Archive for March, 2013

Poison seeds: The bitter harvest of the APS cheating scandal

downeyart0401In 2009, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education featured Atlanta’s Parks Middle School on its annual bus tour of high-achieving schools, and I joined the visit. I arrived early in my own car, beating the bus and getting a chance to chat with students for an hour.

The enthusiastic students expressed pride in their school, which was decorated with banners announcing its awards and distinctions. And there were many.

In 2006, Parks Middle made adequate yearly progress and surpassed Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall’s even more ambitious targets. That same year, the percentage of eighth-graders who passed the math section of the CRCT rose from 24 percent to 86 percent. In 2008, Parks earned national accolades after becoming Atlanta’s only middle school to meet all its academic targets.

Over the weekend, I dug into my old files — a box in my closet — for my notebook from Parks. Among the quick observations I had jotted down: “Kids proud of school.” “Telling me about …

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APS school chief Davis to employees: Remember 95 percent of APS employees were not implicated in cheating scandal

 Erroll B. Davis Jr.

Erroll B. Davis Jr.

In the wake of the indictments handed down today against former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others, APS school chief Erroll B. Davis sent this letter to APS employees:

Dear Employees:

Today, the Fulton County District Attorney’s (DA) Office announced indictments against 35 former employees of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The former employees are accused of wrongdoing in connection with the administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in 2009 and, in some cases, previous years.

As an APS family, we are ready to put this troubling episode behind us. Our official role is to allow the legal process to run its course. We have an obligation to treat any indictment as a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the DA’s office.

At the same time, we will maintain the expectation that all employees conform to the highest ethical standards established in APS. Over the past two years, we have taken action to renew our …

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Here is the list of people indicted today in APS cheating scandal

The indictments handed down in the last hour by a Fulton County Grand Jury cite RICO conspiracy and individual acts including false swearings, theft by taking and influencing witnesses.

In the indictments, there was only one count of racketeering, which carries up to 20 years in prison. But the alleged acts of false statements and writings, influencing a witness, theft by taking were the underlying crimes that supported the racketeering charge. Out of 65 counts, one was racketeering, two were influencing a witness, five were theft by taking and the remaining counts concerned the crime of making false statements or writing.

Here is the list of indicted parties:

BEVERLY HALL, former APS school superintendent

MILLICENT FEW, human resources

SHARON DAVIS WILLIAMS

TAMARA COTMAN (JOHNSON), area superintendent

MICHAEL PITTS, area superintendent

CHRISTOPHER WALLER, former principal at Parks Middle School

GREGORY REID

SANDRA WARD, Success For All coordinator at Parks Middle …

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Former Atlanta school chief Beverly Hall and 34 others indicted in APS cheating case

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 people indicted today in APS cheating scandal.  (AJC photo)

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 people indicted today in APS cheating scandal. (AJC photo)

Among those named in the indictment handed down tonight by a Fulton County grand jury looking into the APS cheating scandal is former school chief Beverly Hall.

Hall and 34 others were indicted as a result of their alleged roles in the 2009 cheating scandal that toppled her regime, sullied the district’s reputation and raised doubts about testing integrity nationwide.

In the indictments, there was only one count of racketeering, which carries up to 20 years in prison. But the alleged acts of false statements and writings, influencing a witness, theft by taking were the underlying crimes that supported the racketeering charge.

Out of 65 counts, one was racketeering, two were influencing a witness, five were theft by taking and the remaining counts concerned the crime of making false statements or writings.

The cheating discovered by the AJC in Atlanta has …

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Indictments may come today in APS cheating scandal. Grand jury looking at suppressed report on “culture of wrongdoing” at one school

The AJC is expecting indictments possibly later today related to the APS cheating scandal first brought to light by the newspaper. When those indictments come down, please be sure to come back to the blog as there will be a lot to discuss about who was indicted and who was not.

The AJC is already reporting that the grand jury looking at the APS cheating scandal has been focusing in part on D.H. Stanton Elementary School where it appears that data skewing was common.

According to the AJC: (Please read the entire story before commenting. This is an excerpt.)

An internal inquiry confirmed a”culture of wrongdoings” at D.H. Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta: Attendance records were falsified. Disciplinary files were doctored. Friends of the principal got paid for tutoring they never performed. And the principal covered up reports that staff members had physically abused students.

Special investigators appointed to dig into widespread cheating on standardized tests in the …

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House leader blames “fourth branch of government,” the Board of Regents, for downing campus carry bill

tb1605A miffed Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, took to the House well with 25 minutes left in the 2013 session Thursday to decry those who blocked the effort to allow guns on college campuses.

He blamed the “fourth branch of government,” the Board of Regents, who, he said, declared the campus carry issue “taboo.”

“The Board of Regents has been opposed to this since day one and, yes, they are the fourth branch of government,” he said. “We were fighting an uphill battle.”

Senate Bill 101 would have expanded where guns are allowed in Georgia, including much of college campuses. It passed the House by a vote of 116-55 but stalled in the Senate over the issue of guns on campuses.

Chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, Powell said House and Senate negotiators had agreed Wednesday to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry weapons on college campuses with the requirement that permit holders between the ages of 21 and 25 would have to complete an …

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Legislators lower bar to earn HOPE Grant for technical colleges

More technical college students will now receive the HOPE Grant.

The General Assembly passed a bill tonight that lowers the GPA necessary to win the lottery-funded grant, which applies to technical colleges.

House Bill 372 qualifies students for the grant if they maintain a 2.0 grade-point average. The current mandate is 3.0, but the change would reinstate the rule that existed before lawmakers overhauled HOPE two years ago.

The change reflects concerns that too many technical college students dropped out or chose not to enroll because they couldn’t meet the higher bar. The new standard is estimated to allow between 2, 500 and 5,000 students to re-enroll in the grant program.

The HOPE Scholarship, which is used by University System of Georgia students, would keep its 3.0 GPA requirement. Both awards cover most of the in-state tuition.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled  blog

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Does a parent have a choice when the school tolerates bullying? Was this protective mama bear out of line?

ART-Bully020207I’ve been watching a subtitled Swedish mystery series, “Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter,” in which the feisty protagonist is a crime reporter for a major newspaper. In the episode I watched last night, Annika is upset because her sweet 8-year-old son is being bullied and the school refuses to act even after the bully pushes her son off the monkey bars and seriously injures him.

So,  Annika strides onto the school playground, confronts the bully as he terrorizes another child and warns him that she will kill him if he touches her son again. The threat sounds even more ominous in Swedish.

I have to admit rooting for Annika, who takes heat for making the threat. But she’s not arrested.

A Clayton woman who did the same thing to protect her child was not so lucky. Marvis Renae Henry was charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting school operations and released today on $5,000 bond.

You cannot help but feel for the 59-year-old Sunday schoolteacher who believed that her …

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New study: Boon in Algebra I in middle school doesn’t lead to higher math performance



A new study suggests pushing more kids into Algebra I in middle school may not pay off. (AJC photo)
A new study suggests pushing more kids into Algebra I in middle school may not pay off. (AJC photo)

A new Brookings study that is part of the annual Brown Center Report on American Education suggests that states have not seen the academic boost they expected from introducing Algebra 1 to a broader range of students in middle school.

This practice has been widely embraced in Georgia under the assumption that Algebra 1 in middle school better readies students for the more rigorous math now being taught in high school.

The study by researcher Tom Loveless seems to end up in the place that much education research does: The concept may haven been good in theory, but the execution stumbled because the Algebra I  was watered down to accommodate weaker students who normally would not have qualified for advanced math in middle school.

According to Education Week: (This is an excerpt. Please read full piece before commenting.)

A new analysis, however, suggests that increased …

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APS parents and watchers: AJC wants to talk to you about CRCT cheating indictments coming this week

As developments unfold in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating investigation, the AJC would like to get reactions from readers who have/had children in APS or have closely followed the story and have some thoughts.

Please contact my colleague Nancy Badertscher if you are willing to be quoted when appropriate to any developments. She wants to compile a list of possible interviews prior to the handing down of the indictments, which the AJC is now reporting may be Friday.

Thanks, Maureen

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