After reading the AJC’s long piece this morning on the ties that many members of the panel investigating possible CRCT cheating within Atlanta Public Schools have with the system or its leadership, I think we are likely to see a second followup investigation by the state itself.
Both the delay in the completion of the report – the deadline has passed and APS now has an extension to Aug. 2 — and the panel’s focus on 12 schools out of the 58 flagged for abnormal rates of wrong to right erasures on state exams appear troubling to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, which ordered a statewide test sheet audit after an AJC investigation into inprobable score swings. At the state Board of Education meeting this week, there was also a clear sense of emerging impatience from the board as well.
The problem is that GOSA is a small office that lacks the staff for an in depth probe. In addition, the office loses its chief backer in November when Gov. Sonny Perdue steps down, and it is unknown now what a new governor might do with the agency.
According to the AJC story:
The “blue-ribbon” commission appointed to oversee the investigation is populated with business executives and others who have done business with the school district or who have other civic or social ties to the district or to Hall.
One of the firms chosen to run the inquiry also is a school district vendor, having collected $1.7 million for other work performed as recently as 2008.
And, raising perhaps the most serious doubts, the district has been far more involved in investigating itself than originally suggested. Administrators from the district’s central office took part in questioning lower-level educators at all but a dozen of the 58 Atlanta schools under scrutiny. High-ranking district officials — described by a spokeswoman as “director-level” employees — took charge of conducting interviews at two dozen of the schools.
The district’s role in the investigation represents “a major conflict of interest,” said Barbara Payne, executive director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation. “APS should not be involved in any of these reviews. APS should not be involved at all.”
The familiarity between the investigators and their targets could color public perception when the Atlanta Board of Education receives the report on the inquiry, perhaps later this month. Twice already, Atlanta has missed deadlines to complete the investigation.
Take a look at the entire story. I know that several of the panelists are longtime advocates for public education, but their relationship with APS Superintendent Beverly Hall undermines their efficacy in this investigation by raising the issue of partiality.