In our hour-long teleconference interview with Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall Thursday, she expressed dismay when AJC reporters told her that teachers in APS said they feared retaliation so did not report their suspicions of cheating. “It’s hard for me to believe that you can be intimidated into lying and cheating,” she said.
In her view, the teachers who stood by and did not report cheating share the responsibility for the disservice done to students. Dr. Hall was disappointed that teachers would say they saw cheating and then do nothing about it, saying, “It’s the same thing, you’re covering up for liars and cheaters.” (She also said that there are few secrets in the infamous teacher lounges and she believes murmurings of cheating would eventually be heard by most staff. Few things, she said, escape the notice of the teacher lounge.)
I also want to point out that there are APS records showing that when the system tried to follow up on some anonymous complaints of cheating, no one at the schools came forward. You can’t have it both both ways: You can’t knock the Atlanta system for not acting when no one was willing to speak up when it did act.
I think the time for silence if over. If teachers or staff have real examples of cheating, they ought to e-mail Dr. Hall today. I don’t think anyone has to fear reprisals at this point.
Here are some of her comments from a larger AJC story today by Heather Vogell and Kristina Torres.
By the way, several of you have suggested that the AJC interview APS teachers. We have been doing so as this excerpt shows:
A former teacher at Atlanta’s Cook Elementary said Friday that no one followed up after she told district officials that other teachers talked about cheating by pointing to answers or hinting at them during the 2007-2008 school year. She declined to be identified because she still works in the field.
Like several other teachers the AJC has interviewed, she said the pressure to make the school appear successful was intense. “I was told very often, ‘If your children do not pass, you won’t be back next year,’ ” she said, adding that she didn’t cheat.
She said she talked about what she’d heard in an exit interview when she left to take a job at a private school.
The year before, a Cook staff member had been warned not to point to wrong answers after a parent complained, records show. But no internal probe into cheating took place in 2008, according to documents provided to the AJC after a request for all such investigations. A spokesman said Friday the district is checking into the matter.
Cook was flagged by the state as a “severe concern” because more than 40 percent of classrooms exhibited suspicious erasures in 2009.
Atlanta investigators have at times struggled to find willing witnesses to talk about complaints, especially those that are anonymous, records show. District teachers have said they are afraid to step forward and report irregularities because they fear retaliation.
Witnesses who feel comfortable talking could prove crucial to the district’s current efforts to determine what happened in some classrooms. Hall said they should come forward.
Yet she said she has no sympathy for those who are afraid to step up. “How can I even have some sympathy for people who have no courage when children are being hurt, and the system is being hurt?” she asked.
“It’s hard for me to believe that you can be intimidated into lying and cheating,” she said. As for witnesses who don’t report wrongdoing, she added, “it’s the same thing, you’re covering up for liars and cheaters.”