Here is the letter that former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is sending to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ask his advice in steering APS through the crisis in confidence resulting from the CRCT probe and in dealing with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. She is concerned that the system is being battered by political agendas and the AJC coverage:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Thank you for the tremendous energy and leadership you have shown on behalf of American public education. I am grateful for President Obama’s strong commitment to public education as demonstrated by increased federal funding and an unprecedented call for innovation to states and school districts alike.
I am writing to advise you of continuing questions raised by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) and the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) on Atlanta Public Schools’ testing results and other indicators of student performance. I am concerned because the continuing media assaults could destabilize the school system and negatively impact nearly 50,000 students. While I was Mayor, a broad segment of the community worked tirelessly to bring stability to the APS. As a former school superintendent you are acutely aware of how external factors even false accusations can influence the well being of students.
Most recently, the local newspaper raised questions about the accuracy of APS’s high school graduate rates and also questioned the validity of the National Assessment of Education Program (NAEP) results.
This all began with the newspaper conducting its own statistical analysis of testing gains by APS on the State’s Curriculum Criteria Reference Tests (CRCTs). This then led to GOSA conducting wrong-to-right erasure analysis of all 2009 CRCT results. From this analysis, GOSA flagged 58 APS schools for potential cheating. APS then called for an independent investigation. Business and civic leaders formed a Blue Ribbon Commission under the auspices of the Atlanta Education Fund (AEF) to investigate the allegations. The findings from this Commission were released to the public and given to the Atlanta School Board on August 2. Dr. Hall, the Atlanta superintendent, has taken action and will continue to ferret out the problems. A copy of the Commission report can be found on the Atlanta Education Foundation website, http://www.atlef.org/crct/report/report.html.
This community needs the expertise and guidance of the Department of Education to mediate the growing tension between the school district and the state agency. Raising the questions the AJC has is certainly appropriate, I am concerned though because the newspaper has a tendency to sensationalize local issues and to promote solutions that suit the story line rather than promote sustainable best practice options.
Most of us who have lead major organizational turnarounds appreciate the delicate balance needed to successfully implement organizational changes while maintaining ongoing operations. The APS of 2010 is vastly improved since 2000 and this progress should not be jeopardized by reckless claims and competing political agendas.
Though I am private citizen now, I write seeking your advice and counsel.