CRCT probe in APS: It doesn’t look like a whitewash

I don’t think we have to worry that the system-ordered investigation into possible CRCT tampering in city of Atlanta schools is going to be a whitewash.

The AJC is reporting today that as many as 100 employees at 12 schools violated testing protocols. Not all 100 are suspected of outright cheating; some of them may have committed inadvertent testing rule violations.

Here is a quote from the chairman of a special investigative committee assembled to look into aberrant answer sheet patterns identified by a statewide audit in the wake of an AJC investigation into CRCT cheating. His comment should allay fears that APS would somehow avoid admitting to any wrongdoing by its schools.

“I’m outraged, primarily because I think about 50,000 kids in this system. If [students] don’t perform well on these tests, if we’ve been passing people along through the system, that’s the important issue,” said Gary Price, chairman of the independent panel that was formed to investigate irregularities on state standardized tests at city schools.

The committee will release the report with more details on Tuesday. AJC reporter Kristina Torres describes the release as “a watershed for the Atlanta system and its acclaimed superintendent, Beverly Hall.”

She writes:

Hall will either respond to the report in a way that engenders confidence in the system or that provides more ammunition to critics who want new management. The school system continues to win national awards — as does Hall — for closing an academic gap that appeared unbridgeable when Hall took over in 1999. But the cheating investigation comes at a time when APS is undergoing increasing scrutiny for some of those gains, as well as for its financial management.

83 comments Add your comment

whats funny

June 18th, 2010
10:32 am

there was no closing of the academic gap with Hall. the only thing that happened was someone gave the node to get these scores up no matter how you do it. one in a billion chance of the scores increasing the way they did. You have a better chance of winning mega millions. Hall seems to be waltzing around getting her FAT paycheck because she and her crew scammed the system. RESIGN or does the school board have the GUTS to fire her.


June 18th, 2010
10:56 am

I am afraid I don’t feel so hopeful, Ms. Downey. Sure, a few sacrificial lambs will be slaughtered, mostly for minor irregularities, but no “big names” will be implicated. It all seems so hard to believe that so few are involved in such apparent perfidy. Looking forward to seeing the report.

“I’m outraged, primarily because I think about 50,000 kids in this system. If [students] don’t perform well on these tests, if we’ve been passing people along through the system, that’s the important issue,” said Gary Price.

Mr. Price, don’t worry about passing people through the system because of cheating on the tests. The kids are already passed along anyway, truly passing or failing. (See AJC report)

Wounded Warrior

June 18th, 2010
10:56 am

B-I-N-G-O Baker should have loads of Bingo Games with old women at the churches to raise money for education!!! Best idea I have heard this year, besides when Hank Johnson was afraid of Puerto Rico flipping over. Or, when Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer ‘immigrated from Puerto Rice’ and ‘when I visited all of 57 states of America’ both quotes from Obamination.

Wounded Warrior

June 18th, 2010
10:58 am

Puerto Rico, correction.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

June 18th, 2010
11:10 am

I’m not buying the idea that only 12 schools have cheating employees who need to be fired. If the forensic analysis of the test scores at ANY school show cheating was probable, there needs to be action AT THAT SCHOOL. Maureen, every cheating teacher and administrator allowed to come back after this is a crook who’s has stolen from children in the past and cannot be trusted in the future. Make sure the AJC is a watchdog for those other 46 schools. They deserve your protection too.


June 18th, 2010
11:11 am

Why isn’t more being made about the first APS investigation – the one they did internally – that did cover up the cheating and claimed there were no irregularities? That should be a direct indictment of Hall and the attitude of the Central Office Employees to condone/cover this type of behavior.

Let The Finger Pointing Begin

June 18th, 2010
11:13 am

Now we sit back and see who makes a deal and points the proverbial finger.
It only takes one to start the stampede.


June 18th, 2010
11:19 am

I’m curious to see the percentage of classroom teachers that will be “implicated” as opposed to building and system administration. I know, that as a classroom teacher, there is very little opportunity for me to “cheat”. (Short of actually pointing out the correct answers to students.)


June 18th, 2010
11:22 am

WW: If you are going to try to make a point about how ignorant some people are (Sotomayor, Obama), at least spell correctly. I know you corrected it, but, sheesh, couldn’t you have looked over it before you hit “submit?” It really makes the point that people can misspeak (mistype) very easily. Check the spelling of the Supreme Court justice, as well.


June 18th, 2010
11:34 am

Beyond school level personnel, we won’t see anyone important take a fall for this. I’m sure the blame will shift to teachers, some of who are clearly implicated. The sad thing is, as we rush headlong into the RT3 process and shove in a performance-based pay system, this kind of thing won’t quit happening. Instead of erasing, they’ll just have to point to answers for kids so they can bubble them in right the first time. When standardized tests are the only tool people pay attention to, what else can we expect?


June 18th, 2010
11:38 am

While you’re correcting all of your mistakes WW be sure to fix this one, “Best idea I have heard this year, besides when Hank Johnson was afraid of Puerto Rico flipping over.”

It was actually Guam, not Puerto Rico.

Attentive Parent

June 18th, 2010
11:50 am

I think Beverly Hall is just trying to buy time until the new RTT assessments are in place. This are to be open-ended performance assessments that will obscure deficits in literacy and math.

As Linda Darling-Hammond who is heading up the new test effort has said, existing tests like ITBS and state tests like the CRCT test “out-of-date notions of learning”. Too bad when these theories are implemented in real schools like the Stanford charter school or the Gates’ School of the Future in Philadelphia the actual results are abysmal even with infinite resources.

You can see why they want to change the nature of testing. If you school focus is social, not academic whatever the rhetoric, you are going to be hostile to testing and view cheating as an acceptable interim measure to getting your type of test.

The AJC continues to ignore Beverly Hall’s appointment to the Board of IES, the US Dept of Ed’s research arm. Given this report, why isn’t this part of the story.

After all IES will be doing the evaluating of which RTT, I3 and School Imp grants established “best practices” to be replicated elsewhere. There was a story on this in yesterday’s EdWeek Politics K-12.

So Beverly Hall will be charged with evaluating the results of roughly $6 billion in federal grants and determining what works and what doesn’t. Why isn’t that new responsibility part of this AJC story?

An advocate for public education change & choice

June 18th, 2010
12:30 pm

Dr. Hall’s unconfirmed appointment to the Board of IES (which no doubt came per some help for her old collegue Sec of Edu. Duncan), should become a key aspect of this unfolding saga as should all of the accolades that have been showered upon her within the last year on the strength of the “supposed” gains as evidenced by CRCT test results.

The more layers that get peeled away from the onion the uglier these probes seem to get. At some point APS Board Chair Burks should also come under review as she’s sat at the head of table rubber stamping much of what’s gone on over the last 24 months+. Not to mention the fact the the vast majority of the APS board has been in place for quite sometime. So much for the watch dogs.

Private School Guy

June 18th, 2010
12:30 pm

Yet another reason to end this testing madness. Schools pay huge amounts of money to do mandatory universal testing that is is done BY the schools to find out if they are accountable. If you’re going to do testing it needs to be done totally by a third party as the SAT, GRE and professional tests such as the boards are bar are done. We don’t need universal testing. This is like Budweiser having their employees opening every bottle of beer they make and taking a sip to see if it tastes good. End the madness now.

It is a whitewash

June 18th, 2010
12:52 pm

If the report doesn’t specifically address what did Beverly Hall know and when did she know it, what did Kathy Augustine know and when did she know it, what did Butler-Burks know and when did she know, it it is a whitewash.

To suggest otherwise is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

The whitewash is here

June 18th, 2010
1:00 pm

What about the whitewash that is happening on the Get Schooled blog, where readers where asked to “check back shortly” on the E-Rate scandal more than a week ago?

On the other hand, if the readers of this blog won’t hold the blog accountable for living up to its word, you can’t totally blame the blog for dropping the story.

Where is SACS?

June 18th, 2010
1:03 pm

Is there any doubt left that SACS, a private organization that gets taxpayer money, puts politics above good schools, by their silence on the largest cheating scandal in Georgia’s educational history?

No sanctions? No probation?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

john konop

June 18th, 2010
1:33 pm

It all starts from the top. The DOE and Kathy Cox cheated on the drop –out rate numbers. They also cheated on the CRCT test by making the test easier via requiring less right answers to pass. Do we all not see a pattern here?


June 18th, 2010
1:37 pm

“I’m outraged, primarily because I think about 50,000 kids in this system. If [students] don’t perform well on these tests, if we’ve been passing people along through the system, that’s the important issue,” said Gary Price, chairman of the independent panel that was formed to investigate irregularities on state standardized tests at city schools.Maybe we ought to let Gary Price investigate the entire Georgia school system, starting with the DOE.

How outraged would he be to find out that, even though we have over a million and a half students in Georgia, students’ CRCT results proclaim students “proficient” in reading and math when they are working as much as four years below grade level?

How outraged would he be to find that students are passed along through the system whether they are proficient or not?

The Atlanta school system might be cheating more blatantly than most, but the entire system is cheating our students.

It's Andre Jackson time

June 18th, 2010
1:54 pm

Isn’t about time Andre Jackson write another editorial giving Beverly Hall credit?


June 18th, 2010
1:58 pm

As far as this whitewash goes, let’s set up an analogy that Maureen can fully understand.

If 100 reporters were found guilty of plagiarizing at a major newspaper, and the resulting investigation said nothing about what the head editor knew, and when did he know it, is there any way on Earth Maureen would claim there was no whitewash?

Any way on Earth?

need new blood

June 18th, 2010
2:01 pm

Maureen Downey

June 18th, 2010
2:02 pm

@Perspective, That analogy is slightly off the facts. If 100 employees of a major newspaper chain were found to have plagiarized, would the investigation say nothing about the CEO of the entire newspaper group.
And I am sure that something will be said about the CEO in this case.


June 18th, 2010
2:07 pm

Maureen we always strive, if we are to be critical of you, to readily acknowledge when you have a point. The chain, as opposed to a single paper would be a better analogy.

I can only hope you are right, and that the investigators were willing to go to the very top, including the school board for that matter, to find out what people knew, and when did they know it. But thus far, all we have seen is a willingness to go after lower levels of employees, thus it may be premature to suggest no whitewash is in place.

john konop

June 18th, 2010
2:10 pm


Yes or no do you think culture of cheating to win was not promoted by Kathy Cox via the cut numbers, drop-out rate numbers…..and if not why?

What you talkin about willis?

June 18th, 2010
2:11 pm

Those pushing for willis might want to set themselves apart and answer a this question.

How would Willis protect teachers, who speak out about educational concerns, when administrators misuse the evaluation instrument as a means of retaliation?

Would Willis be in support of a neutral third party evaluating a teacher when the teacher asserts the evaluation was retaliation based?

How much more quickly might we have found out about the cheating, if teachers had legitimate protections from misuse of the evaluation instrument?

Is Ms. Willis willing to set herself apart from the crowd and address this?

@john konop

June 18th, 2010
2:14 pm

Let’s not forget john, that Cox was so evasive about the cut numbers that Maureen’s paper had to compel her to release them with an Open Records Request. And when Cox tried to spin it by saying the questions were higher level, Maureen’s paper had an independent consultant point out that the number of lowest level comprehension questions was almost equal to the cut score.


June 18th, 2010
2:21 pm

The cut scores are embarrassingly low, but that’s beside the point. The fact that so many students’ tests were altered is horrible, no matter what kind of pressure the administation or district was under. And the short-sightedness of the cheaters’ thinking betrays their ignorance – the students will be tested yearly, and it’s clear something is rotten when the elementary schools all make AYP and the middle & high schools don’t.


June 18th, 2010
3:37 pm

Ah, Fericita, but we “know” that the kids forget everything when they get to middle school. It’s “those darned hormones” that make middle school kids’ scores drop! TIC. So we would never make the connection.

Here is what we see in our county: We do virtually no testing for sped in the elementary grades–have not been able to get but a couple through the RTI process over the last 5 years. (Our county keeps revising the process, changing the requirements.)To get sped designation you have to pretty well either be missing some body parts or move into the county with an IEP already in place from some other system.

So we do all kinds of accommodations and needs-based things until they leave 5th. They hit 6th, obviously cannot do the work, and–voila–get placed within weeks, leaving us with YEARS of 3 week plans done with the kids who needed the sped protections all along. MEANWHILE the kids who were struggling, and the average kids, do NOT get the help they need because so much time has been devoted to the future sped kids. And we don’t do anything with the potential BD kids; we supposedly don’t know how to RTI them! The actual BD kids get no help anyway.

It does not go unnoticed, at least in my county, that virtually all the “exceptional” kids get served (if they do at all) by push in EXCEPT the gifted, who still get pulled out at the elementary level at least.(It puzzles me that we expect the needs of the 70 IQ student to be met in the regular classroom, but not the needs of the 130 IQ kids. Sort of the opposite of Jesus’ “do for the least of these, my Breathren” (the Matthew principle) we do it for the “best of these”). Well,maybe it isn’t so puzzling. Maybe our instruction is aimed for the 70 IQs anyway.

What does this have to do with the discussion? Not sure now :P

What is the upside to cheating, and for whom? Who profits? This wasn’t casual cheating, folks! And, although we predicted this, the “results” from the school systems seems to suggest that, rather than there being significant alterations on test answers, the errors were mostly little procedural problems. Look at ALL the problem systems and see if they all had rewards for improving test scores. Not just a pat on the back kind of rewards, I mean. Look at how high up the rewards went. Stop when you get to the highest level person who would be rewarded. Bingo!

I think it really surprised the dickens out of some folks when the state looked at wrong to right erasures. In the past, when there were improbable gains (or in the case of APS, IMPOSSIBLE gains) folks cried racism. However, answer sheets are all the same color.

Think of erasure analysis this way: A student marks the wrong answer, reconsiders, and changes it. They have a 1/3 chance of changing it to the correct answer (4 choices, one already used), yet this wrong to right, statistically impossible pattern emerged. Not to mention how many kids actually DO erase. In my experience, almost never! We teach our kids: you have PLENTY of time. Look at each question carefully, and choose the best answer. If you are not sure, make a guess, but MARK the answer in your book with a circle or a star to tell you to look at it again when you are finished. Don’t put the answer on your sheet until you are satisfied with it. Check to be sure your numbers on the answer sheet match the numbers in the book. To those who want to argue that the kids just got off on their numbering, consider this: Question 1 has answers A,B, C, and D to bubble in; question 2 has H, I, J, K and so on.

John Konop and @john konop make excellent points as well.

Erica Long

June 18th, 2010
3:45 pm

It’s not the teachers who are cheatiing. They have little access to the test materials. Someone in the Central Office at APS, however, is sending the message to principals that their test scores must go up, or else.

Superintendent Beverly Hall, her Deputy Superintendents, and many other high-level administrators need to go. If I was District Attorney, there would be indictments.

My child’s future is on the line. I could care less about who gets to enjoy their retirement.


June 18th, 2010
5:28 pm

We’ll see if it gets whitewashed or not.

Then, there is this little gem:

“Gary Price, did not detail the violations, which could range from inadvertently violating test security rules to outright cheating.”

Keyword, INADVERTENTLY. Gives them an out.

Bottom line, Beverly Hall and her deputies knew the test results were too good to be true. Instead of investigating, the accepted the accolades and raises and patted themselves on the back.

A person of honor would tender their resignation….

…. and I’m not holding my breath.

Ed Johnson

June 18th, 2010
6:03 pm

Whitewash. No whitewash? Why, it’s all about whitewash.

Considering that:

• 100 employees in 12 schools comes to just over 8 employees per school
• 8 employees per should likely comes to just a small percentage of a school’s personnel
• 256,779 WTR erasures per 100 employees comes to 2,568 WTR erasures per employee
• 256,779 WTR erasures per 12 schools comes to 21,398 WTR erasures per school

The whole notion that it’s just 12 schools is just plain ludicrous and insulting. But then it is now clear the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) set out to find low-level school personnel for the superintendent and school board to make examples of and thereby escape from their culpability for the systemically damaging APS culture of their own making. Well, not entirely of their own making, because for the past decade, the chamber’s agent, EduPAC, and the business community have and continue to “provide them a path forward,” as the AJC quotes BRC chair, Gary Price, saying. And it is business, corporate-style paths forward the board members have followed into this inevitable crisis.

Because the board and superintendent have shown themselves incapable to even learn about better paths, they should step down. Just now, however, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, or Governor Purdue himself, should pursue a fully independent investigation, free of the business community’s vested interests in the APS board and superintendent. Atlanta taxpayers deserve it.

DeKalb Parent

June 18th, 2010
6:05 pm

Maureen, I know it is off subject, but when are the EOCT scores going to be released? It seems as if it is taking longer this year.

Maureen Downey

June 18th, 2010
7:04 pm

@DeKalb Parent, I think they are typically released in July. I will check with Matt. (Matt, if you know and can post directly, feel free.)

bootney farnsworth

June 18th, 2010
7:39 pm


many of the same folks who claim outrage are the same parents who
demand special treatment for their children. God forbid their kid
actually do something or suffer the consequences.

this whole thing stinks like week old fish. its much worse than admitted, and job one is PR mitigation.

outside of a minority of us who work in education, nobody in
this country really gives a damn.

bootney farnsworth

June 18th, 2010
7:40 pm

@ Ed,

the Atlanta taxpayers are getting exactly what they deserve.
hell, the whole of Georgia is.

Cheat sheet

June 18th, 2010
7:41 pm

It’s not so unreasonable to single out around 12 schools. As long as they are the 12 schools that seem to account for most of the cheating. That’s those with a very high proportion of classes with suspect levels of wrong to right erasures in 2009 AND very big jumps in Math failure rates in 2010. These look like the big cheaters. Their jump in fail rate ranges from 31 points down to 16 points. Their percentage of suspect classes is shown in the list.

Interesting that Deerwood, whose principal was just reinstated, is not on the list. They only had an increase in Math failure rate of 5 points, so it’s unlikely they cheated much last year after all.

The percent is the

Gideons Elementary, 88.40%
Connally Elementary, 70.50%
Scott Elementary, 68.00%
Perkerson Elementary, 66.70%
Capitol View, 70.80%
White Elementary, 47.40%
Parks Middle, 89.50%
F L Stanton, 83.30%
Dunbar Elementary, 68.60%
Venetian Hill, 75.40%
Coan Middle S, 31.40%
Towns Elementary, 63.60%
Woodson Elementary, 63.30%

bootney farnsworth

June 18th, 2010
7:47 pm

DeKalb, Clayton, City of Atlanta.

the Hindenberg of public education.
carelessness and stupidity which ends in flaming ruin
taking many innocent folks along for the ride.

bootney farnsworth

June 18th, 2010
7:56 pm

the sad truth is there’s nothing new here for Atlanta.

for anyone who’s been here long enough to remember, in Maynard’s first
term Reggive Eaves was caught orchestrating a massive cheating scandal
involving promoting folks primarly on the basis of race.

at first, Maynard’s own “special co-counsel” said yup, guilty. fraud,
cheating, lying, promoting racial bigotry, everything short of original sin. but since Maynard didn’t like the result of his own investigation, he disallowed it.

this is essentially the same crap, different day and different stage.
something run by the city of Atlanta has been found broken and fraudulent, and job one is to deny, deny, deny.

job two is to find a scapegoat the city’s power structure can offer up.


June 18th, 2010
8:37 pm

Hall won’t be fired – look at what happened in DeKalb – Lewis was given a raise and praised to the heavens UNTIL the DA’s office got involved and he was indicted. So unless something like this happens – Hall will get a big raise and sail right along. School Boards aren’t concerned with our teachers and children – no matter how much BS they feed you and try to make you believe they do.


June 18th, 2010
8:54 pm

@Dekalb Parent, not sure when they took their EOCTs, but some systems, like Chatham, are just finishing the school year, so I’m not real surprised that they don’t have the statewide EOCT results yet.

Dunwoody Mom

June 18th, 2010
9:12 pm

The EOCT scores for the first semester for DeKalb County Schools, those on Block Schedule, are listed on the DCSS website.


June 18th, 2010
9:44 pm

Maureen you have made it clear that in your position, you are not a reporter, thus you are able to offer your opinion. In light of the points Ed Johnson made, and in light of your stated purpose to advocate for “what’s best for Georgia’s students” are you now ready, for the sake of the students in Atlanta, to call for an independent investigation of APS?


June 18th, 2010
9:46 pm

We are the readers of this blog, and the other editorial blogs giving the AJC a free pass when they have yet to call for an independent investigation of what is now beyond a shadow of a doubt, widespread, systemic cheating?

Readers, do your job.

Ed Johnson

June 18th, 2010
9:48 pm

@bootney farnsworth at 7:40 pm
Let’s say Atlanta taxpayers have been bamboozled. To your point, have we paid the bamboozlers to bamboozle us? You bet!

@Cheat sheet at 7:41 pm
You make an excellent case of why it’s a whitewash. You show how, when given numbers, the inclination is the rank them. It’s a surefire sign of innumeracy. While innumeracy conforms very nicely to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) theory typical of business management, it holds devastating consequences for children in K-12 public education.

Look, and I hope this analogy isn’t too offensive, but a graphic sense of reality needs to be injected into the nonsense: A female is gang raped, 10 participated. The gang leader set it up to happen. The 10 participated out of fear of the gang leader’s wrath if they failed to do their part. Later, investigation finds 2 made full penetration, 3 made one-half penetration, 5 made one-sixteenth penetration, the gang leader watched. After ranking the perpetrators by penetration depth, the investigators decided to single out only those two who made the deepest penetration and not bother with the rest. And of course this means the gang leader comes out cleared, having argued she could not have possibly raped anther female!

Get the point? Want to rethink the “big cheaters-only” idea?

Lee the Taxpayer

June 18th, 2010
11:12 pm

First off, cheating is wrong. Period.

Second, let’s put this in perspective: 12 schools out of 100. 100 alleged teachers out of 3,600. There is no mass, widespread, systematic “cheating” in Atlanta, as has been said irresponsibly by too many people.

When is the last time most people on this post have been in an Atlanta public school? Well, I have, and I see what the teachers are doing and what the kids are accomplishing: lab work, robotics, debate team, academic college scholarships! Yes, these children are capable of doing high-level work.

If we take some time to investigate all of the facts — and not just rely on the AJC’s slant — we will see ALL of the resources that’s been invested in this school system over the last 8, 9, 10 years.

And guess what? During that time, Dr. Hall had the courage to “encourage” or straight out get rid of nearly all of the principals. A real reform superintendent has one of the most difficult jobs on Earth — I wouldn’t want it.

That lady should be celebrated, not vilified.

Let’s come down hard on the people who committed the wrongdoing. Let’s NOT throw out the barrel because of a few rotten peaches.

By the numbers

June 18th, 2010
11:28 pm

The person in charge during the largest cheating scandal in Georgia’s educational history, over 250,000 wrong to right answers should be celebrated? The person in charge during two major bid rigging scandals, should be celebrated?

The person who’s chief assistant said that, in response to falsified discipline data in over 40 schools, that perhaps the reason there is no discipline data is that reforms are working so well there are no discipline problems to report should be celebrated?

40 schools, zero discipline problems, and not one word of accountability from the top, and we should celebrate that person?

With what, the Bernie Madoff award?

Lee the fool

June 18th, 2010
11:31 pm

If you lived in a town of 3,600 people Lee, and 100 people committed 250,000 crimes, would you celebrate the sheriff for a job well done?

Lee the fool

June 18th, 2010
11:32 pm

I guess Lee the taxpayer forgot about the thousands of dollars APS spent on Penn Payne, trying to claim that there was no evidence of cheating.