Here is part of former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall’s op-ed published by the AJC today in response to the state’s devastating report on the extent of cheating in Atlanta schools on the annual state exam, the CRCT.
Please, keep responses on topic.
I am interested in the district’s NAEP scores, which Hall cites in her piece. I have attended several national panels and conferences where Atlanta’s NAEP scores were recognized and praised by speakers, including Andre Alonso, the highly regarded CEO of Baltimore schools who commented that APS had to be doing something right to see such gains. (Atlanta and Baltimore are both part of a trial project in which some urban districts are allowing their scores to be separated out and published — NAEP has only published state level scores in the past.)
(For information on what NAEP is, go here. Called the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is considered an objective and rigorous — some say overly rigorous — test.) For those of you with testing expertise, including Jerry Eads, I would love your view on Atlanta’s performance on NAEP.
I am shocked and saddened by the facts uncovered by the investigators. The cheating documented is serious and cannot be ignored. I am particularly concerned for those students affected by misconduct and whose education has fallen short as a result
I am also disturbed by the repeated statements by teachers and other professionals that they cheated or chose not to reveal cheating because of a perceived atmosphere of intimidation and retaliation. A number of years ago, we installed a hotline whereby persons with knowledge of misconduct could report it, even anonymously if they so wished. Anonymous emails and letters provided a further channel of communication. Even so, it now appears that our efforts and procedures were not enough.
To the extent that I failed to take measures that would have prevented what the investigators have disclosed, I am accountable, as head of the school system, for failing to act accordingly. I sincerely apologize to the people of Atlanta and their children for any shortcomings. If I did anything that gave teachers the impression I was unapproachable and unresponsive to their concerns, I also apologize for that. Where people consciously chose to cheat, however, the moral responsibility must lie with them.
I do not apologize for the reforms my staff and I implemented. The public has a right to hold educators and administrators accountable if they fail to teach children what they need to learn. We set goals for our schools because our students deserve no less. But, most importantly, we accompanied our targets and the targets mandated by No Child Left Behind with programs and facility improvements designed to give principals and teachers the means to achieve them.
It is my hope that APS parents and supporters will not read the report as a sweeping indictment of the Atlanta Public Schools and the accomplishments of the past decade. The vast majority of our educators are dedicated, hardworking and innocent of wrongdoing. They deserve our respect and gratitude.
Progress has been made, and continues to be made, in Atlanta’s schools. Cheating on the CRCT in 2009 or earlier by no means undermines the clear indication of improvement shown by the annual testing of all segments of our student population as part of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) of the federal government’s National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Only 35 percent of APS fourth-graders taking the reading assessment in 2003 scored at or above NAEP’s level of proficiency. By 2009, that number had risen to 50 percent. Of the eighth-graders who were tested, 60 percent met or exceeded NAEP’s reading proficiency standard in 2009, compared to only 42 percent in 2003.
The sad events of 2009 are shameful, but those events are in the past. Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done. I have every confidence that, under Superintendent Erroll Davis and under my ultimate successor when chosen, the Atlanta Public Schools will move forward, not back. I will cheer for them the loudest as they continue their “Race to the Top.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog