Are principals accountable for the cheating on their watch? Should they be fired?

The APS cheating scandal has led the system to pursue principal firings in schools where there was widespread cheating by classroom teachers.

But some principals counter that they did not order teachers to cheat, so why are they to blame when their employees do the wrong thing. Are they responsible for the actions of their teachers? Even if they should have known something was amiss, what if they didn’t?

In the AJC story this week on her APS tribunal hearing, Slater Elementary School principal Selena Dukes Walton contended,  “I am not responsible for something I did not know about. I’m not responsible for the teacher.”

But in an interview with the AJC last week, APS Superintendent Erroll Davis said, “When principals say to me that ‘The investigators’ report said I wasn’t involved, why am I being removed from the job?’ I say, ‘Absolutely, you did not cheat but you failed. I put the malleable lives of young children in your hands and you failed.”’

Davis said, “You can predict for risk and you should manage that risk. That is what a leader has to do.You have to manage the risk. You are accountable. You are responsible for everything that happens on your watch.’”

But how far should that chain of culpability extend? Could we argue that all school leaders in APS, including those in the central office, were responsible for failing to detect the cheating that was occurring under their watch? If so, then Davis would have a lot more terminations to consider.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

73 comments Add your comment

vince

May 8th, 2012
12:08 pm

If a nurse steals drugs from the hospital pharmacy, should the hospital administrator get fired?
If a policeman takes cash that has been confiscated in an arrest, should the chief of police get fired?
If a newspaper columnist commits plagiarism should the editor in chief get fired?
If a child cheats on a test should the teacher get fired?

Just wondering?

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 8th, 2012
12:16 pm

A leader is responsible for EVERYTHING that their subordinates do or fail to do. Learned that in the military. ;)

Forced to be Anon >:(

May 8th, 2012
12:16 pm

“If a child cheats on a test should the teacher get fired?”

It depends. At my school, a parent argued that because the take-home exam was not LABELED as non-collaborative, the test–which was labeled “test”–was open for group discussion on Facebook. When the teacher decided to throwout the take-home exam grades due to mass cheating, the principal refused to allow her to do so.

He told her if she argued further, it would be insubordination.

So I guess, yes.

d

May 8th, 2012
12:17 pm

Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked as a department manager at a large retail chain. I took a vacation just prior to a special promotion being put into place. I left step-by-step directions with my second-in-command to instruct the rest of the department how to process the promotion and instructions to ensure all others were trained on the procedure. When I returned, the store manage called me into the office and showed me that several associates did not follow proper procedures. I was then handed an official write-up. Lesson is – in a leadership position, you are responsible for your subordinates and their actions.

mathmom

May 8th, 2012
12:21 pm

It’s not if a (one) employee cheats/lies/steals/whatever – it’s when there is a culture of lying/cheating/stealing/whatever. If a substantial number of policemen are on the take, then, yes, the chief of police should be terminated. If a substantial number of hospital employees are stealing drugs, then, yes, the hospital administrator should be terminated. The question should be: what is a substantial number? When has the culture of the school (or other work place) been reduced to one of moral decay?

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:24 pm

If the mandate that came down was to improve the test scores and everyone takes credit in the acheivement, then shouldn’t everyone take credit for the cheating.

THe principal should have assessed the risk or possibility of cheating and put in preventive measures to prevent the implication of cheating .

If the principal says they did not know that cheating was going on, then they should be fired for not being cognizant enough to realize that the opportunity was there. If not fired then demoted position and pay….

Colonel Jack

May 8th, 2012
12:25 pm

In the military, it’s a slam-dunk: the commanding officer is responsible for the actions of his/her subordinates. On a ship, the captain takes the heat for everything that goes wrong, whether or not he/she was directly involved. If someone is going to take on the job of principal of a school, they should have that kind of mind set, in my never-to-be-humble opinion. (I wouldn’t have a principal’s job for all the money in the world, by the way.)

nypeach

May 8th, 2012
12:27 pm

When you accept a job as principal, with all the perks that come along with it, you also must accept the responsibility for creating a culture of cheating. She absolutely is responsible and should be terminated. If the the buck doesn’t stop with the principal of the school, then who does it stop with? What is the point of her being there?

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:30 pm

Selena Dukes is not responsible for the teacher, then who are you responsible for…yourself…

You are responsible for the school which encompasses the students, teachers, fixtures, books, lights, bricks, etc….

You are the person in charge ….so what she is saying is that she is not responsible for anything..then she needs to go…

She distancing herslef form the teachers has all but ended her credibility as an effective principal…because she is not accountable.

Old Physics Teacher

May 8th, 2012
12:33 pm

Guys, There ARE preventable measures in place to prevent cheating. Now, that does assume the security protocols for the CRCTs are essentially the same for the HS EOCTs. The teacher never sees the test until test day, and when the test is concluded the teacher never sees the test again. If erasures occur under those conditions, then the teacher is blameless. If those protocols are NOT followed, then the administrators are responsible for the deviation. As a superintendent, my first question would be, “Why did you deviate from State/System policies?” “Was it so you could ‘allow’ teachers to change answers?” In an elementary school, the principal has ultimate responsibility. She/he hires and fires and gets “the big bucks.” The buck stops at his/her desk.

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 8th, 2012
12:33 pm

“If the the buck doesn’t stop with the principal of the school, then who does it stop with? What is the point of her being there?”

Well said!

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:33 pm

But lets not stop there, the responsibility also include the superintendent of the schools, she too should have realized the possibility and the risk for such a great demand for high acheivement…

catlady

May 8th, 2012
12:33 pm

vince: One nurse? No. But a whole floor of nurses? Yes, the principal should be fired. Either she knew/caused what went on or she is too stupid to be a primcipal.

Did this principal get any reward (financial or otherwise) for the “improved” test scores?

I would have LOVED to be a fly on the wall when these administrators/teachers found out an erasure analysis was going to be performed!

Freddie Freeman for President!

May 8th, 2012
12:35 pm

The principal is ABSOLUTELY responsible for everything that goes on in her/his building. Not knowing about it is no excuse.

I can’t believe this principal actually said “I’m not responsible for the teacher.” That right there is reason enough to let her go and never put her in a leadership position again.

ByteMe

May 8th, 2012
12:37 pm

If the cheating was widespread, it means the principal didn’t do their job to ensure that cheating was limited (it can never be completely “erased”, but it can be minimized with certain actions). The boss sets the tone for that.

Limited/Isolated cheating at a school? That’s not reason to fire anyone other than the cheaters.

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:38 pm

where Erol Davis is failing at to me and if e has done so then great, but I have yet to see any protocol for the CRCT exams that just took place…I would have had the news crew there to whitness the path the booklets take once the test was over. Or at least create a mock scenario since yuo do not want to interfere with the students…

s

May 8th, 2012
12:39 pm

Davis is right. Cheating on this scale- HECK YES. Low life scumbag Principal.
What is the Principal responsible for then?
This is the problem with the current culture-ESPECIALLY IN ATLANTA. Never taking responsibility for anything. Thinking only about yourself. Just stop in the middle of the street to let someone out of the car instead of pulling to the curb, like you’re the one one in existence. Pull across 3 lanes to turn instead of turning around further ahead. I take pride in admitting when I am wrong.
This attitude reflects in our kids and criminal thugs on the street- a Principal’s attitute.

Wondering

May 8th, 2012
12:43 pm

The financial issues at Perimeter College occurred while Davis was the Chancellor. How much responsibility is he taking?

It’s fine to claim that a Principle is responsible for cheating at their school, but they should also be given the tools to discover the cheating and to take appropriate action against the cheaters. No public school system gives them the tools. In this cheating scandel, the wrong to right errasure information was not made available to the school system, much less the Principles.

In the history of U.S. public education, how often has a college president failed to balance the books vs. how often has a teacher been found guilty of cheating on a standardized test? Let’s be honest. The k-12 cheating scandal is so upsetting because it is also unheard of.

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 8th, 2012
12:44 pm

@ Old Physics Teacher

“Guys, There ARE preventable measures in place to prevent cheating. Now, that does assume the security protocols for the CRCTs are essentially the same for the HS EOCTs.”

They are. I’ve taught middle and highschool and the procedures for safeguarding the tests are the same. This principal is just trying to save her hide, that’s all.

Freddie Freeman for President!

May 8th, 2012
12:45 pm

“But how far should that chain of culpability extend?” All the way to the top – Beverly Hall knew this and retired before she could be fired.

All of the assistant superintendents and assistant principals are essentially off the hook unless there is evidence they were directly involved. Many of them have their own spheres of responsibility that do not include test supervision or teacher management. But the principals and superintendent – I hate it for ya if your teachers cheated, whether you knew it or not.

Dr. Craig Spinks/Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 8th, 2012
12:48 pm

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:50 pm

you mean to tell me that no one has ever heard of cheating on a standardized test before…
You mean to tell me that if all eyes are on the APS to acheive certain levels that the teachers and principals as well as Assitant principals do not know how bright or not so bright their students and teachers are.

That right there tells me that the principal is not in tune with his/her school.
You are the principal, you make the rules at yuor school during the year…be accountable…

Ron F.

May 8th, 2012
12:52 pm

Principal= Person responsible, especially when you read what she said and did to teachers to “encourage” good test scores. If they’re firing teachers from her school, then she goes too.

Frankie

May 8th, 2012
12:53 pm

To me it is the same for example, the woman who stole $57,000 over 3 years and no one knew until recently, that tells me that there is no accountability and the PTA president, vice-prez, treasurer, and secretary shoud all be replaced….

Old School Girl

May 8th, 2012
12:54 pm

Wow, has society dropped to such low levels, that no one wants to be responsible for their behavior. The overall sentiments of this blog reflect my position. As principal of the school, she should have known what was going on, and it was her responsibility to know what’s going on. Since she states that she didn’t know that there was cheating, then, it is obvious that she was a leader in name only, simply collecting a pay-check. And to just think, as an educator myself, I will have to work an extra ten years to pay her social security, because her lapses in ethics will probably not allow her to make the money she once made, and I will have to foot the cost because she was ‘not responsible.’ Fire her!

another comment

May 8th, 2012
1:02 pm

In my last position in the non-teaching world before I retired, they brought in a Georgia Tech Professor as our new boss. They had prevously made my old boss, my self and another male, equal office heads, to solve an EEO suit, and a job classification issue. After telling us all less than two years before that our jobs could not hold their grades, they basically go back to the old classification and bring in this Tech Professor to be the boss, at a higher grade. We had suggested for over two years all they had to do was raise my former bosses grade. But they ( the ones in power, did not care for this qualified but blunt person).So they refused to do this.

Then all of sudden after 205 people are all reorganized and working fine in three new groups for two years. They go and get this Ga. tech female professor to be the higher graded boss. Guess what! She was a complete sham. Totally incompetant. She had started out at Dept of Defence as a Secretary. Had an affair with the General. Then got sent to training, where she got a Math degree. She then came back and worked for about two years some place in DOD. Next she gets sent off for a Masters in Engineering. Then comes back to DOD for about 2 years. Then gets sent off for more training another round this time a PHD. Then she inserts her name on an Esitmating soft ware that a group of men at DOD had been working on for awhile. So she does no work on it and end up as a co-patentor. She hops all over DOD, never at one place more than 2 years as no one can take the lying, scheming “B”. So she is promoted onward and upward. Then she is urged to take an Early Retirement from DOD as they are eliminating her position. So she gets on with Ga. Tech. She also then goes out and decides she will peddle the Estimating Software that she weasled her name on. She has no idea how it even works.

She teaches at Ga. Tech for about 2-3 years, as an Asst Prof. but the Architecture and Construction Engineering Dept are fighting between each other that they don’t want her after a year. But she has scared them that she will sue. So then she applies for the job at a major Federal Agency. Ga. Tech grants her a leave of Absence.

The first meeting, she tries to get me to cancel existing contracts we have and go to her contractors. I said, I am sorry,but those contracts were already bid and signed. Next, after she starts, she invites me to a meeting with one of those contractors and tries to order me to give them drawings. I told her absolutely not. Those drawings are confidential and I am not allowed to give them out to anyone that does not have a contract and the proper clearances. This is right after 9/11. She again tries to order me to do it. I said no. I then left and called procurement and told them. They called her and told her she was having an illegal meeting. She tried to do this to my old boss he refuse. Only one manager a guy with 6 kids and a stay at home wife agreed.

Then she started going to the worst employees we had. These employees were mostly of one race, who thought they could get ahead by affirmative action and no work. She made them her little special assistant. AKA spys. She would put them in charge of projects and try to put them over projects.

She ended up with reverse discrimination charges, retaliation charges. Then she ended up with upper management finally figuring her out. She ended up being sent back to GA. Tech. My children will never consider Ga. Tech. knowing the quality of professors they hire.

I believe the Principals should be fired. If you are being pressured you fight it. Your life will be hell on earth but you fight it. Your staff will respect you.

FollowingPublicEducationPolicy2DT

May 8th, 2012
1:10 pm

People, please realize that it wasn’t until the results of the erasue analysis was released that people realized that cheating had taken place. As a former principal, I must say that PRINCIPALS ARE PEOPLE…NOT GOD!! There is absolutely no way that they can see and know EVERYTHING THAT OCCURS IN THE BUILDING EVERY MINUTE! It just can’t be done. I’m sure our great president DID NOT KNOW THOSE IRRESPONSIBLE, HORNY SECRET SERVICE MEN WERE GETTING L- – - WHILE ON DUTY. Should the president be impeached for their actions? Did he get impeached? Absolutely not!

Supt. Davis is being unfair for indicating that all leaders at schools where cheating occured are failures! There is no way he himself can know exactly what everyone is doing in APS at this very moment or was doing during the 2011 or 2012 CRCT administration! Just last evening, the news reported that there are 15 schools with high number of erasures during the 2011 administration. And this was during his administration. Therefore if his own words are applied, HE SHOULD BE FIRED!! HE IS THE ULTIMATE LEADER OF THE DISTRICT!

He needs to reconsider his decision to take away the livelihood of the educators that have given so much to the children of Atlanta. They took the jobs when very few others would and did their best to educate thes children.

Despite popular belief, there are true accounts regarding this situation that clearly indicates EVERY principal DID NOT CHEAT! Please stop believing everything that is covered in the media. It is my hope and prayer that the PSC and APS Tribunal Committee will hear and analyze ever case individually.

AND FOR THE RECORD, FOR EACH OF YOU THAT ARE BADGERING THESE EDUCATORS, I’M SURE YOU COULDN’T LAST IN A SCHOOL ONE HOUR!

Dekalbite@vince

May 8th, 2012
1:12 pm

“If a child cheats on a test should the teacher get fired?”

If a child cheats on a test, and the teacher knows this, then there should be repercussions for the child. My daughter cheated on a spelling test when she was seven. Her teacher gave her a zero and talked to her and then called me, and I had a talk with her as well. She never cheated on a test again so I would say that the repercussions were appropriate for a seven year old. High school students probably have different repercussions than a second grader.

If a teacher consistently lets students cheat on STANDARDIZED tests, then yes – they should probably have repercussions simply because this skews the data and makes it unreliable and invalid.

But this is probably a moot point. Unless it is a standardized test (i.e. – everyone uses the same test in their department or in their school or in their school system), then the teacher is the one who makes up the assessment. So it’s hard to see why a teacher would make up an assessment that he/she would then allow students to cheat on. For example, why wouldn’t the teacher just make it an open book test or an easy test or one with many bonus questions? Once I had a professor in grad school at GSU that told us we could bring one 4 x 6 in. index card with any information we wanted on the card for the final exam she had created. Is that cheating? The professor set the rules for the final exam.

Tests should not be to “trip students up”. Rather, they should be feedback to the teacher and student to assess what the student knows. What is fair about keeping the information you are tested on a secret? Students should know BEFORE the lesson is taught what they are expected to know. The important concepts should be stressed and when you teach an important concept – the teacher should tell the students – this is an important concept and I will be testing you on it to make sure you understand it. And assessments do not always have to go in the gradebook. You may do an informal assessment to see if everyone understood the concept. If not, you may want to reteach it. Sometimes assessments are done so students can see how well they understand the concepts.

Testing has become punitive – for teachers and students – when the focus should be on feedback so students and teachers see the strengths and weaknesses in a particular learning situation.

The idea that you are equating cheating on a test with stealing drugs shows how far off as a society we are when it comes to assessing what students know.

FollowingPublicEducationPolicy2DT

May 8th, 2012
1:19 pm

@Dekalbite@vince

The idea that you are equating cheating on a test with stealing drugs shows how far off as a society we are when it comes to assessing what students know.

You are definitely on point with this remark. This is so sad yet ery true!!

Jack

May 8th, 2012
1:28 pm

A principal saying she’s not responsible for teacher transgressions is not a good example for the students.

catlady

May 8th, 2012
1:30 pm

Dear Following: NO< MANY OF US posted here long before the investigation that those increases in test scores were IMPOSSIBLE. So you are wrong to start with.

FollowingPublicEducationPolicy2DT

May 8th, 2012
1:45 pm

FollowingPublicEducationPolicy2DT

May 8th, 2012
2:04 pm

@Catlady – Information you publish in the blog is not factual. As I stated earlier, “EDUCATORS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC WERE MADE AWARE OF THE CHEATING AFTER THE RESULTS OF THE ERASURE ANALYSIS WERE ANNOUNCED!

Ashley

May 8th, 2012
2:07 pm

One teacher maybe, but there were several incidents, ignorance is not bliss in this case.

Another Math Teacher

May 8th, 2012
2:39 pm

“Even if they should have known something was amiss, what if they didn’t?”

If they knew, they are cheats and should be fired. If they did not know (and report it,) they are incompetent and should be fired.

This was not one teacher with reasonable gains. This was not even several teachers with reasonable gains.

As for up the chain…

If they knew, they are cheats and should be fired. If they did not know (and report it,) they are incompetent and should be fired.

These were not reasonable gains at a reasonable number of schools.

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

Slater Elementary School principal Selena Dukes Walton contended, “I am not responsible for something I did not know about. I’m not responsible for the teacher.”

After years of you and your brethren trying to hold teachers responsible for things that aren’t even REMOTELY under their control (father’s in jail, mother’s drug addicted and it’s the TEACHER’S fault the class isn’t meeting the attendance target?) there’s a particular word this quote begs for.

What’s that word? Hmm; could it be…KARMA?

Well, since we are talking about who’s NOT responsible, I’m not responsible for the legions of people who have ZERO sympathy for you.

Ron F.

May 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

FollowingPublic: If one or two teachers cheat, you might not know it. And I’m sure that has happened and will happen. But, when your scores take a mighty leap up, you have to start wondering. And let’s face it, there were multiple teachers cheating in this school. How could the principal NOT know about it? If what the teachers are saying is true, she all but told them to do it, so the pressure was on from the top. It was not a good time to be a principal in APS because the pressure had been placed, hard, on the principals to perform. Problem is, too many caved to the pressure and created their own little scandals.

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

Selena, you knew you were doing Central Office’s dirty work for them. What did you think, they were going to have your back when the nitrogen laden waste material hit the air circulation device?

Or did you just count on that day not happening?

Dekalb taxpayer

May 8th, 2012
2:55 pm

Principals make more money than teachers because they have greater responsibility. The principal in question wants the benefits without the responsibility.

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
2:55 pm

As Dr. John Trotter might say (and GAE and PAGE were too timid to say) you want to act “gansta” then prepare to meet a “gansta’s” end.

catlady

May 8th, 2012
2:57 pm

Following: One teacher cheating, the principal might not know. A school full–THAT should be obvious to a principal with any sense. And yes, I have lasted a LOT longer than that–this is year 39 I am finishing!

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
3:02 pm

Let’s not forget the caution @Following urges us to have:

“People, please realize that it wasn’t until the results of the erasue (sic) analysis was released that people realized that cheating had taken place.”

Yes, @Following Yes! Thank you for that enlightenment.

Because you know, when those administrators were ensconced in their offices, long after the children left and the tests were “secured,” changing answers from wrong to right, they had NO IDEA cheating was taking place.

And shame of those who thought they “should have known.”

catlady

May 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

Also, Following, Mr. Davis was on the BOR until June 30, 2011, and did not oversee the testing last year.

FollowingPublicEducationPolicy2DT

May 8th, 2012
3:24 pm

@Ms. Catlady – You seem to have ALL the answers. Well answer this: Since you claim you are an educator finishing year 39, PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW YOU ARE ON THIS BLOG EVERYDAY, ALL DAY? Who is watching your students?

Van Jones

May 8th, 2012
3:30 pm

“Absolutely, you did not cheat but you failed. I put the malleable lives of young children in your hands and you failed.”
Excellent, Mr. Davis!

Wondering

May 8th, 2012
5:10 pm

When someone fails, as this principle appears to have failed, it might be appropriate to fire her. It is not appropriate to strip her of her credential for not ‘knowing’ what she didn’t know.

I have a friend who was the commander of a Navy vessel. Inappropriate actions occurred on his watch and he was removed from command. He did not know of the transgressions when they occurred nor did they occur with his permission. He accepted his removal as commander. However, the Navy did not prosecute him for the crimes committed by his crew. Those crimes belong to the crew and they were punished.

Losing command was harsh. But his lack of knowledge was not criminal and no one claimed he should have known. That is a fabric woven by the legal eagles that couldn’t do much better than the original blue ribbon commission until they started handing out immunity, something the blue ribbon commission wasn’t legally allowed to do.

Hind sight is not 20/20.

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 8th, 2012
5:25 pm

@Wondering

In the military when one is “removed” from a position it is called “relieved for cause” which is essentially a career ender so I don’t understand your analogy about the principal losing her credentials. Also she’s not in a criminal court; she’s in a tribunal.

Dr. John Trotter

May 8th, 2012
5:36 pm

She’s not responsible? Ha! Nasty is as nasty does.

Finally, there appears to be a bit of justice for those teachers who suffered so long in APS. Not just teachers too. But, all of those who have worked in the Beverly Hall Reign of Terror (supported by Mayor Kasim Reed, former Mayor Shirley Franklin, former Mayor Andrew Young, the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce, Mark Elgart and SACS, U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and all of the Buckette Socialites).

Beverly Fraud, you have a way of telling it like it is! Keep on writing and entertaining!

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
5:37 pm

Wondering, let me give you an APT naval analogy.

Her not knowing there was cheating is about as plausible as the captain of the Titanic not knowing it struck an iceberg.

AFTER the ship sank.

Her denials are slightly LESS ludicrous than if the captain said, “I didn’t know the ship was sinking; I just thought the water was rising.”

Beverly Fraud

May 8th, 2012
5:43 pm

Andy and Shirley, we’ve called on you REPEATEDLY to bring unity and healing to Atlanta by spearheading the effort to name a school after Beverly Hall.

You were two of Hall’s biggest supporters as well as two of Atlanta’s MOST esteemed citizens.

Why would you turn your back on Atlanta in her time of need, and why by your silence, are you repudiating the ethics, integrity and the legacy that Dr. Hall left APS?

Surely you aren’t letting the AJC bully you into silence are you? (No Andy, I didn’t just call you Shirley)

C’mon Andy and Shirley, make us proud one more time!