CRCT investigation into APS: Are there too many ties that blind panelists to wrongdoing?

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.

139 comments Add your comment

One step farther

July 11th, 2010
1:09 pm

Should we go so far to say that, by choosing to participate, some of these panelists failed to live up to the highest ethical standard?

ExAPS

July 11th, 2010
1:09 pm

Oh, Maureen, I hope you are right and that the state does their own investigation. I worked at APS at Parks Middle (we were #1 on the state severe list). I STRONGLY believe that the administration there cheated. It is outrageous that the poor students, teachers, and parents have to wait until a couple of days before school starts to find out if their school’s leaders are crooks. Beverly Hall is an embarassment and a disgrace along with so many others. Please go back to the Bronx.

jdmcallister

July 11th, 2010
1:24 pm

The District Attorney ought to be investigating. Has anyone asked him why he is not?

jc

July 11th, 2010
1:25 pm

Clearly APS cheated at numberous schools and the fault starts at the top with Beverly Hall. So much for her many honors.

BeScared

July 11th, 2010
1:27 pm

If you think the “Cheating Scandal” is an embarassment to APS and Dr. Hall; what about the CFO Chuck Burbridge who lives in Chicago. He works three (3) days a week in Atlanta and goes back to Chicago regularly at the tax payers’ expense. He has been doing this since he was hired.

Dr. Hall is greasing the palms of the people who do her dirty work (CLL administrators, Lawyers, H.R. Executive Director, OIR Staff, Executive Directors, Facilities Managers, SODEXO, Contractors, etc.).

It is time for Dr. Hall to GO and take your administrators with you for the good of the children .

check check

July 11th, 2010
1:43 pm

@BeScared

you are absolutely correct about the grease; this is a BIG OLE money making machine for Hall and her cronies.

Really, she makes over 300,000 dollars a year not including the perks: driver, expense account, etc… it is going to take a lawsuit by parents to pry them away from the money.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJC . AJC said: RT @AJCGetSchooled: CRCT investigation into APS: Are there too many ties that blind panelists to wrongdoing? http://bit.ly/bulXpz [...]

?

July 11th, 2010
1:55 pm

In light of this extremely damaging report, how can the editorial board justify their silence?

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

July 11th, 2010
1:57 pm

Please- PLEASE- do not suggest DA Paul Howard investigate! That man’s record makes Bev look like a superstar performer with the ethics of an angel.
I agree with the post that those on the investigating commission have questionable ethics for the fact of their ties to the system and the administration; their lack of judgment speaks volumes of why this is taking so long, and the procedures (using central office personnel, etc.) are so obviously flawed. They view as a PR effort, apparently, when I see it as a criminal matter.

GAE is a JOKE

July 11th, 2010
2:03 pm

GAE’s endorses Judson Hill??????

Pro-voucher, anti-public school Judson Hill?

I guess if the GAE was the US ARMY they’d edorse bin laden.

catlady

July 11th, 2010
2:09 pm

Give GOSA what it needs to truly investigate. Take the funds out of APS’ allotment.

Bring in the GBI, EEOC, SACS and any other acronymed group you can think of (CDC, FAA, FDIC, TNT, whatever). GBI, because there needs to be a fraud investigation. EEOC because of the wrongs that have been apparently committed to African American students, SACS because of the culture that has harmed the system.

The state cannot sit on its hands any longer. The DOE is being played like ineffectual fools all because someone is unwilling to call it as it is.

Phil T.

July 11th, 2010
2:31 pm

I guess John Trotter and MACE had it all right again about Atlanta’s so-called “independent” inquiry. When is the AJC going to give Trotter and MACE credit for being right about the cheating, cover-up, bullying, corruption, lack of discipline, money, etc., not only in the Atlanta and DeKalb school systems but in the other large systems too? Is Trotter the AJC’s “blue tick hound” which “trees” the corruption for the AJC staff? He’s been saying “follow the money”! No! The committee is not independent at all. About as independent as a Josef Stalin-appointed committee investigating complaints of prisoners in the Gulag. Maureen, what does one have to do for you to see the corruption?

Shout

July 11th, 2010
2:33 pm

Maureen it is time for there to be a thorough and forensic audit of the Atlanta Public Schools finance Dept. Then wait and watch the head roll. Anyone agree!

Talking about Trotter

July 11th, 2010
2:37 pm

Talking about Trotter, I enjoyed his analysis of the governor’s race…http://thegeorgiacitizen.wordpress.com/

Talking about Trotter

July 11th, 2010
2:40 pm

catlady

July 11th, 2010
2:59 pm

So do you think B Hall sings, “Blessed be the ties that blind” at church?

chillywilly

July 11th, 2010
3:00 pm

Shout, I agree with you. It is definitely time to conduct a forensic audit of APS Finance Dept. The CFO, Chuck Burbridge is a joke. He works a few days a week then jets off to Chicago for the weekend. I heard that he hired a new Deputy CFO, Brad Johnson (from Cobb County Schools) & Holly Keller (from Cobb County) as Grants Manager. They both earn in excess of $90,000.00 a year. The Keller hire is very suspicious to some employees. On top of that, he has a Comptroller, Nader Sohrab (from Cobb County) on staff who’s paid in excess of $100,000.00 a year. Not to mention Accounting Manager, Crissi Calhoun who earns $99,000.00 a year. I also heard that they have a consultant that they pay about $13,000.00 a week. This same consultant spends the night in the building and sleeps underneath the desk. They said she & Keller were personally hired by Chuck Burbridge. Now why to you need all of these top heavy managers & consultants? Cheating must be a way of life at APS. I understand that two of the managers in Finance have cheated the time & attendance records. I heard that they took time off from work and coded the books as if they were on the job.

APS is a gravy train for highly paid, unproductive managers & vendors. APS paid a $100,000.00 invoice in the amount of $1 Million in error. The vendor had to tell them that he was overpaid. Was this an honest mistake or is….. never mind. How many more vendors have been overpaid “in error” (hmmmmmm)?

Attentive Parent

July 11th, 2010
3:19 pm

Maureen,

Can you print the complete list of members of the Committee?

There may be additional connections that are not as readily apparent.

Also an unbiased and complete review would likely raise questions on the instructional practices and curriculum mandated by APS and why it is especially not suitable for students who lack informal remediation at home.

Someone might notice that what worked poorly for APS is precisely what is being planned to be pushed under the Common Core banner.

Remember it’s not about the learning needs of the kids. It’s about preserving the gravy train.

Carioco

July 11th, 2010
3:21 pm

“…our hearts in Christian love…the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.” Yeah, yeah, the ties that bind! Who was so naive in the very beginning to even think that this committee would be anything but a complete whitewash, a complete sham and farce, a complete John Mitchell-led cover-up? Darn folks, why are you so naive? It’s ALL (not partly, but ALL) about the money. John Trotter’s been saying it for years, but folk prefer to be blindly idealistic. That’s ALL it was about in Clayton County. “You can’t let John Trotter have that kind of control! He knows too much! He’ll cut off our money!” Ha! He probably would have.

Attentive Parent

July 11th, 2010
3:25 pm

On that math and science prof devt, did Spelman help them develop the “Hula Hoop Math” or “Musical Mathematics Problem Solving” sessions they had in 2006?

I_Know!

July 11th, 2010
3:34 pm

I am glad we are starting to talk about APS and their corruption. This decade has been the most successful “Wag the Dog” event ever! For those of you who are not familiar with Wag the dog, here is the synopsis: “A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor… When they get together, they can make you believe anything.” Through massive cheating and a few high profile special programs thrown into the mix, Beverly Hall has convinced the nation that APS “is on the way up.” However, it is all one big spin and if you don’t believe it, volunteer in some of the schools that have a 99% prior pass rate on the CRCT and you will find children that have not even learned how to string three words together orally or in writing. It is the biggest crime that has ever been committed against a group. The children of Atlanta Public Schools have been robbed of a decent education. This does not mean that there are not some outstanding teachers and other staff. Also, it does not mean that there are not some well performing, effective schools. However, on the whole, the system is in shambles due to the toxic, corrupt leadership that has been allowed to grow like a disease. People in APS are afraid to speak up about that they see because they know they will lose their jobs. Ethics, mandate to report certain things…whatever…it all goes out the window. The APS spend a lot of time trying to identify and rid themselves against anyone they think might have betrayed them. This power wielding, authoritarian, matriarch needs to go. There are many unqualified people getting high salaries in Atlanta. The focus has never been on the children. It has always been on buying cars, houses, jewelry, clothes, hair etc. The worst thing about APS is the way the teachers are treated. Teachers are frequently threatened and verbally abused. They are spoken to like little children by parents that have not yet learned any parenting skills. The only reason more people don’t quit APS is because they pay more than most districts. Certain administrators have had serious reports substantiated agains them that include physical violence towards staff but they have managed to keep their jobs.

oldtimer

July 11th, 2010
3:41 pm

A whole heck of a lot of schools are gravy trains for family and friends.

I_Know!

July 11th, 2010
3:43 pm

how long does it take for a comment to post? Mine do not seem to be posting!

I_Know!

July 11th, 2010
3:45 pm

So my question about posting a comment showed up right away but my lengthy comment from 30 mins ago is nowhere to be found!

I_Know!

July 11th, 2010
3:46 pm

I will try this again: I am glad we are starting to talk about APS and their corruption. This decade has been the most successful “Wag the Dog” event ever! For those of you who are not familiar with Wag the dog, here is the synopsis: “A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor… When they get together, they can make you believe anything.” Through massive cheating and a few high profile special programs thrown into the mix, Beverly Hall has convinced the nation that APS “is on the way up.” However, it is all one big spin and if you don’t believe it, volunteer in some of the schools that have a 99% prior pass rate on the CRCT and you will find children that have not even learned how to string three words together orally or in writing. It is the biggest crime that has ever been committed against a group. The children of Atlanta Public Schools have been robbed of a decent education. This does not mean that there are not some outstanding teachers and other staff. Also, it does not mean that there are not some well performing, effective schools. However, on the whole, the system is in shambles due to the toxic, corrupt leadership that has been allowed to grow like a disease. People in APS are afraid to speak up about that they see because they know they will lose their jobs. Ethics, mandate to report certain things…whatever…it all goes out the window. The APS spend a lot of time trying to identify and rid themselves against anyone they think might have betrayed them. This power wielding, authoritarian, matriarch needs to go. There are many unqualified people getting high salaries in Atlanta. The focus has never been on the children. It has always been on buying cars, houses, jewelry, clothes, hair etc. The worst thing about APS is the way the teachers are treated. Teachers are frequently threatened and verbally abused. They are spoken to like little children by parents that have not yet learned any parenting skills. The only reason more people don’t quit APS is because they pay more than most districts. Certain administrators have had serious reports substantiated agains them that include physical violence towards staff but they have managed to keep their jobs.

Shout

July 11th, 2010
4:24 pm

It is time for an investigation of APS family & friends network that is being conducted through the hiring process. Has anyone notice the selfmade positions that are created through APS Human Resource Division?

Team Teacher

July 11th, 2010
4:44 pm

In 2007 the APS received a 5 year, 22 million education grant from the GE Foundation, the philantropic organization of the General Electric Company, to help revamp math and science learning in grades K-12. 22 million dollars – was it all spend on ERASERS!???

Wherearethey?

July 11th, 2010
4:44 pm

What is heart breaking is the silence of the community as a whole. Where are the community activist that will often show up when they feel that someone did something unjust to someone (Derrick Bozeman, SCLC, NAACP, Parents, Ministers, Andrew Young, Al Sharpton etc…)? People are so quick to march for less but not for justice for our children.
Has everyone turned their heads because these are just poor students of color? If these kids attended the schools in Buckhead, the GBI, FBI, and you name it would be out for blood. I am sure if the students were of a different color, those parents would have shut the system down. Dr. Hall would have been long gone; but, who gives a flip, right?

Also, as they cut instructional positions at the school level, they continue to create positions at the central level.
Who in the world is making decisions and approving these decisions? We wonder why the young people make the decisions they make….

Hank Williams Jr.

July 11th, 2010
5:32 pm

catlady is clueless.

Betrayed

July 11th, 2010
5:36 pm

Why did it take so long for us to know that the panel was not as objective as first thought? APS is frightened pure and simple. The teachers and students will suffer. As soon as they think they are in the clear, they will start treating the teachers like dogs except for their chosen few.

When a certain Atlanta Principal was investigated by the PSC, he went down. He had staff who were also implicated but they are still at Douglass. High School He at least took the hit. The administration will not go quietly.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Power will give up nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. (paraphrasing here)

I watched them crucify my cousin for telling the truth at APS. They tried to humiliate my cousin. When my cousin hits them this time, they won’t know what happened because the others have decided not to go quietly into the night.

There are still honest people who work for APS.

Betrayed

July 11th, 2010
5:37 pm

still betrayed by the absolute power that corrupts absolutely at APS

Betrayed

July 11th, 2010
5:39 pm

No one can help the teachers and students in APS; no one.

john konop

July 11th, 2010
5:54 pm

As I said in the past this will be cover-up. They will push the workers and low level management in front of the bus, while Kathy Cox flew off to high paying lobbyist land and Beverley pushes workers in front of the bus.

Teacher&mom

July 11th, 2010
5:58 pm

@catlady…when I read about the APS fiasco I have a mental image of all the agencies you mentioned in your 2:09 post. (I’d also add Arne Duncan and all the feds who “think” Beverly Hall and APS is a shiny example of why their policies are working.)

Remember when your pesky brother or sister would stick their fingers in their ears and say over and over again…”I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.” Yeah, that’s the mental image that forms in my head :)

Teacher&mom

July 11th, 2010
5:59 pm

shining example…not shiny.

Concerned Educator

July 11th, 2010
6:15 pm

This latest news is very troubling, although not surprising. I work for APS and I am concerned that the “blue ribbon commission” (who awarded that blue ribbon) is only focusing on 12 schools. My school is on the severe list, and I haven’t seen or heard much about an investigation of our administrators. It is ludicrous that central office directors are interviewing principals or teachers. I have no proof of any cheating taking place at my school, but the discrepancy in the test data must be thoroughly investigated.

It is unfair to teachers, students, and parents to be led to believe that some of these children are level three students, when nothing but test scores validates this. Oftentimes their classroom performance shows a complete contradiction of their level three statuses. I’m frustrated because I don’t know what to do. Tip lines have been set up, but who can trust that the information reported won’t be used against the reporter.

I really wanted this chaos to be partially resolved before school starts. I was confident that APS would take major steps to begin changing the culture of “passing the test by any means necessary.” I guess I was too optimistic.

Concerned Educator

July 11th, 2010
6:31 pm

@betrayed: I feel your pain.

We just have to make sure that we continue to do what is best for our students, and believe that everything will be better sooner rather than later!

I_Know!

July 11th, 2010
6:53 pm

Maureen,

Can you please tell me why my comment is not being posted?
Thank you.

Shame

July 11th, 2010
7:31 pm

APS HAS NO REGARD FOR STATE MANDATES. THEY DO WHAT THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE….LIE, CHEAT AND STEAL. IF YOU ONLY KNEW THE LEVEL OF CORRUPTION!!!! FORGET PAUL HOWARD AND BRING IN GBI AND FBI

ScienceTeacher671

July 11th, 2010
7:45 pm

Well, here’s a chance for Brad Bryant to do something useful. Will he take it? That might give us a big clue as to whether he’s worth voting for in the fall.

Dr. John Trotter

July 11th, 2010
8:18 pm

I have been saying for years very openly (like a lone wolf howling in the wilderness) that Atlanta is corrupt to the very core. The Chamber of Commerce runs EduPac which hand-picks its candidates. They are the only candidates who then have money. And, we see very clearly from the excellent article this morning that money is funnelled back to the Chamber folk who dominate this so-called investigation team. Talking about pure political incest!

Dr. John Trotter

July 11th, 2010
8:20 pm

Where, by the way, is that pitiful Mark Elgart of SACS? He’s scared. He’s scared. He’s scared to shoot dat ball! Scared, aren’t you, Markie?

Lee

July 11th, 2010
8:25 pm

ROFLMAO. Beverly Hall loads the “Blue Ribbon Commission” up with business cronies who are not independent investigators and who have a vested interest in sweeping the trash under the rug.

Did anyone expect anything different? Really?????

Clayton County. Dekalb County. APS. The trifecta of inept administration.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

July 11th, 2010
8:28 pm

@Science Teacher: +1

Do you have something to do

July 11th, 2010
8:30 pm

Really people, especially J Trotter. Find something constructive to do with your time. Children need mentors not that stupid MACE

Wherearethey?

July 11th, 2010
9:04 pm

I heard that APS is not accrediated by SACS…How can we verify that for sure? If that is the case; maybe, that is why SACS is not getting involved.

Retired Educator

July 11th, 2010
9:11 pm

I haven’t read all the comments and perhaps it’s been said earlier, but I have to question why, during all this time the investigation has been going on, wasn’t this noticed earlier. To get to this point and this close to the new school year and come up with an oops seems mighty odd to me.

This should have been completed long ago so that the students and parents in the APS could look forward to moving on with the business of education. It sounds to me like they are at a do over point and that’s a shame.

Does someone really think AJC readers are that ignorant?

July 11th, 2010
9:27 pm

Did anyone see what former legal counsel to APS Rodney Moore wrote in Sunday’s AJC?

He wrote a letter to justify the $200k paid for Beverly Hall’s driver.

One of the excuses he gives, sorry I don’t have the exact words in front of me, is to say words to the effect that for every 100 parents who appreciated APS restoring discipline to some of the most challenging schools, there were a few parents upset that APS held students accountable for their behavior.

Is he just counting on the fact that readers won’t remember this is the same system that was cited by the federal government for falsifying data, by claiming 40 schools had zero discipline problems? Or the AJC story on South Atlanta, which claimed zero major discipline incidents, in direct contradiction to Atlanta Police Dept. records that say they made over 50 visits to that same school that very year? A story that APS begged off on ever explaining to the AJC by the way.

Now I’m sure somewhere, some APS student was held accountable for their behavior, but is Rodney Moore really making the claim that while he was there, there was an overall corporate culture of restoring discipline to the system?

He also praised APS for moving their workers out to a mold free environment. Does he really think that justifies the cost of a central office building widely derided for its cost by its nickname, the Taj Mahal?

It would be interesting to find out if APS officials approached Rodney Moore to write this, or if he is just so enamored with the integrity that APS officials have conducted themselves over the years that he did this on his own.

Maybe Rodney Moore will make a guest appearance on this blog to explain just exactly how he reconciles repeated instances of falsified discipline data with his claims that APS had a corporate culture of restoring discipline. Of course, he may find out that readers of this blog are nowhere near as ignorant as he apparently thinks readers of the Sunday AJC are.

chillywilly

July 11th, 2010
10:03 pm

Does Someone Really……….., there’s another story behind Rodney Moore. If my memory serves me correctly, Rodney Moore was placed on administrative leave by APS pending a #$%&$##%^ investigation a few years ago. I’m not sure of the determination, but he left APS. His comments in support of Beverly Hall may be motivated by a current or future business deal with APS.

Many people believe that APS is corrupt and is controlled by the Chamber of Commerce. Chuck Burbridge & Nader Sohrab should have been terminated long time ago. Sources contend that several female employees have filed complaints with Human Resources against Nader Sohrab, but investigator Penn Payne is whitewashing it. Several sources believe that Payne is actually providing Sohrab with confidential information from the female employees that filed the complaints. He recently terminated one of the older female managers that filed a complaint against him & replaced her with a younger female manager.

It’s time to clean house, from Beverly Hall, Chuck Burbridge, Nader Sohrab, Millicent Few, Kathy Augustine, & Sharon Pitts. I’m calling on the GBI or Fulton County DA to commence an investigation immediately!!

The plot thickens

July 11th, 2010
10:37 pm

This is from a legal blog reporting news of Rodney Moore leaving Adorno & Yoss to go to a new law firm.

Moore said he brought all his clients to Baker Donelson but declined to name them. Before joining Greenberg Traurig in 2005, Moore spent five years as the general counsel for Atlanta Public Schools, which he confirmed is a client..

Now does that wording mean that APS is a current client? Does anybody have a paper in front of them, because I believe the brief bio provided by Moore in the Letter to the Editor states he was legal counsel between 2000-2005, but does not make any note of Moore representing APS in any legal capacity at the current time.

If APS is indeed a current client of Moore, did he deliberately choose to leave this bit of information out of his bio, or did the limited space the AJC provides for its bios not allow it to be included?