APS CRCT cheating report: Out of 180 employees, 36 principals involved

In their report now online at the AJC, the investigators into APS cheating name nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests, according to the AJC.

(When Atlanta schools did its own investigation into the cheating, it sent the names of 110 employees to the state for suspected cheating.  I would be curious to see if those 110 names are among the 180 that  this  investigation cites.)

The final report is expected to be released today, and this new story is based on interviews that AJC reporters had with officials who have already seen it over the weekend.

The news story does not explain exactly what the 180 educators did, but I am most interested in the roles of the 36 principals . I assume that most of the 144 employees are also school-level employees.

It appears that the report’s theme is that while school chief Beverly Hall did not order the cheating, the investigators feel it was widespread enough that she should have known it was occurring in her schools.

And when she did know — through the AJC initial reporting and the state audit — she chose to deny the extent of the problem and did not cooperate with investigatory team assembled by an exasperated Gov. Sonny Perdue. The report criticizes the central office staff for failing to pursue the cheating, obstructing the governor’s probe and withholding information.

I am most interested in reading accounts of how the cheating occurred.

According to the story:

The findings suggest the national accolades that Hall and the school system have collected — and the much-vaunted academic progress for which she claimed credit — were based on falsehoods. Raising test scores apparently became a higher priority than conducting the district’s business in an ethical manner.

Officials who have seen the report briefed the AJC on its contents before the document’s release. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.

The report’s release culminates more than two years of inquiries into Atlanta’s huge gains on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009. An AJC analysis first detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at two Atlanta schools in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools. The newspaper’s reporting ultimately led to the state investigation that is being released today.

The investigators’ report, officials said, depicts a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. Strongly contradicting denials of cheating and other irregularities by Hall and other top district executives, the report describes organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children — many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school — of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

At the same time, the document apparently provides a scathing assessment of the school system’s handling of the scandal, accusing district leaders of hampering the special investigators’ efforts to uncover the truth. The investigators reportedly accuse Hall and her top aides of refusing to take responsibility for the district’s problems.

The report also will detail potentially criminal acts by district officials, the AJC has learned.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

71 comments Add your comment

Write Your Board Members

July 5th, 2011
9:57 am

I don’t think Hall is an idiot, so just like the newspaper reporters and editorial staff whose suspicions were aroused, hers should have been as well. Progress is going to be incremental with small gains over a period of time, not instantly amazing overnight.

When you look at the scores on the GA High School Graduation Test, you see that this class, juniors in 10-11, many of whom had been the beneficiary of Hall’s efforts for nearly their entire school career, really had pretty lackluster scores. In some schools, the scores are pretty dreadful. Clearly, if there were miracles at the elementary level, they didn’t “take” for high school.

Hall set the unrealistic expectations. Yes, inner city children can learn, scores can improve, etc but at a realistic pace, not some quick fix. More realistic goals might have even worked, if given a chance.

catlady

July 5th, 2011
9:58 am

While the AJC got the investigation rolling, I believe it was PEOPLE ON THIS BLOG that first said, “No way!” How many years ago was that?

Who will be the first to indict B. Hall? When will it happen? Or is she “too big to fail?”

As I have said before (as a PhD in education, knowing the kinds of courses reputable universities require), if she didn’t know there was a problem she was stupid. But we all know B. Hall is NOT stupid.

When will the Feds recoup their money? When will the accolades be renounced and the money returned?

Or will she continue to hide behind charges of “racism” and “I didn’t know?” You know, with a lie this big, it is hard to hide ANYWHERE. Do we have extradition treaties with her home country?

I am looking forward to watching all 180 doing the perp walk. How long will it take to get them all gathered up?

This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning. (I think that is Longfellow, but not sure.)

J. Wentworth Astor VI

July 5th, 2011
10:08 am

Thank God for private schools!

Coronella Keiper

July 5th, 2011
10:10 am

Business heads often hire people and have them trained to report to the CEO team what is really going on in the trenches. Say a decision is made at the top level, and it goes down to the workers level by level. The CEO, CFO, etcetera, need to find out exactly what the workers are told by their managers, and how the order from the top is carried out. So people are hired to get regular jobs and quietly report to the top brass _independently_. The same independent verification of what is happening at the bottom of the authority levels can work in education.

‘Nuff said: Time to get to work on it.

Thanking The Creator that He put The Lord Jesus Christ in charge of everything and everyone, and that I have signed up to have _direct access_ to this head,

Coronella Keiper, in Rhode Island

Coronella Keiper

July 5th, 2011
10:11 am

@J. Wentworth Astor VI: Thank God for home schooling, too.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 5th, 2011
10:20 am

Go directly to the federal grand jury. Do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200K. “Get out of jail”-free cards are invalid.

denial

July 5th, 2011
10:25 am

Just deny everything, blame someone else and play the race card–that’s the way things work in atlanta government. Corrupt to the core.

Aquagirl

July 5th, 2011
10:27 am

While the AJC got the investigation rolling, I believe it was PEOPLE ON THIS BLOG that first said, “No way!”

Congrats to everyone involved in unearthing this mess. It’s tough to nail a skittering bunch of cockroaches.

Write Your Board Members

July 5th, 2011
10:32 am

Maureen

How many schools does Atlanta have? What percentage of school principals are the 36?

Dr NO

July 5th, 2011
10:41 am

The Coaster is now plunging down the first hill at an alarming rate of speed. Everyone get their hands up in the air cuz this is gonna be fun ride!!

Hall is as corrupt as they come as is her backer Shirley Franklin. Two pigs in a poke. Cupcake intentionally lied to Perdue and for her to plead ignorance is in itself ignorant.

Its about time for the ever popular race card to be tossed into the mix.

Watch and Learn….

Lee

July 5th, 2011
10:48 am

@Write, 55 elementary, 15 middle, and 23 high schools.

Patrice

July 5th, 2011
11:09 am

An honest plan for educating students is what is needed nation-wide. The cheating is not germaine to APS, it’s not just in Georgia and less than desirable activity occurs in private schools as well … There are public education models that work so let’s not thow the baby out with the bath water, our children, all of our children, need a quality education and they need it yesterday!

Dekalb Oldtimer

July 5th, 2011
11:10 am

IMO a HUGE percentage.

jarvis

July 5th, 2011
11:22 am

Home schooling is only as good as the teacher.

Really amazed

July 5th, 2011
11:25 am

Please, don’t believe that this only happened in APS!!!!

Teacher Reader

July 5th, 2011
11:33 am

Why can’t the teaching certification office take the certifications away from those involved in this cheating scandal? This way at these these administrators and teachers would no longer be able to be with our kids as they can’t be trusted, and would hurt them eve in local DA’s decide not to prosecute.

Hank

July 5th, 2011
11:34 am

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
11:41 am

What I find interesting is that you could have asked me (or any of my colleagues) whether or not teachers were cheating years ago, and the obvious answer is yes! When you work in a school system that rewards incompetence and promotes achieving targets rather than student learning, cheating is not a surprising outcome. How many APS convocations did I sit through watching teachers get bonuses for bogus gains that their students made? I am all for closing the achievement gap, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the gains APS made years ago were statistically impossible. When you inherit a 4th grader who “Exceeds Expectations” on the CRCT only to be flunking 5th grade, there is definitely a problem… Why hasn’t APS been tracking INDIVIDUAL student growth from year to year to see when a teacher (through cheating) has skewed student achievement data? Instead, the preference is to compare grade levels (with entirely different subsets of kids) from year to year. What a bunch of idiots.

Long Time Coming...

July 5th, 2011
11:51 am

What responsibility does Kathy Augustine have in this? Very little has been said about her and clearly I understand the responsibility that Dr. Hall bears in this fiasco. However, Augustine was # 2 in charge and just as cut throat and unethical as Hall. But as the Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction are we so blind not to think she knew nothing? Come on now!! Wake up people!!

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
11:54 am

@J. Wentworth Astor VI and @Coronella Keiper

I’ve had the pleasure of being a homeschool teacher and tutoring some wonderful children in Atlanta that attend private schools. However, these two options are not realistic for most families in Atlanta (and the US). I hope that those of us with the financial stability to opt out of public schools (if we choose to) do not sit idly by and watch our public school system implode. Same goes for the parents who send their kids to Rivers, Smith, Jackson, Brandon, etc. I suspect cheating at these schools is close to zero, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the district doesn’t need your help in turning things around.

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
11:59 am

@ Teacher Reader

Per my understanding, teachers who were interviewed by the GBI and confessed to cheating were granted criminal immunity. However, these teachers were unaware that their names were to be handed over to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Once they lose their licenses, their teaching careers are essentially over. That being said, private schools and school abroad do not require certification, so they could hypothetically still stay in the classroom.

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
12:04 pm

Will teachers and administrators who took home $2,000-$5,000 yearly in bonuses for making targets have to return the money? How many hundreds of thousands of tax dollars in “pay for performance” incentives went to schools that invented their academic gains?

Kira Willis

July 5th, 2011
12:05 pm

Although Maureen poses some really good questions on her previous post about the cheating scandal in regard to how much pound of flesh the public wants from B. Hall and her crew, there still remains the fact that cheating has taken place, and those who did so need to face the consequences. What will those consequences be? I believe that they should be swift and fairly severe.
Then, and only then, can we turn our attention to the systematic reasons why people, administrative staff, principals and teachers, cheated. And THEN we can turn our attention to why Georgia and other states want to base teacher salary on student achievement. As I said before, testing has its place, but not on a yearly basis, and certainly not without the growth model and the longitudinal data for individual students.

SPARKY

July 5th, 2011
12:08 pm

Maureen,

So will the names come out or will they be private for a long time?

As a SPARK parent, I do remember our principal being at one of the “cheating” schools before. Doesn’t mean she was involved. But it’s obviously a question we would want answered.

Mountain Teacher

July 5th, 2011
12:09 pm

The question that occurred to me is this: How many of those teachers/principals involved only participated in cheating because they were afraid not to do so? If there was a climate of fear and retribution towards whistleblowers in APS, and considering the economic/jobs climate in recent years, it’s not inconceivable that perhaps some of these educators were job-scared. I’m not excusing the behavior, of course.

Write Your Board Members

July 5th, 2011
12:11 pm

There are 70 schools in Atlanta that took the CRCT. Only middle and elementary schools correct. Therefore, that means that 50 percent of teh principals are alleged to be involved. When you consider the fact there are a handful of schools, ie Smith, where cheating wouldn’t be necessary because the students are so well prepared from home, the percentage is actually a bit higher.

Clearly, there was a cultural issue here. And I bet, none of this was thought of independently.

David Sims

July 5th, 2011
12:17 pm

@Write, the CRCT is a test for elementary and middle school students. There were 43 of those schools (in Atlanta) on the state’s “severe concern” list, so of all the schools that might have cheated on the CRCT in Atlanta, 43/70 or 61.4% of them probably did cheat. Of the schools that probably did cheat, it seems likely that the state investigation netted 83.7% of their principals. I guess that’s not too bad, for government work.

@catlady, I agree. Beverly Hall isn’t stupid. She’s selfish. She’s immoral, or amoral. But she isn’t stupid. Notice that a lot of things had to go wrong (from Hall’s point of view) before she could get caught. First, she had to work in a state having a governor that actually gave a damn about something other than his image and political career. Sonny Perdue fit that description, even if you don’t like him for other reasons. Second, there had to be at least one mass media organization with gumption enough to investigate suspicious test score gains aggressively. The AJC didn’t cover for the black woman who was then the leftist establishment’s most recent favorite star education administrator. Instead they did what a newspaper should do: expose the scandal and the statistics pertaining to it.

@Really Amazed. No it didn’t happen only at APS. But it did happen mostly at APS, in which district there were more than half of the “severe concern” listed schools for your entire state.

@Hank, thanks for the link to the news story about Cincinnati’s Taft Information Technology High School. I’m suspicious that things aren’t as they appear. I’ll look into it.

Teacher Reader

July 5th, 2011
12:18 pm

@ Mountain Teacher

Being afraid not to cheat is a cop out. These are adults that we are talking about. They could have said no, left, ect, as no job is worth loosing your integrity and hopefully your professional certificate. It would take guts to go against the grain, but if you really cared about the children, that is what a good teacher would have done.

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
12:20 pm

@ Mountain Teacher
In APS, if you are the principal of a school and your school has not made AYP, you are placed on a PDP (Professional Development Plan) by the head of your SRT (School Reform Team). As a principal on a PDP, you are expected to place teachers who are not making adequate gains in the classroom on a PDP as well. This allows the SRT director to remove principals for low test scores in their school, and allows principals to remove teachers for low test scores in classrooms (and justify to the SRT director that they are improving the teachers in their school). I’m sure if enough schools in the SRT are not making AYP, then there is some sort of PDP for this position as well. The result? A ton of paperwork for people to cover their own behinds, none of which leads to gains in student achievement.

East Atlanta Teacher

July 5th, 2011
12:22 pm

Wow. So now we know. Incompetence exists at all levels in many organizations and the schools systems are no different. It just amazes me that we have let this happen for so long. It is not a racial issue; it is a competence and ethical issue. I watched the segment from March 2011 that @Hank posted. An inner city high school, teachers who cared but were led in the “wrong direction”. A new principal who by all accounts is competent and ethical. A critical business community partnership. It seems that here in Atlanta, the business community gives lip service to wanting good schools. Put your corporations where you speak.
Yes, we will have legal actions, with much fingerpointing, ranting, and raving, and hopefully the right people punished. The children will be able to see that adults can act like adults and hold adults accountable. But, the key is what we do about preventing these situations from happening again and how we rebuild confidence and competency. It does start from the top. The teachers in the classrooms know this. They want to do a good job, and they want to be recognized for doing it. And they don’t want to be punished when they see and report potential wrongdoing. It just seems reasonable. Why does this seem to be so difficult?
This blog is a perfect example of the way to start the revolution (wait a minute, it did) or at least continue the momentum. Ideas, people, we can do this.

Former SPARK parent

July 5th, 2011
12:30 pm

Warning: there are a lot of people out there–from members of the APS BOE to Shirley Franklin and even some members of Step Up or Step Down– who are now saying they just want to “move on” and “repair the system.” Those are code words for “we didn’t believe Bev Hall’s gang of thugs could really be capable of one of the largest crimes against children in U.S. education history. We should have known; we should have seen it right in front of our faces; we should have understood catlady and chillywilly and Ralph Long and, yes, SPARK parent were right, but we didn’t, so let’s pretend we’re all about the future now as a way of diverting attention away from our massive failure of oversight.”

No.

Let’s go back, get the money Bev Hall et al stole from us, then let’s move forward.

Arch Dawg

July 5th, 2011
12:32 pm

So we’ve had the Atlanta Police Department under Shirls juking the stats on Crime Reports and B. Hall juking the stats in the Schools!

Is anything in this city real?

Show Me!

July 5th, 2011
12:33 pm

If James Hafford, former Supt. from Dekalb county can step out of jail after 48 hours and return to being Suprintendant, after it being multiple offenses, then the Georgia Professional Standards Commission should be abolished. Who is to say that the PSC membership is PERFECT. These so called leaders in this State are a real farce! Principals and Administrators are ALWAYS exonerated by this supposedly ethics commission. I want all of the Professional Standards Members to submit to a lie detector test if they arae to pass judgement on anyone. As for the APS scandal, this is what you reap! As you sow, shall you reap! AlI of the Great Teachers that didn’t cheat that APS, Board Members, and Brenda Muhammad (you were on the Board too), you threw them to the wolves and under the bus, with no hope of justice. Today, I am sure they feel vindicated! Deal needs to ABOLISH the entire SCHOOL BOARD OF APS, because all of this happened under their reign, and THEY DID NOT HOLD BEVERLY HALL ACCOUNTABLE. Mark Elgart with SACS sounds more like a politician. He had stepped outside of his boundary and the framework of SACS. Congress and Senate have differences in opinions and voting all the time. That is how the democratic process works. I guess Mark Elgart needs to put Congress on Probation too! All of this is too political. It is about$$$. Mark Elgart, not once has held Beverly Hall accountable. How much did he get paid? I want an open records request on how much money did SACS and Mark Elgart receive from APS? This too shall pass!!!!

Raquel Morris

July 5th, 2011
12:34 pm

What makes me most angry is that after the extensive investigations carried out by the AJC and Governor Perdue’s investigators, the vast majority of our elected officials, including Mayor Kasim Reed, were afraid to call for Beverly Hall’s resignation. The Mayor spent all of his time carrying the Chamber of Commerce’s water, ignoring the cheating crisis, and chasing Khaatim El out of his seat. Reed was wrong on this issue and should never be given control of APS.

As a State Senator, Kasim Reed wrote the legislation that took away the Board of Education’s authority over the Superintendent. Other than hiring her, the Board had no oversight into the Superintendent’s office. Kasim Reed wrote the governance legislation that created an environment where Beverly Hall could lie, cheat, steal and get away with it.

Michael Moore

July 5th, 2011
12:34 pm

I find it interesting that no one anywhere has mentioned the punitive nature of NCLB and how test scores that already do not represent student achievement are used to punish schools, administrators and teachers. So how is any of this different than what happened to the banking industry two years ago to the present day? When you use a business model you invite the business abuses that go along with it. When the stakes outweigh the fear of getting caught this is what happens. So wheres the surprise? And let’s not turn that ivnestigatory light on anywhere else in the state.

Arch Dawg

July 5th, 2011
12:44 pm

@MM, yep this is directly the result of a horrific piece of legislation that overreaches into State/Local affairs. (well partly the cheating, but the CRCT’s, and rediculous never ending tests etc…)

Of course any peice of Legislation with Ted Kennedy’s name attached was bound to be severly flawed.

tim

July 5th, 2011
12:45 pm

BEV HALL >>> The Sargent Schultz of APS…….I know NOTH-ING!

P.S. Wipe the egg of your face Shirley Franklin and the Concerned Racist Black clergy…..it’s still there..

Scott A

July 5th, 2011
12:49 pm

Every principal and teacher involved should have their certificate revoked. How can we solve the real problems in education today if we won’t even admit they exist?

Dr NO

July 5th, 2011
12:55 pm

Here Here Tim. Im still waiting for all those broken down humps at the concerned black clergy to make there haughty and prideful statements. Which should be full of conflict, contraversy and stupidity.

NewMinority

July 5th, 2011
12:56 pm

Pertaining to our government, the only two questions that matter:

“EDWIN: I want to see just two things, because there are two things of real consequence right now in terms of the major powers of government historically and in terms of political philosophy. Those two things are the power of the purse and the power of the sword. In order to continue spending at the levels it now is, the government has to maintain control over the monetary system, and it has to have some kind of control over military and police force.

Under our Constitution, those two powers are supposed to be ultimately in the hands of the people. We’re supposed to have a free-market-oriented and -controlled monetary system based on gold and silver, so the politicians really do not have control over the purse. They have to come to us and ask for taxes. They can’t manipulate the money and use inflation as a hidden tax. We’ve lost that. We failed to assert it – let’s put it that way.

On the other side, we see this police state developing, with a centralized Department of Homeland Security in Washington that has tentacles reaching down into every local and state police force. This is completely contrary to the Constitution because the Constitution tells us that the thing that’s necessary for the security of a free state is what? A well-regulated militia. And what is a well-regulated militia? It’s composed, as the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776 said even before the U.S. Constitution, of the body of the people – the people organized in a certain way. Think of Switzerland.

Well, we’ve lost control over those two key elements, and until we get them back, we can only continue down this road to the full-blown police state. So in sizing up any politician, I’d start by asking them these two things: “What are you going to do in the state to return us to a system of constitutional currency with an alternative system in this state because we can’t do it in Congress?” And, number two, “What are you going to do to revitalize some kind of state militia structure, perhaps using Switzerland as the model because they’ve been very successful over the years, so that we are no longer under the control or answerable to Janet Napolitano?”

If the states can’t regain control over those two things, the rest of it is a waste of time. If you don’t have control over the high ground, as the military people would say, then you’ve lost the battle. Education funds, transportation funds, all the rest of this stuff is not even icing on the cake if you let the federal government continue to have those two powers.”

http://www.activistpost.com/2011/06/us-monetary-system-and-descent-into.html

wondering

July 5th, 2011
12:57 pm

I wonder if the DeSoto Independent School District in Texas that just hired Kathy Augustine is wondering…..

chillywilly

July 5th, 2011
12:58 pm

I’d like to see some Law Enforcement Agency kick Beverly Hall’s door open and carry her away in chains………TODAY! They have not released the names of the guilty yet, but I have a strong feeling that Kathy Augustine, Chuck Burbridge, Penn Payne and Millicent Few are mentioned throughout the investigative report. The guilty rogues need to be arrested right in front of their employees and walked over to the City Jail in leg irons & handcuffs.

GIVE US THE NAMES!!!

With regard to E. Rivers, Brandon & Jackson, my experiences with those schools has convinced me that something “ain’t” right at those schools either. So don’t place these three schools on a pedestal……yet.

MrLiberty

July 5th, 2011
1:01 pm

And government granted teaching certifications kept this from happening how?

And government monopolistic control of taxpayer dollars and school operation kept this from happening how?

And the children of this state deserve to suffer from all the inherent failures of anything that is run by the government why?

And a private, free-market, voluntary system of accountable private, cooperative, charity, home, community-run, etc. schools would be worse why?

There will be no accountability. Your money will continue to be taken. Your children will continue to suffer. You will still not be allowed a real choice. The government will still dictate who can and who cannot legally teach. You will continue to believe that somehow, some way, a government, political solution to this problem can be reached if you just whine enough and vote for the “right” people.

Good luck with that.

Dr NO

July 5th, 2011
1:03 pm

It too is interesting the names of those missing from making commnet. Joseph “Useless” Lowery, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jimmy Carter, Andrew Young, The Crazy McKinney Clan, State Legislators and other “Top Leaders” scamming in Atl City Govt.

Show Me!

July 5th, 2011
1:06 pm

Dr. No. You are absolutely right! No comments from our “so called leaders” :(

APSTeacherfor5years

July 5th, 2011
1:07 pm

@ East Atlanta Teacher

I really enjoyed your thoughtful comments. Here is a huge opportunity to make some dramatic changes at the district level. Here are some ideas– What if APS were to create better assessments, tracking software, and use longitudinal data to inform teachers on student growth in a meaningful way? What if teachers that are currently in classrooms were allowed to create/pilot this software as opposed to receiving it as a mandate at a faculty meeting? What if teachers were given the opportunity to create the curriculum their school uses as opposed to using crappy textbooks? What if principals were allowed to hire teachers that they truly want at their school as opposed to absorbing those (less than mediocre candidates) from closing school in APS? What if teachers were able to evaluate admin and principals in 360 evaluations (and principals could evaluate their superiors)? What if APS started a tip line to report unethical behavior?

Show Me!

July 5th, 2011
1:19 pm

School accreditation firm wields too much power
New law lets company manage school board
by Editorial Board (From the Creative Loafing)
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Staff Illustration

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Comments (11) On April 20, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill that gives him authority to replace members of the Atlanta school board by midsummer if the embattled system appears unlikely to shed its probationary status and regain full accreditation.

Hailing the move, Mayor Kasim Reed noted that a loss of accreditation “would cripple economic development and business investment in the city, region and state for years to come.”

If only the governor’s swift action can save our students and the city, then we’ll be thanking our lucky stars come July that a bipartisan team of Atlanta legislators had the foresight to sponsor this bill.

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is anything but a setup with a predetermined outcome.

This isn’t to imply that Deal, Reed — who lobbied for board-appointing power for himself — or state lawmakers have pulled a fast one. Arguably, they’re playing the hand dealt them. However, rather than fixing any systemic problems within the school system, the new law only gives more influence to the private Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, its parent company, Alpharetta-based AdvancED, and, by extension, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. None of which is good.

The SACS report that placed the Atlanta schools on probation in January was a shockingly slapdash document brimming with hearsay and raw opinion that made no mention of the system-wide test-doctoring scandal that’s now the subject of state and federal investigations. Teachers and school administrators could end up in prison, but the SACS report would have you believe the system’s only real problem is that its board members can’t get along.

The board has, indeed, been squabbling since last fall, when a five-member majority led by current Chairman Khaatim El staged a coup because the previous board leadership — hand-picked and backed by the Chamber — had helped try to cover up the cheating scandal. In other words, board discord is merely a symptom, but SACS acts as if it’s the disease.

Certainly, the 29-year-old El has not succeeded in uniting the board or getting members to work together on the problems at hand. And clearly, the infighting is likely to continue until the governor — or voters — cracks some heads and restores order.

But the new law effectively gives AdvancED CEO Mark Elgart the power to dictate who should lead the system, since a functional school board is what he says it is. If you don’t believe Deal will take Elgart’s advice into account, then we’ve got a surplus classroom trailer to sell you. El may as well start packing up his desk now.

Unfortunately, SACS holds all the cards in this situation. But once the state wraps up the cheating investigation, it should turn its focus on the accreditation firm, whose flimsily sourced report and Chamber connections put its objectivity in question. Also, the AJC recently reported that, in an October memo, Elgart urged El to give the chairman’s seat back to his Chamber-backed predecessor, LaChandra Butler Burks.

Most troubling is Elgart’s reported suggestion to El and Burks that the school system hire his company for “mediation and professional support services.” If the Mob were proposing a scheme like that, it’d be called a protection racket.

By all means, let’s do what we need to in order to maintain accreditation, but keep in mind that the board friction is but a sideshow. Once the investigation is over and indictments start coming down, the real trouble begins.

Teacher

July 5th, 2011
2:16 pm

The cheating scandal in Atlanta City Schools in terrible. This scandal gives the impression that children cannot learn, so we must cheat in their behalf. This is so not true. As we all know there are many aspects of a good learning environment. If a learning environment is maintained within a classroom, learning will take place. If students are not learning, take a look at the learning environment. This includes the aspect of student behavior and the dirty word discipline. Discipline being a dirty word, because that just does not take place in the school office anymore. We are too worried about upsetting a parent, be that parent reasonable or not.
I would also like to say I am in agreement with trying to keep student and parent happy about the education process, but within reason. Reason being that changes that need to be made to accommodate student and parent, don’t negative affect other students. Example; allowing students to scream, and yell, over instruction, because the principal is afraid their parent will complaint at the school board, about anything some might dream up. This is not as foolish as it might sound. It has happened.
If school administrations effectively support classrooms, when some students seek to turn the class out, the behavior and discipline part of a good learning environment would allow teaching and learning to take place. All aspects of a good learning environment must be in place for students to learn, academic and behavioral. I spoke of behavior, because this is what upsets the learning environment within my classroom most frequently leading to students not achieving as they might.
In any case cheating on the behalf of students is not something I will do, or maybe I say that because a sufficient amount of pressure has not been placed on me. I have thirty years plus effective experience teaching (effective meaning students actually learning and experiencing academic growth). I will not mar my career with such a deed.

@SPARKY

July 5th, 2011
2:28 pm

SPARKY wrote:

“So will the names come out or will they be private for a long time?
As a SPARK parent, I do remember our principal being at one of the ‘cheating’ schools before. Doesn’t mean she was involved. But it’s obviously a question we would want answered.”

I think it probably will NOT be answered. C.W. Hill was closed, and thus Hill’s staff was never on the investigation list at all (at least, not on the Blue Ribbon Commission’s investigation list), despite the fact that it was one of the schools on the state’s “severe” concern about cheating list. Maureen, is there any reason to think that the governor’s investigation was broadened to include C.W. Hill staff?

David Sims

July 5th, 2011
2:35 pm

@Hank. I think Taft High School (Cincinnati, OH) dumped its lowest-performing students in about the same way that APS did from 2003-6. According to one comment-leaver on a blog in that area, Taft transferred its losers to other schools. And in that ABC news interview, Taft Principal Anthony Smith mentioned that he was given the option of transferring students out, but when the ABC reporter suggestively prompted “But you kept them?” Smith did not answer, but instead quickly went on to say he was also given the option of replacing the teachers. Smith evaded the question about what he did or didn’t do with the students.

Still, Taft High School is remains 97% black (and 3% white), so it’s high academic achievement can’t be put down entirely to dumping a few low performers. Something else is probably going on, too, but I haven’t found out what it is, yet.