the day comes that she will be replaced. I once reported to my principal that I had personally witness another staff member physical abuse many students. My principal ( she had to be related to Ms. Hall) because I never seen a school get away with so much wrong doings, and the people that were against the wrong doings of this school were eventually fired or did not receive a contracts. I heard from word of mouth, when this principal went on maternal leave, that the principal that sit in doing this time, end catching this same staff member that I along with many other staff members had report for being abusive finally was reprimand when this principal caught her throwing a student upside the wall and the child had to be carried off by ambulance. This was not the first time she had abused students like this. It was just first time somebody decide to do something about it. Beverly Hall was aware of this staff member behavior and the principal. There were many staff members that informed her about the behavior of this principal. Beverly Hall is doing what she did in this situation trying to convince the world that these are lies and theses staff members did not cheat on these statewide test. This is been going on for a long time, but this time they got caught. I feel so bad for those students. I sure many of us do, but Beverly Hall is concern about her being top notch in her position, not the students that why she want admit the truth. So all people become hero, but the students. Admit the truth, set examples. This type of behavior should not be tolerated in any school system.


November 15th, 2009
10:36 am

Catlady – are you calling into question the academic credentials of Dr. Porter, who leads the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school? Or those of Dr. Reeves?
If so, just say it.

If you weren’t so lazy, you could easily find both men’s bios, credentials and photos online … Porter’s at http://www.andyporter.org/ and Reeves’ at http://www.leadandlearn.com/LTI/speakers.htm

Your bone of contention is clearly with APS and administration. And, having observed Atlanta education for more than 30 years, it seems to me that you forget to give credit to Dr. Hall and her team for the major advances made at most of the schools in the city. The incentive system is the broken part, which leads some people to make bad decisions, such as changing test results or giving children answers. Those few cheaters deserve to be soundly and thoroughly punished.

I’m disappointed,too, that APS took so long to hire outside evaluators, but glad that they have done so now.


November 15th, 2009
10:42 am

I am a business professional that works as a consultant.

Consultants are usually called in when the current leadership fails or doesn’t have the experience to get the job done. Oh yes, they will justify it by saying they need outside eyes to add a fresh perspective. The reality is, if you hire\consult outside sources to do your job, then you have failed as a manager. This is the case here.

It’s time to stop playing politics with the school system. De-policitize education! Otherwise, we will continue to fall behind the world in all categories.

The root of the problem goes much deeper than a quick visit in and out of an elementary school can or will fix. Politics and education has not and will not every produce positive results. Any positive results that we may experienced will be from the momentum of a dedicated career teacher that love his or her job even though they face what seems,insurmountable odds at times.

Send the two “National Experts” packing. Give the teacher back the ability to teach rather than test. Hold parents accountable for their children’s learning. It should be a crime to say politics and education at the same time.


November 15th, 2009
11:54 am

Dear Land of Oz,

Who are you trying to fool? Consultants are just another tool for a manager to use.They signify neither success nor failure.Our organization hired many consultants during the time I worked there and it wasn’t because we were failing.During that time a few of the consultants turned out to be wind bags and were dismissed with prejudice.

In a case like this it’s just possble that the administration is hiring outside consultants because it wants to be completely unbiased about the final solution.

Case in point: We once had an incident of sabotage in the plant.We could have solved this case ourselves but we chose to bring in State Police Detectives as consultants to do it for us.It worked well.


November 15th, 2009
12:33 pm

If one looks closely they will see it is usually administrators doing the cheating. The admin gets the bonuses, there may be some money given to the teachers but it is not a significant amount…certainly not enough to make cheating worth it. But the thousands of dollars admin gets & the threat of losing their job is about what it takes to see an increase in test scores. I must admit, it is fun to watch administrators get taken down…needs to happen more often!!!


November 15th, 2009
1:25 pm

ScienceTeacher671, you ask how behind are these students? In some schools, extremely. Imagine kindergarteners beginning school and not knowing their first name, only a nickname. Their parents didn’t bother to send them to any pre-k program or teach them anything at home. At my school the kids start out behind. We work really hard to bring them up to level. It’s an extremely hard job. Teaching angry, agressive kids that believe the solution to everything is punching somebody (and I mean 8 year olds!).


November 15th, 2009
1:27 pm

Let me add that I love my job, and even though it’s really tough, I know that I make a difference. And while they may start out behind, they always leave having made leaps and bounds in their education.


November 15th, 2009
1:36 pm

KA: I am glad we agree that it has taken too long. Now, it will take too much money also.

Just because someone is a college administrator, just because someone is anything, does not make them a competent evaluator. Are either of their PhDs in statistical analysis? Is their research focused on statistical “anomalies”? What peer-reviewed journals have accepted their work in this field? I don’t know; although my PhD is in that field, I am unaware of their accomplishments in the areas they have been called to evaluate. I will, however, see what good things their websites say about them. Thanks for pointing them out.

“What factors may impact student achievement?” Give me a break. We are aware of those factors. No outside evaluator needed for that.

How much is this going to cost the kids of APS?

BTW, I have no ax to grind with the APS. I do, however, have a problem with showboating in any system. We have enough of that!

trying hard to be patient

November 15th, 2009
4:06 pm

8 year olds punching? Try 5 year olds throwing chairs and hitting, spitting, and kicking teachers and aides. It has gotten out of control. Where is the PARENT accountability? Their child does something wrong and who do they blame. Not the child. The teachers. Ridiculous. Let teachers teach and stop giving them so much dang paperwork. That is why I won’t teach!

Deep DODO!

November 15th, 2009
5:15 pm

Deep Dodo, I say this because this is where APS has landed in this Cheating on State Test report.
Let me put a bug in the evaluators ears, don”t waste your time asking the teachers and administrators what they did in their schools to achieve such great gain, if you want the truth ask the student. You will get a real eye as well as ear opener.


November 15th, 2009
5:54 pm

Both gentlemen seem well-qualified to get the truth and understand it, as long as they don’t rely on data produced for them from APS. They need unfettered, unfiltered access. Will they get it?


November 15th, 2009
7:38 pm

trying hard to be patient, yes, 5 year olds as well. Things have gotten out of control.

Middle School maniac

November 15th, 2009
8:15 pm

Douglas Reeves is a nationally respected researcher who deeply understands psychometrics and knows how to do quality reviews of data and find the trends both good and bad. In addition, his research and ideas show that he is not beholden to anything other than what the data holds as effective. He will get to the bottom of the APS mess.


November 16th, 2009
11:53 am

Family matters and so does your rep. It takes alot of covering up to make a stinky mess smell sweet. To admitt to cheating would bring out the ugly truth and connect family and god children in APS. We always protect our family no matter what the consequences.

David S

November 16th, 2009
3:25 pm

Douglas Reeves, a nationally recognized consultant on improving student achievement in K-12 schools – and what “outstanding” improvements is he responsible for? I live in this nation and I have never heard of him, nor have I heard of any government school actually improving to a truly quality level.

Government or education establishment insiders investigating problems with government education are sure to find the root cause – government – NOT.

Expect the true culprits to get a big pass, while somehow the requirement for more money, more money, more money gets widespread coverage by the compliant media.

Ed Johnson

November 16th, 2009
9:52 pm

A few reviews of Douglas Reeves’ book, The Learning Leader….

Education Book Reviews

InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 4(2)

The School Administrator, Book Review
American Association of School Administrators


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November 18th, 2009
7:22 pm

As a teacher in another metro county I can tell you APS has cheated on the test for years. Every child I receive from APS has really great CRCT scores but no skills. The test they take in our county is much lower!!! Someone should follow these students and see the difference.


November 18th, 2009
11:16 pm

How many kids do you get from APS? I have had the privilege of teaching some extremely bright students in APS. There are even some geniuses with horrible behavior problems. The lack of accountability for that horrible behavior might be an issue that every school in the state needs to assess.
For those of you who do not teach and wonder if significant gains are possible then I can tell you that gains are possible. Does cheating occur? I believe it does, but I also know these significant gains are possible with hard work from students, parents , teachers, and administrators. I do not believe the one in a billion statistic at all.