Judge halts APS probe in CRCT cheating. Nobody wins.

Every story I read about APS and the CRCT scandal depresses me as this mess steals time, money and attention away from the biggest challenge in Atlanta and other urban systems — getting children born with few advantages on a strong enough educational footing to live fulfilling lives.  The continual battling also affects the many teachers and principals in APS striving each day to do their best for the students.

All the time devoted to who cheated on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test takes away from how Atlanta children are doing now. For the sake of the system and the sake of the students, I hope the investigation wraps up soon and that anyone who deliberately falsified test results to protect their own skins is exposed. (I remain concerned over whether there will be any clear findings as I think the investigators are discovering more suspicions of cheating rather than confirmation or evidence.)

I am not saying that the investigation is unnecessary. The state cannot tolerate cheating. I just regret the impact on the honest teachers and on all the students.

Here is the latest in a saga in a drama that has no winners. Today, a Fulton judge ordered Atlanta schools, which maintained that they had a legal right to question witnesses, to halt its own internal probe of a Nov. 17 meeting at which Tamara Cotman, an area superintendent, reportedly urge principals to snub state investigation into cheating.

According to the story:

In court documents, the investigators said the school district has been “withholding evidence and intimidating witnesses whose unvarnished testimony could lead to the discovery of how much upper-level APS administrators know about the widespread cheating.”

Cotman demoted one witness to the Nov. 17 meeting who later spoke to a lawyer investigating the episode for the district. The witness, a principal who since has been reinstated, told investigators Cotman said Superintendent Beverly Hall and Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine had “approved of this demotion.”

“APS has shown its willingness to ‘investigate’ and then discipline witnesses who report crimes by APS personnel to law enforcement and the special investigators,” the investigators wrote to the judge. Consequently, they said, other district employees are in danger of additional harassment.

In a statement Monday, Hall said the district “will honor the court’s order, as well as continue to cooperate with the investigation.”

She said the district “temporarily suspended” its investigation of Cotman last Wednesday, “pending resolution of who should investigate with the special investigators, and have not been resumed to date.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog.

147 comments Add your comment

Middle Grades Math Teacher

February 21st, 2011
1:44 pm

Amen, Maureen! Well put.

exteacher

February 21st, 2011
1:48 pm

maureen..there you go again…apologizing for Dr. hall because the heat of this investigation is getting to the top of APS.
The biggest problems of APS is the way adults in power have run this system. The cancer needs to be stopped and eradicated…otherwise no real teaching and learning will happen.

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
1:55 pm

@exteacher, I couldn’t care less about the central office leaders and whether any or all of them lose their jobs. I just think this mess is hurting kids. The teachers I know at APS say this is taking a lot of time and effort and creating divisions and stress. Again, it is necessary, but we should not pretend that there are no consequences for the children — and that’s who matters. Dr. Hall is on her way out. She is the system’s past at this point. Someone has to be thinking about today and about the future.
Maureen

tim

February 21st, 2011
1:55 pm

Gee Maureen……you sound like you’re a APS administrator. SHAME on you!

Glad I could afford to send my children to Pvt. School

February 21st, 2011
1:57 pm

I think the time to end this investigation is when Ms Hall and most of her close staff are in jail.

APS - Educational Disparity?

February 21st, 2011
1:58 pm

Ms. Downey, you are entirely right. If there is nothing to hide, then APS should open up and get this over. However, if the state has evidence that there may have been CRCT cheating back to early 2000s, then this is not just about 2009. 2009 just happened to be the year that the AJC figured out that the data doesn’t match up.

If the cheating was concentrated in certain schools, then could it be possible that a child entering kindergarten could travel all of the way through APS middle school with his test results being affected? Before the “Educational Ponzoi scheme” could be discovered, that child likely dropped out or maybe they continued to pass him through to graduation.

How sad because those children were definitely affected if the evidence proves there was cheating. The consequences to the children’s futures is worse than the fraud perpetuated by Bernie Madoff on his investors.

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up – like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore – And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags – like a heavy lead” – Langston Hughes

Glad I could afford to send my children to Pvt. School

February 21st, 2011
1:59 pm

tim

February 21st, 2011
1:55 pm

you hit the nail on the head…

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
2:00 pm

@Glad, I wonder if anyone will go to jail. I still think the threshold to prove cheating will be hard to meet. I have been told that investigators are finding out that teachers had suspicions, but no real evidence. The attorneys on this board can speak to what evidence would be needed, but I would think that it has to be concrete to go after someone criminally.
Maureen

APS Parent #2

February 21st, 2011
2:03 pm

This Division?? Who is responsible for the division and stress? Listen to Ms. Augustine’s audio posted to WSB and linked by AJC site.

Who is helping provide the fodder for the division? Who paid for the lawsuit of the 4? Who is not “fully cooperating” it seems with the state investigation? Who asked principals and teachers to encourage the community to divide?

Glad I could afford to send my children to Pvt. School

February 21st, 2011
2:03 pm

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
2:00 pm

Where did all the erasures come from?

Middle Grades Math Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:04 pm

@exteacher — you are right. Something must be done to ensure it never happens again, but what is happening now is NOT it, and it’s hurting students. When administrators (be they school-based or central office) are doing things that take teachers’ focus off of instruction, kids are hurt. That’s what’s happening now.

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
2:08 pm

@Glad, Someone cheated. Question is who and whether it can be proven. It is important for the state to make its case with compelling evidence as the livelihoods, reputations and careers of many educators, including classroom teachers, are on the line. Those of you who want Dr. Hall’s head also have to realize that there could be other people far lower down the ladder who may be implicated. I understand the passion around this, but there has be a case made on facts rather than emotions to criminally go after people.
Maureen

exteacher

February 21st, 2011
2:09 pm

maureen…you talk about evidence??
what evidence did APS have to quickly fire whistleblowers??
and what evidence does APS have that has caused it to simply reassign high level people ( like Tamara Cotman) and not fire them with the same speed like they did to the whistleblowers??
I am glad that your kids go to a good school system like Decatur City Schools.
But you have never been in the position of people who have been APS whistleblowers and have had their life and family turned upside down.
It is quite apparant that you have your head in the sand..all you have done is talk to Bev Hall in the ivory towers and got her side of the story.
You could learn a lot from Heather Vogell and the other brave AJC journalists

exteacher

February 21st, 2011
2:13 pm

middle grade teacher…how can APS teachers focus on teaching and learning when the system is out to get them..the system is out to fabricate data..and if you dont go along with it, you are toast.
no wonder majority of the teachers at APS are not good teachers….good teachers with a spine will never survive at APS…I have seen them come and good…When APS is lucky to get a good teacher…for a year or two ..then they lost that teacher..the cycle continues..only teachers who come to work for a paycheck stay at APS

Wilma

February 21st, 2011
2:14 pm

Maureen, the right concern is for the children. It’s the board’s resonsiblity to act right now to fix the culture that has robbed so many of a good education. Ms. Hall should be fired. Today would be good. She absolutely should not be allowed to serve out her contract and leave. Her leadership has been a disaster and the board needs to say so. The fact that a court had to order her to stop interfering with a state level investigation is just the most recent last straw.
An interim superintendent shoudl be appointed to sweep out any hint of cheating and coverup. The culture of cheating and abuse of power runs deep in the Admin of the APS and the sweeping should too.
It seems there has been an unholy alliance between the board and the business community in Atlanta. The sweeping broom needs to interrupt this connection too. People in the business community with much to lose in terms of their reputation were connected to a blue ribbon white wash and they needs to be called out and pushed out too.
Once the voters in Atlanta demand better they will start to actually get better. Maureen’s foolishness about some metaphysical standard of proof is just silly. We don’t need to convict these people, only conclude the investigation and take the right job actions.

Fire Ms. Hall! Preferrably today.

SickandTired

February 21st, 2011
2:17 pm

Maybe they should just cut the funding in 1/2 until the system can prove it isnt corrupt…

Middle Grades Math Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:19 pm

@exteacher — that’s exactly my point. Something must be done. The way it is happening is hurting the kids. So “something” must be changed.

Glad I could afford to send my children to Pvt. School

February 21st, 2011
2:20 pm

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
2:08 pm

try again, you are going in circles.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ramiro Garcia, Legal Lawyer, TheParentsEducator, Baker Owens, Maureen Downey and others. Maureen Downey said: Judge halts APS probe in CRCT cheating. Nobody wins. http://bit.ly/guwDnA [...]

Craig T. Jones

February 21st, 2011
2:23 pm

Cheating is never allowed and should be punished, but let’s not let this scandal detract attention from the fact that this was a bad law to begin with. Public schools are not competitors in a free market economy, and they should not be penalized based upon poor student performance when the failure of the schools has more to do with the failings of society as a whole than with the competence of educators who are usually doing their best. When rules are unfair, people tend to break them whether it is the right thing to do or not. I don’t condone the cheating but it is easy to see how it happened–it is analogous to what would happen if traffic engineers lowered the speed limit through a neighborhood from 35 to 25 because everyone was going 40, and then found that drivers were now averaging 45 because they had less respect for the lower limit. Cheating must be punished, but we need to find ways to incentivize teachers rather than simply letting them keep their jobs if they reach goals that in many cases are unattainable within the 9 months that they have to work with a group of children.

cityzen

February 21st, 2011
2:25 pm

Obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, tampering with evidence. Nothing to see here. For the sake of the children, let’s keep cheating, covering up and firing anyone with integrity..

If the Step-Up crowd and other Chamber stooges – Edupac, AEF, SACS – would surrender and admit that they’ve been backing a racket all these years, Bowers could end his inquiry. Until then, it must continue until they can no longer deny the obvious. Yes, for the sake of the kids, so that there is some chance of APS working on providing them with a real education rather than smug test gaming.

Bev’s gang has perfected intimidation. So it takes time to get witnesses. Now we have two intimidators identified who report directly and one layer from Bev. Shouldn’t be long now. Then there will be winners: the kids, the taxpayers and the honest and decent teachers who’ve all been defrauded for so many years.

MM

February 21st, 2011
2:25 pm

When I first witnessed APS upper management up close and personal I was amazed at the sycophantic (ass-kissing) atmosphere throughout the building. The ego-cloud was so thick you could cut it. It’s this culture that makes it impossible for its creators, and supporters, to see what they are doing.

One outward sign of this culture that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was that everyone sat on high-end, expensive Aeron office chairs. Dozens if not hundreds of them in the building (at the time, several years ago). A seemingly small detail but one that reveals much about the culture of self-declared exclusivity. Are the butts of these egomaniacs so important that taxpayers had to finance this level of luxury? Who had the contract to sell APS one of the best office chairs in the world?

Are you serous?

February 21st, 2011
2:28 pm

Exteacher…What do you mean APS teachers aren’t good teachers? Evidently you are an ex teacher because you probably suck. Come do what APS teachers do everyday and I bet your sorry behind would have been an exteacher sooner. We teach children who come from nothing, they are missing one or two parents, no running water at home, etc and still have to make them work hard ethically…contrary to what some people think. Wake up and come down to one of the other Atlanta schools that are not North of the city and let us see how well you fair… You wouldn’t last til lunch.

Old South

February 21st, 2011
2:29 pm

“Those of you who want Dr. Hall’s head also have to realize that there could be other people far lower down the ladder who may be implicated”

Leadership begins from the Top, not the bottom. Dr. Hall should have resigned on her own virtue, even if she had nothing to do with this (which is virtually impossible). For the sake of an institution leaders must go when they’ve managed to do as badly as APS is now shown to be. I almost seem to be reading your comments as implicating the investigation is hurting the ‘children’. Quite the contrary, in my estimation.

www.honeyfern.org

February 21st, 2011
2:30 pm

Craig T. Jones, I agree with you. Maybe at this point it is time to back off and move on. The real victims here are the students who have received such a sub-standard education (even lower than the sub-standards of the CRCT) that cheating was deemed “necessary.” All of this time, money, energy and analysis could be better spent on improving real outcomes for students.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:30 pm

Any investigation by APS is a joke and a farce. The GBI and other law enforcement agencies should be handling this issue. And heretofore should any APS employees get involved then an “obstruction of justice” charge should be brought immediately.

This people are covering more than just this cheating scandal…gross mismanagement of funds, theft, employee pilferage just name a few.

This entire board belongs behind bars and the sooner the better.

Get Rhee in here to clean house and kick some asses.

HS Public Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:31 pm

Unfortunately, APS seems to be run like many/most of the large corporations with all of the corruption that entails.

Someone really does need to clean house – and by that I mean literally get rid of all Principals on up. Bring in new management. Start fresh.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:32 pm

“Come do what APS teachers do everyday”

You cant even “speak”/type properly. Fine example you be. :(

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:34 pm

“We teach children who come from nothing, they are missing one or two parents, no running water at home, etc and still have to make them work hard ethically…contrary to what some people think.”

Who cares…you chose your path so deal with it. You are no miracle worker and from what you APS brain surgeons have been letting loose on the streets I would say each and every one of you should be terminated immediately. You are no saint.

HS Public Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:34 pm

Lastly, for those that continue to bash teachers (here it is APS teachers) will you please get a life and become aware of the facts? You guys have no clue what it is to be a teacher today, much less a teacher in APS. Yet, you spread your lies and false claims like wildfire.

One time (and it was only one time), I applied in APS. I then learned of all of the complete crap that those teachers have to go through – and that was BEFORE they even begin to worry about teaching the students! It was then I said ‘no thanks’ to APS.

Stop giving classroom teachers a hard time. I would estimate that 90% of the time the problems having nothing to do with that group!

HS Public Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:36 pm

Dr NO….

And the fact that you are unemployed means that you are a totally worthless worker? Hummmm.

HS Public Teacher

February 21st, 2011
2:37 pm

Dr. NO….

You ask for Rhee yet I would bet a large sum of money that you know very very little about her other than the false claims that she makes. Educate thyself!

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:38 pm

Unemployed? Not here, Alice. What u call in sick today or Presidents day off or you in the teachers lounge hijacking bandwidth for your silly diatribes. As a taxpayer you are on my payroll so get your butt to working and educating these kids.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:39 pm

One Rhee gets here you better run for cover as you probably are in her crosshairs. You and all in your little click.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:43 pm

” Yet, you spread your lies and false claims like wildfire.”

You are a wildfire of ignorance and stupidity spreading amongst the student body. No wonder so many of these young kids end up in jails. Its partially the fault of lazy-beans like yourself. You do these children a great injustice by parading around as an educator…HA!

Larry Major

February 21st, 2011
2:44 pm

I must be losing it.

How did Judge Schwall get involved? WHAT motion/filing and to what action is Friday’s hearing related? What report did I miss?

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

February 21st, 2011
2:45 pm

I couldn’t disagree more with Maureen. Every unethical act by these APS mafiosi must be exposed in all its excruciating detail. Parents will then be forced to confront a fact they just don’t want to confront: you can’t keep delegating the job of educating your child to criminals and morons and expect a good result.

When a nationally celebrated superintendent turns out to have been running a giant con right under all our noses, we parents have to admit to ourselves we can’t trust anyone but ourselves to do the vital job of overseeing our childrens’ educations.

It’s Egypt time, baby.

Time for a revolution in K-12 education.

More daily headlines, please! Bring me the scandal du jour! Can’t wait for the final GBI cheating report–should be as heavy as a Bible and with even more brimstone.

The more Heather and Alan keep plugging away, the BETTER for our children. Maureen’s got it exactly backward.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
2:46 pm

“Unfortunately, APS seems to be run like many/most of the large corporations with all of the corruption that entails.”

Yeppers. Use of the normal diversionary tactics, per above, is prerequisite of a guilty person. The ole bait and switch routine eh. Well Alice, I suggest you clean your house, Corp America will clean their house and us Taxpayers and law enforecement authorities will HELP YOU, ALICE, to clean your house as you obviously have not a clue about much of anything.

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
2:49 pm

@Springdale, I have no doubt that you will be seeing a lot more headlines. And I have no problem with that. I just sent Alan and Heather a tip from a reader about an APS administrator.
Maureen

exteacher

February 21st, 2011
2:50 pm

yes i am an ex-teacher..an ex -APS teacher.
I came to APS from corporate america to change the world and give these kids who came from nothing, no running water, single parents a good education.I spent thousand of dollars of my own money so that my students could do labs. Never mind the fact that I never would get any science supplies even thought I was supposed to engage my students with good chemistry labs.
yes I know what teachers at APS go through. I have walked the walked in the toughest high school in the toughest neighbourhood of atlanta. I never had a problem with APS students. Once they saw that I was qualified in my subject area and wanted to teach them Chemistry they accepted me.
The same cannot be said of the adults, sycophants and APS administrators at the school I taught and the of course I tangled with the APS bureacrats and OIR at the ivory towers.
Did any of my fellow APS teachers defend me when I decided to expose the cheating?? not a single one did… they all needed to look the other way and collect their paycheck.
So ..yes I became and ex-APS teacher…went one to teach honors and gifted students in rich white schools and then went back to corporate america.
Does does that make me a teacher that sucks????

Karma

February 21st, 2011
2:52 pm

Wow, Maureen, what planet are you on? You don’t think that maybe popping the head of the zit will alleviate not only employees’ stress and fear, but also create a better learning environment for students? You know, one where their teachers come to work to work, not get yelled at by their principal for not putting the proper rubric on their bulletin board. Do you think these students are well served by harrassed and abused teachers?

Atlanta Mom

February 21st, 2011
2:55 pm

It seems to me, at this point APS is d@mned if it does, and d@mned it doesn’t. A principal behaves badly. If APS does nothing, people want to know why. If APS tries to do something, they are told to cease and desist. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

Karma

February 21st, 2011
2:58 pm

Yeah right Atl Mom, I’m playing the violins for you right now.

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

February 21st, 2011
3:00 pm

Let me be clear that the criminals and morons I’m talking about mostly work at Trinity (well, there are a few principals, too….)

We know a ton of great teachers who do indeed put up with an incredible amount of crap every day before they even get to BEGIN the tough job of teaching children, too many of whom are sent to them unprepared to behave–or learn. To them I say: I admire you and the masochistic streak within you that enables you to survive this abuse.

–and @HS Public: I guess I have to say it again: I have examined her record–THOROUGHLY-and my conclusion is that only weak teachers hate and feared and loathed Michelle Rhee in DC (as well they should have). So come on, let’s see more of you weak-ass teachers “out” yourselves, right here in public. Please use your real names so we can avoid hiring you at the future Springdale Park Conversion Charter Elementary School.

Dr NO

February 21st, 2011
3:16 pm

A lose lose situation APS put themselves in. They have no one to blame but themselves and personally I hope to see everyone of them on the side of the road, in an orange jumpsuit, so I can flick lit cigarettes at them as I cruise by…*HONK HONK*

MM

February 21st, 2011
3:17 pm

Maureen,

Your statement above that “I remain concerned over whether there will be any clear findings as I think the investigators are discovering more suspicions of cheating rather than confirmation or evidence” greatly concerns me. You’re in a much better position to know what’s going on behind the scenes than am I.

Given the situation, how can there NOT be any clear findings? The teachers who actually executed the classroom-level cheating are not professional criminals. They’ll “crack under questioning” without much trouble. They have certainly already implicated themselves, other teachers around them, and the administrators that pressured them to do it. The GBI, and others, are fully capable of getting to the bottom of this.

If people don’t go to jail, it will be because the Sam Williams’ of this world (and other parties interested in “saving” Atlanta’s national image) will be less than zealous at going all the way. Like Wall Street where the powerful did not go to jail for stealing billions, Atlanta’s power elites will use “what’s best for the children” and “moving on” as a cover for doing what’s best for themselves. I’m more likely to go to jail for not paying a parking ticket than the APS administrators are for cheating students of an education, and lying about it, for a decade.

Karma

February 21st, 2011
3:24 pm

@springdale – Good luck with finding any good teachers to come to APS any time soon. There is no way I’m signing a contract.

old teach

February 21st, 2011
3:27 pm

Teachers can be very passionate about their subjects and views. But it seems that when we resort to personal attacks and namecalling, we all lose some credibility. At least politicians can [usually] debate without resorting to it. Jeez!

Maureen Downey

February 21st, 2011
3:29 pm

@MM, I am not sure how many people crack under questioning in real life. My early time as a police reporter suggests people seldom confess but are convicted on the evidence and on eyewitness accounts. Maureen

Raquel Morris

February 21st, 2011
3:29 pm

Congratulations, Maureen. You have officially entered the upper echelon of Beverly Hall apologists. You’re right there with Andy Young (”nobody with any common sense wants Beverly Hall to resign”) and Shirley “ask Brother President Obama to rescue us from the big, bad Sonny Perdue” Franklin. I hope you’re proud of this distinction.