APS cheating probe: No evidence of district-wide cheating.

Dr. Beverly Hall welcomes critics to the release today of the APS cheating probe. She says the issue is important and the community should be here.

Dr. Beverly Hall welcomes critics to the release today of the APS cheating probe. She says the issue is important and the community should be here.

LIVE FROM APS CENTRAL OFFICE: The key findings of the Atlanta Public Schools CRCT probe are being presented right now to the school board by Gary Price, chair of the blue ribbon commission assembled to look into possible test tampering.

“There is no evidence of any district-wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate the 2009 CRCT scores,” Price told the school board, to slight applause.

I would say the commission is clearing Superintendent Beverly Hall, saying that most of the system’s astounding wrong to right erasures are clustered in 12 schools, not in all 58 identified in the test sheet audit by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

The blue ribbon commission found evidence of school-wide tampering at 12 schools by 78 individuals, 30 of whom are administrators and 48 of whom are teachers.

In 13 schools, they found unusual data indicative of irregularities that led them to refer 25 employees, eight of whom are administrators, 17 of whom are teachers, for further review by APS.

In the remaining schools, there are six individuals the commission is referring for APS followup.

Price spoke to the culture of APS schools. “People are being held accountable and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Price said, “but there needs to be a balance with positive, supportive and ethical behavior.”

They found “false positives” in some schools where the data might suggest tampering, but a deeper look by outside experts did not substantiate cheating.

Price outlined his commission’s efforts to find out what happened: 11 commission meetings, 300 interviews, reviews of 50,000 e-mails, data, hotline reports, test logs,  school “badging” to see who went in and out of schools and used their APS badge for entry, CRCT chain of command (who handled the tests),  school files and performance incentives paid to schools for CRCT upticks.

“Not every school is adhering to testing protocols, whether it is the chain of command or where things are being locked up. There is opportunity to tighten it up,” said Price.

A full house is on hand for this session, including APS principals, community leaders and outspoken critics of the system.

I spoke briefly to Superintendent Beverly Hall before the meeting, who said she welcomed the presence of her critics. “This is an important issue. They need to be here,” she said.

I am already getting e-mails from Hall’s critics charging that the commission’s final report is a whitewash. I think this issue is going to haunt Hall and APS for a long time.

But the hired national testing security expert is now explaining in detail why the rates of erasure were not as extraordinary as the state audit might suggest.

“You should not use only one statistical indicator,” said John Fremer, president of Caveon Test Security.  “You really ought to use more information than wrong to right answers.”

He said a more telling measure is the degree of agreement among students on what they got right and wrong. But the state would not allow APS to look at the tests to drill down for that additional data.

“You really ought to have these multiple analysis for every single student so when you sit down you base it on four different pieces of data,” said Fremer.

What the state did was superficial, said Fremer, although he quickly amended his descriptor to “ordinary.”

With 17 years in testing security and analysis, Fremer suggested the wrong to right audit was a first step, but that it was not sufficient to prove cheating.

The panel’s findings met with criticism.

“The whole report should be thrown out, with the state stepping in to conduct a full forensic audit of APS,” state John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation. “The intimidation of witnesses, the conflict of interest that every single member of the Blue Ribbon Commission carried with them to this investigation and the fact that APS has been cited for cheating previously to this scandal denotes that the results be thrown out. Fresh, independent research is needed to uncover the truth about APS.”

142 comments Add your comment

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
2:45 pm

LOL…w/Bev Hall presiding or being Super this should be chock full of lies, halftruths, ommissions, errors, misrepresentations, mistakes and more of the same. Hall doesnt care about the cheating its just “get these kids thru at any costs and let society pay for it, down the road”.

Typical City of Atlanta BS!!

disgraceful

August 2nd, 2010
2:48 pm

Obviously the fix is in to find some fall guys in order to insulate Beverly Hall as much as possible from the consequences of the very corporate culture she helped create.

test

August 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

Enter your comments here

Dunwoody Mom

August 2nd, 2010
2:56 pm

Oh, come on – 109 people involved and Beverly Hall knew nothing? I’m sorry – that’s b.s.

Color me confused

August 2nd, 2010
2:58 pm

Ok, but how do you explain the dramatic drop in many APS CRCT scores at at time most of the state experienced an increase in most grades, subjects etc…

How could she have not known?

Just simple data analysis should have shown her that something was up.

Mikey D

August 2nd, 2010
2:59 pm

A real shame that they will target teachers and let the ringleaders off scott-free. If it wasn’t in some way coordinated from the top and was instead some rogue teachers and administrators acting alone, then why was APS the only system where the cheating was so widespread? Dr. Hall should do the dignified thing and resign. Of course she won’t. She’ll let those under her take the fall.

another concerned parent

August 2nd, 2010
3:07 pm

The vast majority were only in twelve schools! What about the other few dozen schools that were on the severe list and showed precipitous drops in scores this year when monitors were in place? This report is insulting to anyone with common sense. Please AJC do not let this drop! Atlanta’s children deserve better than this.

Ros Dalton

August 2nd, 2010
3:09 pm

Right… and no one on the commission owes any favors or has any ties to the very system they’re investigating. I guarantee all the lambs they’re sacrificing were the poorly connected and politically insignficant.

double zero eight

August 2nd, 2010
3:34 pm

AJC…….do your homework. The majority of the severe schools have a common denominator, the principals at these schools report to the same subordinate.

Ben

August 2nd, 2010
3:47 pm

Fire them all. Send the message that this will not be tolerated. Dr Hall needs to be replaced. Let’s move on.

laughable

August 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

@mom and @colorme

when BHall was given the statistics about the test score rise: 1. she played the race card, 2. she explained that it was the way teachers trained the student to go back and double check, 3. APS admin was in the room when this panel was questioning teachers and other school staff.

BHall has a machine that is covering up all. Question is– are all 109 going to fall on their sword to cover Hall’s butt. It would only take one of them to turn and stick a fork in her.

Funny how the panel said bonuses where a BAD thing. I would say that should away with all bonuses even the ones for the top.

laughable

August 2nd, 2010
3:57 pm

oh, and lets not forget

2 HAVE ALREADY PLEAD GUILTY,

the expert listed in the article is pure BS

HStchr

August 2nd, 2010
4:02 pm

The challenge is going to be how to prove who actually changed answers. If they can prove, beyond doubt, who did it, then fire those people. I suspect in the long run, they’ll never be able to prove who actually changed them. As they investigate further- if they do- I bet they’ll find out school administrators either changed the answers or had a few teachers trusted to do whatever it took to make the school look good. I’ll be interested to see how far up the chain the blame climbs.

Art Thompson

August 2nd, 2010
4:07 pm

The 109 educators( a disgrace of a word to be applied to these scam artists) and the top person in charge of this imploded house of cards should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and forced to serve jail time , restitution of stolen funds,salaries and school incentive funds allocated and criminal prosecution , all should be enforced. Non of these people need to be exposed to students as their unscrupulous actions indicate they are incorrigible and beyond redemption.

EnoughAlready

August 2nd, 2010
4:11 pm

To be truthful about this cheating situation; would mean taking a comprehensive look at most of the school systems in Metro Atlanta. The biggest disservice to our student is the promotion of many students from one grade level to the next, when they are clearly not ready for advancement. So, this focus on CRCT testing in my opinion is irrelevant. These school systems have been CHEATING our students for the last twenty to thirty years. And this article about APS cheating is just much to do about nothing, especially if you AREN’T willing to look at the real source.

The real crooks are promoting kids to the next grade and not funding after school enrichment programs.

David S

August 2nd, 2010
4:17 pm

I wonder how the free market would handle this situation? Ultimately the results would be customer-oriented, not political. Seems that only one of these types of solutions would benefit parents. Doubt that will be the way this problem will be handled.

David S

August 2nd, 2010
4:18 pm

I’m sure more money for better enforcement of the rules will be one of the calls. Would almost bet the family farm on some call for more money.

Concerned 1

August 2nd, 2010
4:19 pm

We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful wizard Oz.

D.D.

August 2nd, 2010
4:19 pm

To “refer” these individuals “for APS follow-up” is ludicrous. Isn’t it time the state DOE stepped in and truly cleaned house?

ASHLEY

August 2nd, 2010
4:23 pm

Did these 109 cheaters really believe they were helping the students? I think they were only interested in how their butts would look . They should all have their teaching credentials revoke , because I’m sure there are many excellent unemployed teachers and administrator who could use a job. This cheating scandal has done nothing but leave students doubting their own abilities and achievements for that in itself they should be fired. Please don’t let Beverly Hall off the hook , this all happen while she was manning the ship, and shouldn’t she go down with the ship. I’ve seen and heard some incredulous behavior involving education but this definitely makes my head spin and wonder why all this had to happen . This was not a good teaching moment for students or hard working devoted parents who believe in honest education.

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
4:23 pm

@ Color Me Confused: The point you make is the fact they can’t whitewash with the report. The performance intially displayed didn’t carry over into the following year. In fact the performance got significantly worse within the same test groups.

Besides with the President in town earlier today, I dare say this story will disappear waayy too far into the background. The timing of the release of this report couldn’t have been more perfect. The APS central office is a master at poltical theatre.

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
4:27 pm

@ double zero eight: It will be interesting to see of this report released today by the “blue ribbon panel” highlights this point, which is the most explosive potential fact I’ve heard yet that would tie this situation closer to the Superintenants office.

Stressed Educator

August 2nd, 2010
4:27 pm

This report proves nothing except that Bev Hall called in her political favors to throw teachers and others under the bus. There is NO WAY the Blue Ribbon Panel, the Atlanta Board of Education, or Bev Hall can convince anyone who has an ounce of common sense that the Superintendent and her underlings knew absolutely nothing about cheating in APS. I hope the AJC does not stop at this point but continues to pressure the state department to do the right thing and remove Hall, Augustine, and others from APS. The students, teachers, and parents of APS deserve better. There is only one way to start the process in eradicating the culture of cheating in APS — and it starts with the removal of the top leaders.

Doris M

August 2nd, 2010
4:31 pm

This report is a whitewash in favor of Beverly Hall. Lower level employees will have to take the fall. If this cheating is not widespread, then the superintendent should have known about. It is her responsibility to know what is going on in the school system. If she is so naive about daily events, then she needs to retire, go home and leave the education of Atlanta’s children to some ethical someone who can truly manage an educational system.

With the cost to educate a child in the APS at nearly $12,000 per student, it’s time to make some drastic changes. Hall and all her henchmen need to go. Right now. She should resign effective immediately.

grifter

August 2nd, 2010
4:31 pm

I mean what is sufficient to prove cheating then? A teacher keeping her job isn’t incentive enough to change a few answers on test scores? Sorry but the blue ribboners couldn’t have missed the mark any farther than they did. There job wasn’t to determine the validity of any legal action against individuals it was to examine the data presented and determine if ANY (I say again ANY) cheating occured. Which it did and it WAS widespread. 12 schools isn’t “widespread” or a significant problem? I don’t have anything against Dr. Hall, I say let the evidence speak for itself. Why did this cheating occur mainly at APS? 12 schools at APS no less (little ryhme there). The Blue Ribboners missed the forest for the trees. Thanks for wasting my tax money.

APS budgets a lot of money per child

August 2nd, 2010
4:33 pm

109 educators and 28 schools implicated and that’s not evidence of district wide cheating? Who’s been drinking the APS Kool-Aid? Who’s in charge? Who didn’t know this was going on and should have?

grifter

August 2nd, 2010
4:34 pm

Bean counters like this Fremer guy could probably look at Enron’s tax records and say, “Well, it doesn’t look like a widespread problem. Let’s go have lunch, and be sure to bill the taxpayers! Haw!”

Rob

August 2nd, 2010
4:38 pm

Really, Beverly didn’t know!
REALLY!
Wow, I can’t believe they are trying to spin this.

I guess they have to because if she knew it could cost them their accreditation.

I know we can replace School Board members at the polls but how do you fire the corrupt superintendent?

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
4:47 pm

@Rob: You fire a corrupt superintendent by electing School Board members with a commitment to clean house. She works at the pleasure of the Board. They could seek her resignation if not revoke or not renew her contract.

Fact is MOST of the Board has been sitting rusty in their seats for over 10 years so they pretty much along for the ride figuring the voters will keep voting them back in with little fuss so there is little need for accountability.

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
4:53 pm

The blue ribbon panel identified 109 employees at 58 schools involved to some degree in cheating but this isn’t indicative of widespread issues? Really?

I got a bridge on the beltline to sell ya if you interested…..

HStchr

August 2nd, 2010
5:15 pm

Advocate: the problem is that the trail won’t lead to Beverly’s door. She isn’t likely to have told people specifically what to do, she just pushed for better scores and let the pressure roll right down the chain. Local admins and teachers likely chose to change answers rather than risk losing their jobs. They did it to make their direct superiors and the system happy, and Beverly got all the accolades for it. I doubt the BOE will fire her for any of this, although it’s clearly time to clean house and start over, from the BOE up. This is why I still favor electing superintendents. Appointing them has created far too much coziness between boards and the super’s office.

Maureen's actions are reprehensible

August 2nd, 2010
5:23 pm

This is clearly a whitewash, and it is past the point where this blog and the moderator, need to be called into account for actively participating in it. Remember Abu Ghraib and how they made a scapegoat of Private Lynndie England?

I’m sure Maureen, Bookman and the rest of the crew were calling for heads to roll all the way back in Washington. But when the scandal happens in Maureen’s own backyard, and the leaders of the organization where the corruption took place are located just a few short miles from the scene of the crime, Maureen, Bookman and the rest seem to have suddenly lost their voice as far as holding leaders accountable. I guess Julia Wallace has them so well trained by now, she doesn’t have to “tell” them what to do; they just know when to keep their mouth shut.

Maureen, did you call Kathy Augustine and ask her if she still stands by her statement that there is no need to investigate because she expects outliers every year? Or did your Catholic school experiences leave you so traumatized that you are feckless when writing about adult authority figures you know you’ll have to look in the eye and speak directly to?

chillywilly

August 2nd, 2010
5:24 pm

If Beverly Hall didn’t know that cheating was going on, SHE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! The buck stops with her and she needs to do the honorable thing and step down immediately. In my opinion, the Board is made up of a bunch of individuals who don’t have a clue and they’re just waiting for their next chicken wing snack. Now is the time to clean house at APS; from Dr. Hall, Kathy Augustine, Investigator Penn Payne, CFO Chuck Burbridge, Comptroller Nader Sohrab, those managers in Finance that falsified Time & Attendance records, Beverly Hall’s high price chauffer (sp), Deputy CFO, Grants Manager, Director of Treasury Services, & Chief of Staff Sharon Pitts. Clean house now!! The students, honorable APS employees, and taxpayers deserve better than the hand that is being dealt by APS.

Dr. Hall, please resign immediately. Board Members, step up or step out.

John Sherman we need you!

August 2nd, 2010
5:31 pm

If anyone who has John Sherman’s ear is reading this blog, please ask him to use his resources to find at least one person who will tell the complete truth about this.

Maureen's non-actions are reprehensible

August 2nd, 2010
5:42 pm

“I am already getting e-mails from Hall’s critics charging that the commission’s final report is a whitewash. I think this issue is going to haunt Hall and APS for a long time.”

Maureen, you are always coming on here and telling us it’s you job to give an opinion. Then do you job. State for the record do you or do you not believe Beverly Hall had no idea that cheating was occurring at Atlanta Public Schools?

Do you, or do you not believe that this investigation was conducted in such a way as to minimize the personal accountability of Dr. Hall? Do you or do you not believe the state needs to follow up now that it’s a known fact that close to half the members on the commission do business with APS?

Have you or have you not asked APS board chair Lachandra Butler Burks how this commission report could be taken seriously when a member of the commission, none other than Lachandra Butler Burks stated for the record that it was impossible for Beverly Hall to have known anything about the cheating?

For someone who gets paid to state their opinion, you suddenly seem to have lost the ability to voice one.

What’s a matter Maureen; cat’s got you tongue? If not the cat who, because your silence make a mockery of your claims that you’re an advocate for what’s best for Georgia students.

td

August 2nd, 2010
5:47 pm

The problem could be solved by paneling a Grand Jury to investigate the matter. You would then see people rolling over on their peers left and right and would get to the bottom of the matter. The problem is the Fulton County DA and the state AG are just as corrupt as APS and it will never happen. Maybe a few teachers and one or two administrators will become sacrificial lambs and nothing else will happen.

If you think it is bad now just wait until we implement RTTT and a teachers pay is tied directly to these scores.

HS Teacher

August 2nd, 2010
6:01 pm

Really. Does anyone think that Hall would leave a paper trail? Heck no. There is implied acceptance to cheating all across APS – ask anyone that works there. As long as the numbers look good, it doesn’t matter how it was done.

Readers do your job

August 2nd, 2010
6:17 pm

How did this story get any traction in the first place? AJC reporters. So one of the few ways to keep the traction going is to demand a level of integrity from the editorial staff that the reporting warrants.

This is where the readers have to do their job. You can’t let Maureen, as the AJC voice on education issues, get away with being silent on the kinds of follow up questions this very questionable investigation calls for.

Readers if you want this kind of unethical behavior to stop, hold the paper responsible for living up to its self proclaimed status as a watchdog.

Sandra

August 2nd, 2010
6:35 pm

Sooo, where is Beverly Hall and her news conference?

Bueller? Bueller?

Erica Long

August 2nd, 2010
6:37 pm

Shouldn’t we know the names of the Dirty Dozen schools by now? What happened to Dr. Hall’s afternoon press conference? School starts next week and parents have no way of knowing whether their children are attending one of the 12 schools with school-wide tampering.

Sandra

August 2nd, 2010
6:53 pm

If you go to aps’s website and look under “crct erasure info” the report and appendixes are there. So you can see all the schools, and what happened in interviews, etc. but you can’t see the names of people.

Dr. M

August 2nd, 2010
6:57 pm

CONGRATULATIONS APS (as a whole)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep up the good work Dr. Hall-there will always be haters!!!

Sandra

August 2nd, 2010
6:57 pm

The schools are: Gideons Elementary, Usher Elem, Peyton Forest Elem, Perkerson Elem, Venetian Hills Elem, Scott Elem, Connally Elem, Dunbar Elem, Parks Middle, FL Stanton Elem, Capitol View Elem, Blalock Elem

Same old excuses

August 2nd, 2010
7:00 pm

I would like a job at APS so I do not have to be accountable for anything.

Congratulations!

August 2nd, 2010
7:05 pm

I want to second Dr. M when it comes to the haters. APS 3rd and 8th graders finished in the top 169 of all school systems in Georgia this year on the CRCT, proving once and for all that Dr. Hall’s data driven best practices are effective.

Dr. M is completely right about the haters and finishing in the top 169 of all Georgia school systems proves it.

Larry Major

August 2nd, 2010
7:21 pm

David S,

If this happened at a private school, there would have been no investigation. Had the AJC reported on some unusual results released by a private school, it would have stopped right there. Just like some posters here defended APS, the parents of kids at the private school would have defended “their” school. It is impossible for any outside agency to do an investigation because all the data is private.

Even if an investigation were possible, it would be pointless. There is no law, no code of ethics or regulation of any type that applies to free market schools. That’s why the child molester in the recent blog could only work at private schools in GA. Free market schools don’t have to do background checks or even hire real teachers as their teachers. For all anyone knows, private schools routinely change kids’ test answers – there’s just no way for anyone to know.

AJinCobb

August 2nd, 2010
7:46 pm

The haters I can’t figure out are the Ms. Downey haters. Why should it be “reprehensible” for her to not express an unequivocal opinion about what Dr. Hall did or did not know? If Maureen doesn’t feel she knows for sure, why should it be her “job” to make a bold claim? Even in the blogosphere, that doesn’t seem like responsible journalism to me.

IKnowwhatreallyhappened

August 2nd, 2010
7:46 pm

OK American Public: here is what Dr. Hall said, “We will prosecute the individauls to the fullest extent of the law.” Ok, now here is what she said in her very next sentence: “The Principals involved have been asked to come up with a detail plan outlining what steps they are going to take to make sure no shadow will be cast on the school again.” UH! Did anyone catch that? She is asking the Cheating Principals to come up with a detail plan….dang I want to work for APS…..

Tell you why AJinCobb

August 2nd, 2010
7:52 pm

Why AJinCobb? Because Downey has claimed to write with a “single lens focus on what’s best for Georgia’s children”. And to be the true best advocate for Georgia’s children, there are questions, plenty of questions raised about the credibility of this investigation that need answering.

AJinCobb you are simply making excuses where there is no excuse for not asking the questions that need to be asked, given the stated purpose is to write with “a single lens focus on what’s best for Georgia’s students.”

IKnowwhatreallyhappened

August 2nd, 2010
7:56 pm

APS has some really good teachers who work hard….I use to be one of them…unfortunately, the good teachers end up leaving because you must battle the overwhelming cheaters and crooks on a daily basis. It is so sad because APS should be a top-notched urban school system across the country. The children deserve better than the crooked Principals…now watch what happens: most of the cheating Principals will be given other schools or become Dr. Hall’s Administrative Assistants.