The AJC is calling for Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall to either quit or be fired in the wake of revelations that she did not release a report she commissioned validating the newspaper’s data-driven investigation of improbable test score gains.
And the AJC is asking the attorney general to look into possible criminal violation of the Georgia Open Records Act by the district’s withholding of the damaging report, which upheld the findings of AJC’s Heather Vogell and John Perry that APS gains on spring 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were highly unlikely, if not near impossible.
Hall requested the report last fall after the AJC identified 12 schools with the most unfathomable score swings. Hall commissioned a separate data analysis of the 12 schools by Andrew Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. It was given to the system in May, but the board of education was not told.
I talked to several education folks about Hall’s leaving and they agreed, whether they support her or not, that her departure would create instability in the system for at least a year. There would be a big question of who could run the system after her exit, especially since her team is perceived as her strongest allies. It is not clear that there is anyone on board in the top ranks who is not tainted by association.
So, how Hall can be removed without further hurting the children and the stability of APS? Any ideas on that challenge?
It’s time for a new chapter for Atlanta Public Schools. Beverly Hall should resign immediately or be terminated.
That is a shame. By most accounts, Hall, in her 11 years as superintendent, has made much-needed changes; brought in grants and other outside money to the schools; and moved some test scores forward. But when this newspaper uncovered signs of cheating nearly two years ago, Hall and the district turned a blind eye.
In an Aug. 4 interview with WABE after the release of a blue ribbon commission’s report, Hall acknowledged problems and promised that those found guilty would be severely punished. Still on message, though, she added: “I’d say that we still don’t know what was going on. And I think I was hoping that the report would answer that. It did not. So we’re going to go back and figure out what went on. What should we have known? We can’t yet say there was pervasive cheating because the report is very clear that they don’t even want to say that.”
Hall’s reluctance to accept what’s likely the truth led Gov. Sonny Perdue to heed this Editorial Board’s suggestion and take the extraordinary step of appointing two special investigators and, later, to bring in the GBI to do what Hall and Atlanta Public Schools would not do.
That’s led to 50 of the GBI’s 240 agents assisting in the investigation of Atlanta schools. Federal officials are also reportedly investigating the district for possible fraud related to illicitly raised test scores.
It’s too early to know for certain just how widespread the problems were, but it’s a credible allegation that some district workers cheated, or helped students cheat. That’s plain wrong, and tantamount to robbing students of their right to earn a decent education.People need to come clean. But, more importantly, we need to begin the process to restore the Atlanta schools. The current board minority is still fighting with the majority over the replacement of the chairman. This seems like a lot of energy focused in the wrong place. The current minority should acknowledge the mistakes they made, drop their fight over the chairman and work with the current majority to begin the process of finding a new superintendent.
– By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog