Former Perdue adviser: Leaders of systems implicated in CRCT scandal ought to step down

I first met researcher Ben Scafidi, then at GSU, at a conference on school resegregation where he presented a paper. Soon after, he became Gov. Perdue’s education adviser. We have philosophical differences, but I think he is true to his principles and I think he is always forthcoming on what he’s thinking.

You will likely agree once you read his piece on the CRCT cheating probe.

Now chairman of the state’s new Charter Schools Commission and a professor at Georgia College & State University, Scafidi wrote this piece for the op-ed page.

By Ben Scafidi

When Bernie Madoff and his accomplices embezzled billions from clients out of the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, it wasn’t the traders who ran the company who were sent to prison. Instead, Madoff himself earned a life sentence for the collapse of his securities firm.

So, too, should those at the top of public schools that have experienced widespread cheating during the Georgia CRCT be held accountable for what happened in their schools. For top brass to keep their jobs would be like BP’s CEO Tony Hayward keeping control of the company despite the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

But the education establishment continues to protect itself at the expense of Georgia children. Since this scandal broke last year and evidence emerged this month that cheating was indisputable in hundreds of schools, all we’ve heard is excuses including blaming kids for doodling on their exams to failure to properly erase and change their own answers.

The state identified classrooms as having “cheating problems” if the number of erasures from wrong to right answers were dramatically above the average for their grade level and subject.

An audit of the tests showed that there were, in fact, an extremely high number of answers changed on tests, and they weren’t changed by students.

What is the likelihood that a classroom of 20 students had erasures from wrong to right?  If this occurred by random chance, the likelihood is one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That number is too large to even have a name — but with 39 zeros, it is quite an impossible chance.

Yet last year, some school districts were able to beat those odds because some wanted to take an easy route to show success for their students.

Once state monitors were put in place, test scores statewide dropped significantly this year in many schools that obviously had cheating problems. That leads many of us to believe that cheating occurred on important exams in 2009 and potentially earlier.

● In Dougherty County, for example, the fifth-grade reading pass rate at Martin Luther King Elementary in Albany dropped by 45 percentage points, after the independent probe of the 2009 test results showed cheating.

● At Atlanta Public Schools’ White Elementary, 88 percent of third-graders supposedly passed the CRCT’s math exam in 2009. This year, with monitors in place, only 27 percent of third-graders passed the math exam at the same school. This disparity in results should not only be shocking to parents but taxpayers who pay high taxes to fund public schools.

● National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, by contrast, increased significantly between 2002 and 2009 — a statistic that Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall defends as indicative of foolproof testing in her school system. Yet the sample of students taking the exam has changed since 2002 versus 2009, leading to questions whether the NAEP sample truly reflects the population of the school district and thus the true learning outcomes of Atlanta students.

It all comes down to this: Adults are supposed to set an example for children and teach them how to be successful grown-ups. When adults cheat, they send the wrong message to pupils that shortcuts are acceptable over hard work and learning.

This scandal is particularly harmful to kids because under state policy, those who fail the CRCT often are entitled to extra tutoring. Georgia parents are being misled about the quality of their public schools and whether their child is learning.

For the next few weeks, there is a fear that we will continue to see the business community enable school leaders in Atlanta and other districts where there has been cheating. To date, no leader had demanded real accountability for a scandal that hurts young people. Until all stakeholders say enough is enough, they, too, are morally responsible for another generation of children being promoted without basic skills needed to read, write, earn college admission or even obtain a significant job.

Just as BP’s Hayward will eventually go, the stakeholders of public education will have to rise up and seek the resignation of those who make excuses for cheating and failure. Kids don’t deserve the blame. Responsibility starts at the top.

122 comments Add your comment

Finally

June 29th, 2010
11:21 pm

Blog moderator, right when some of us are at the point of being totally fed up with what isn’t talked about on your blog, you go and redeem yourself because this DEFINITELY needs to be talked about.

EduPAC must be having a fit right now. Good! Because FINALLY, a “name” says what needs to be said: The buck stops here, and if you are at the helm when the biggest disaster in your company happens, whether it’s an oil company or a school system, YOU need to be held accountable.

“We have philosophical differences…”

Do you have a philosophical difference with him calling for the head of BP to resign, or the head of the school system most heavily implicated in cheating to resign? Or neither?

Finally

June 29th, 2010
11:26 pm

“To date, no leader had demanded real accountability for a scandal that hurts young people.”

Where is AJC editor Andre Jackson? Or is giving him too much credit to call him a leader?

Finally

June 29th, 2010
11:51 pm

“Until all stakeholders say enough is enough, they, too, are morally responsible…”

Maureen will any of the AJC reporters be contacting either Esther Campi or Chanta Waller, the people listed on the EduPAC website as media contacts, for comment in light of this column?

cobb mother

June 30th, 2010
12:52 am

It seems like there are several Superintents and Board who need to resign. This includes; Atlanta, Dekalb, Cobb, etc.. All of these Supt. and Boards have shown they have issues. Cobb had bogus use of the teacher evalution and needs to fire the principals, that were the Superintents lap dogs too.

[...] original here: Former Perdue adviser: Leaders of systems implicated in CRCT … Post a [...]

Shame

June 30th, 2010
4:29 am

Shame, Shame Shame!!!!! It is criminal that we have allowed these school systems to rob children of educational services they would have otherwise received if their scores had not been manipulated. It appears that this horrific crime is being minimized by selected business and community leaders such as EDUPAC and the Chamber of Commerce. I commend Gov. Perdue and his staff for their diligence in making sure that justice is served. The Blue Ribbon Panel…….. well what can I say. They continue to prolong their findings in hopes the public will forget, while the new school year is just around the corner and leaders will go about business as usual…..only in Georgia! I hope school leaders will be held accountable as well. I cannot for the life of me understand how highly educated and skilled school administrators failed to question statistically impossible gains. Do the right thing and step down so that the system can begin to heal and move forward. I am outraged that our children have once again been left behind as Georgia continues to lag the Nation in academic performance.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 30th, 2010
6:22 am

THIS IS THE REAL FACE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN GEORGIA….& THE NATION…LIBERALs & THE ACLU LOVE THIS…

A CONSERVATIVE

June 30th, 2010
6:24 am

LIBERALs always lower the standards to lift minorities…in appearance only..

Mid-South Philosopher

June 30th, 2010
6:35 am

Assuming that were are going to continue to place the “faith” of our “educational souls” in the “savior” known as “high-stakes standardized tests” (aka: the Georgia CRCT), we had better find some impartial “judges” to administer the application of that assessment to students as well as to evaluate their performances delivered thereupon.

In Design

June 30th, 2010
7:05 am

The fatcats in georgia education earning obscene salaries and letting all this fraud / cheating occur should resign immediately. The state’s “education” system is a joke—a national embarrassment, but these morons keep getting this big money jobs due to friends and connections in politics.

The Truth

June 30th, 2010
7:11 am

Weak people show up on both sides of the aisle.

The Rev. Dudley Doright of the First Apostolic Church of the Good God Almighty in Christ Jesus

June 30th, 2010
7:19 am

This whole mess reminds me of that Bible verse from the Book of Hezekiah:

“Blessed is he who expecteth nothing for they shall not be disappointed.”

All of those implicated in this scandal and those in leadership positions should be cast into outter darkness.

funny

June 30th, 2010
7:20 am

B Hall reads this and just shakes her head; “catch if you can”; anyone step up to my mountain and Im gonna throw down the race card, again.

The Rev. Dudley Doright of the First Apostolic Church of the Good God Almighty in Christ Jesus

June 30th, 2010
7:23 am

Most of the states with low academic standing are those that have been under the control of Republicans for decades. Blaming “libruls” for this mess just won’t flush!

jw

June 30th, 2010
7:31 am

The guy is right – it isn’t the children committing the crime here – I am a teacher and I also know there is a lot of pressure to succeed, but I also know we are supposed to do it the right way – if cheating occurred, and it is almost a guarantee that it did – the folks responsible have to go – it isn’t right to have that kind of staff working at a school – if the building admin didn’t have the guts to stand up and tell the central office we weren’t going to cheat – the what does that say to the leadership provided to the children in his/her care.

Get it right – in a year when many quality educators lost their jobs because of whatever cutesy name you want to call it – having the cheaters still working is completely wrong – Atlanta and all the other districts being investigated need to make it right to their children, community, district and state.

Gut it up and do the right thing! We tell our students to do that – what’s so hard about us following the lead we preach?

jw

June 30th, 2010
7:32 am

error patrol – ” to cheat – then what” …..?

SilverFox

June 30th, 2010
7:35 am

In Design you are right on. Such a pity. Our so called leaders keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results.

Dunwoody Mom

June 30th, 2010
7:54 am

I’m afraid that the “cheating” and the “gaming” will continue as long as these standardized tests are the sole measure of the success of a student, teacher, school system. Until as such time, as common sense is returned to the educational process in this country, the cheating and the gaming will continue.

cheating is wrong, but high stakes testing is out of control

June 30th, 2010
8:03 am

i teach at an affluent school near Augusta, GA. preparation for testing begins in the Fall and continues during the year at various times. mind you i’m not talking about curriculum: physically putting the students in testing situations just to prepare them for the psychological aspect of a major test is part of what we now believe to be necessary to ensure student achievement. how did we let this happen? we’re getting closer and closer to spending equal time testing as we do preparing students to take the the test; is there no room for teaching and learning anymore?

EnoughAlready

June 30th, 2010
8:10 am

It goes on in every school system, these are just the scape goats. If we really look closer at the issues going on in school, we would request the resignation of many leaders in our school systems.

Class of 2013 can’t get here fast enough.

Northview (Ex)Teacher

June 30th, 2010
8:12 am

Sonny Purdue is an idiot, and if anyone needs to resign, it is him.

Dunwoody Mom

June 30th, 2010
8:16 am

And it’s not just here in Georgia either – the cheating is perverse nationwide.

Teacher&mom

June 30th, 2010
8:21 am

Cheating is wrong. Dr. Hall is guilty of creating a culture that became rabid about higher test scores. Whether or not she was aware of the cheating is irrelevant. It happened on her watch and she is responsible. That is part of the package of running a school system. When things are going well, you get the accolades but when things go bad, you get the blame.

She will forever be remembered for this mess. Whatever credibility she had as a superintendent is gone. Every decision will be questioned and compared to her inability to accept responsibility for this mess. Once a CEO has lost credibility, it is rare they get it back. THis is why companies fire them and find another leader. Keeping them is like a scab that won’t heal and every time something goes wrong, it’s like picking at the scab.

Beverly Hall is the poster child for NCLB and the current Obama administrations education policy. She, along with Michelle Rhee, epitomize the idea that all you have to do is rule with a firm hand, demand higher test scores, accept no excuses from the teachers or administrators, buy into “reform” curriculum, and you’ll see achievement. I don’t think the standardized testing fury or the premises behind NCLB and RttT have reached a tipping point, however, I do think Beverly Hall’s testing scandal may have helped this mess reach a critical mass.

It's not limited!

June 30th, 2010
8:33 am

@ cobb mother
June 30th, 2010
12:52 am

“It seems like there are several Superintents and Board who need to resign. This includes; Atlanta, Dekalb, Cobb, etc.. All of these Supt. and Boards have shown they have issues. Cobb had bogus use of the teacher evalution and needs to fire the principals, that were the Superintents lap dogs too.”

Don’t forget Fulton & Gwinnett – like it’s been said, they have also cheated – it’s just a more elaborate set-up!

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

June 30th, 2010
8:39 am

Don’t put Michelle Rhee in the same sentence as Beverly Hall. There’s nothing wrong with requiring accountability of a school system’s employees; there is something wrong with manipulating test data and personnel.

Dunwoody Mom

June 30th, 2010
8:45 am

You do realize that Michelle Ree believes that the “quality” of the teacher is the only impediment to a child’s academic success? That their family life, or their poverty play no role in their academic success? That thinking is wrong and naive. Time will tell if Michelle Rhee’s policies are the right ones for the DC schools.

ConcernedFultonMom

June 30th, 2010
8:47 am

@In Design “a national embarrassment, but these morons keep getting this big money jobs due to friends and connections in politics.”

So true…and it goes to prove that there needs to be a clearing out from the top down. It’s so backwards. Those that do the actual work are the ones that get stepped on, while all of the “brainiacs” at the top could really care less…

and still – the children are the ones who are really being LEFT BEHIND

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

June 30th, 2010
8:48 am

What APS parents should really be outraged about is the shameless excuse-making and race-card-playing of APS spokesman Keith Bromery (under the direction of Bev Hall). Bromery told us the test-score cheating was the result of poor students (read: minority students) working diligently to correct their own answers under the explicit direction to do so by their skilled, diligent instructors, and that we were FURTHER victimizing these ALREADY DISADVANTAGED children by accusing district personnel of widespread cheating. What a concoction! The only remotely plausible one he could possibly have dreamt up, but still.

Parents, this is a theft and you are the victims. You don’t owe Bev Hall and Keith Bromery another penny of your taxes; there is no remaining obligation to them, financial or sentimental. Thank them and instruct your elected school rep to send them on their way.

two cents worth

June 30th, 2010
8:55 am

Didn’t Beverly Hall get a bonus last year based on the increased test scores? AJC – go after that one.

Smoke Rise Mom

June 30th, 2010
9:12 am

DeKalb County, you have an opportunity to rid us of more than half of our dysfunctinal school board. Please… And let that put fear into the rest of them.

Readers do your job

June 30th, 2010
9:18 am

It doesn’t bother anyone than the editorial voice of the AJC, Andre Jackson, has refused to write an editorial about this now that this year’s devastatingly low test scores have come out?

grifter

June 30th, 2010
9:45 am

It was CONSERVATIVE business-minded individuals who thought standardized testing was a gift from Jesus and that it, like deregulation in the financial system, would create consumer pressure at the bottom to keep schools performing well. These morons in the Bush admin (including the top one) tried to run our schools like they ran the financial system, deregulated and out of control. It is no suprise that schools in Georgia and other states started cheating to make the numbers.

SGaDawgette

June 30th, 2010
9:49 am

Well, well, well. Now someone with “credibility” (as opposed to the anonymous rank & file or those outside education) has come out and called for heads to roll. Think anything will change as a result? Doubtful, but hope springs eternal. Should a miracle actually occur, perhaps all the supers & minions will go and we can dispense with this ridiculous “we have to pay this salary because neighboring systems pay more” argument.

bootney farnsworth

June 30th, 2010
10:12 am

gee, somebody finally looked at a tree and called it a tree.

on one hand its nice SOMEBODY finally admitted the obvious.
but why did it take so damn long?

and this mess doesn’t stop at the primary level. higher ed is
sick, too.

folks, we’ve got major problems.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

June 30th, 2010
10:15 am

“You do realize that Michelle Ree believes that the “quality” of the teacher is the only impediment to a child’s academic success? That their family life, or their poverty play no role in their academic success? That thinking is wrong and naive. Time will tell if Michelle Rhee’s policies are the right ones for the DC schools.”

I don’t “realize” any such thing. I do know the she considers teachers the key element in education; the DC teachers just voted 80% in approval for their latest contract, so seemingly they agree with her. i don’t agree that “poverty” is a bar to an education. I think it has been a great excuse for generations of urban “educators,” though. They have patronized urban, and mainly black, kids by holding that they cannot conform to any norms of behavior, that they cannot learn, that nothing can be expected of them. This, in turn, has allowed these “educators” to deny them the energy, resources and talent needed to help these kids rise above their surroundings, all the while making a damn good buck in return for abysmal results.

bootney farnsworth

June 30th, 2010
10:19 am

probably the best way to force something to happen is for
a bunch of parents or taxpayers to hit the state with a
major class action lawsuit.

and target some folks like Perdue and Hall personally.

the state watchdogs, the AJC, the feds will never act
on this – no matter how bad it gets.

bootney farnsworth

June 30th, 2010
10:21 am

poverty has squat to do with educational success.
desire, culture, and parental involvement are everything.

and none of the above have a damn thing to do with class,
economic status, or race.

Dunwoody Mom

June 30th, 2010
10:24 am

Teachers in DC voted for their contract because Rhee bribed the teachers with “give up your seniority and tenure” and you will be eligible to make up to $130,000 a year, which would make them the highest-paid teachers in America. What would you do?

Free Market Educator

June 30th, 2010
10:57 am

The real problem is the CRCT. Even if given honestly, because of the low cut scores and test content itself, the results are misleading at best. This is just another money making/global control scheme of the bankster cabal. Follow the money.

On a more serious note, how are Georgia educators planning for the mass Gulf Coast exodus?
http://www.rense.com/general91/prb.htm

Joey

June 30th, 2010
11:03 am

Ben Scafidi is an idiot. As the article above states, he was Governor Sonny Perdue’s education advisor. Well, you see where Sonny has taken education! Scafidi, as evidenced by his role as Charter School Commission Chair, would like to see the downfall of public schools in favor of vouchers.

Readers do your job

June 30th, 2010
11:05 am

gee, somebody finally looked at a tree and called it a tree.

on one hand its nice SOMEBODY finally admitted the obvious.
but why did it take so damn long?

Why is it STILL taking the AJC editorial board so long? Why is AJC editor Andre Jackson hiding in the shadows? Why are the readers of this blog letting the editorial board hide on this without calling for some kind of accountability?

DeKalb Educated

June 30th, 2010
11:12 am

This FRIDAY is the last day for someone to qualify to run against MS. Z Roberts on the DEKALB SCHOOL BOARD. Someone with an ounce of sense, a pound of ingegrity and no anger towards any racial group, PLEASE QUALIFY NOW and run for the Dekalb County School Board. Please get rid of the crooks and employers of family and friends program at DeKalb. Let us start to educate our children! Not employ uneducated, angry women.

I agree with Joey

June 30th, 2010
11:17 am

Ben Scafidi is an idiot and he’s just piling on trying to discredit Dr. Hall and the wonderful job she’s done at Atlanta Public Schools. Look at the stats he uses to try to prove his point.

Scafidi talks about a one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance like it proves something. It doesn’t. Other things that are just as unlikely happen every single day. People get struck by lightening, even though the odds are the same or probably even worse, and you don’t hear Scafidi saying lightening isn’t real.

And when they came up with these fancy pants statistics, they didn’t take into account Dr. Hall has been a leader in using and using researched based best practices and data to drive instruction which is the real reason the test scores went up, not just because a couple of people may have cheated.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

June 30th, 2010
11:34 am

@ I agree with Joey:

Scalfidi doesn’t have to say lightening (sic) isn’t real. It isn’t real. “Lightning,” is, however, real.

I bet Dr. Hall is cringing right now about the fact that the only person who will stand up for her on this blog (one more than she deserves) made such a weak case on her behalf. “A couple of people may have cheated,” huh? You’re even WORSE than Bromery, who at least showed the initiative to invent a plausible lie.

By amazing coincidence, it turns out there is a one in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 you will contribute something meaningful to this discussion. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen!

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

June 30th, 2010
11:40 am

“Rhee bribed the teachers”: it’s called a contract; a bribe is an entirely different thing. Poverty doesn’t affect the ability to learn in a significant way, but attitude does. I and my 5 siblings produced 4 college graduates, including two engineers, while growing up on welfare. You can keep patting “the poor” on the head, and wringing your hands along with the “educators” of DeKalb and Atlanta, if it makes you ‘feel’ better.

“trying to discredit Dr. Hall and the wonderful job she’s done at Atlanta Public Schools”: that is not a hard thing to do. even for a Perdue appointee. That’s when you know things are really bad, when Sonny has you dead-to-rights.

TW

June 30th, 2010
11:52 am

Walton High School: #79 in Newsweek’s top 1500 ranking for 2010 – 1st GA school listed!

See what happens when the community knows how to correctly use the public school?

Go Raiders!

Jennifer

June 30th, 2010
11:55 am

Why isn’t this guy running for State Superintendent ? Woe is me. :(

EducationCEO

June 30th, 2010
12:31 pm

I swear, I was not going to comment until I saw who wrote the letter. Ben Scafidi, of all people, is in no position to call for or suggest that anyone resign. He is the ‘chair’ of a charter commission that: (1) Is not operating under the guidelines stipulated; (2) allowed commission members to meet with petitioners and vote on charters even though the required number of commission members, 3, were not present; (3) condones the practice of telling certain groups, consisting of former administrators and superintendents, that they are not qualified to oversee a charter school (all those groups are minority-led); (4) suggests that petitioners ‘partner’ with for profit EMO/CMO groups (this is the push for privatized education everyone is worried about); and (5) does not respond to correspondence as most professionals do. Perhaps he should spend time reflecting on his own professional practices before he demands the resignation of others.

Sit tight, you just got appointed to the commission. Why are you trying to leave so soon? Did you realize that the commission’s rulings could be deemed discriminatory should those groups decided to file a class action lawsuit?

Teaching in FL is worse

June 30th, 2010
12:33 pm

Grifter @ 9:45: Praise the lord-you nailed it. I thought the Bushies were the only ones pushing us off a cliff, but just who is pushing the “reform” in the current adminstration? The Gates Foundation. We all know how scrupulous and principled Bill Gates is.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…..

EducationCEO

June 30th, 2010
12:33 pm

Out of curiosity, what does a ‘regular’ person, say a parent or teacher, have to do (or who do they have to pay/sleep with) to get the opportunity to have one of their editorials published? The AJC wants to hear from everyone BUT parents and teachers. That leads me to believe that they don’t want to (or are afraid to) publish what’s really going on. Hmmmmm