Limited school-cheating inquiry leaves us in the dark

It was a heart-warming story: A school where nine in 10 students were poor enough to receive a free or reduced lunch, and yet where nine in 10 students met or exceeded most state testing standards.

As recently as 2009, Atlanta’s East Lake Elementary School was honored as a “No Excuses” school and deemed not only to be making the critical Adequate Yearly Progress, but to be doing so in “distinguished” fashion.

Then came the state’s analysis of suspicious wrong-to-right erasure marks on test answer sheets, including red flags for 42 percent of East Lake Elementary’s classrooms. Tighter monitoring was on order during the 2010 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, and the results, as reflected in the school’s test scores, were devastating.

Of 15 CRCT exams (three subjects apiece for five grades), scores fell from the 2009 levels in 13. In the third and fourth grades, they fell by double digits across all three measures — reading, math and English/language arts — including a 30-percentage point drop for third-grade reading.

What happened?

Six months after the erasure analysis was unveiled publicly, and after a subsequent investigation was completed, we still have no idea. And we still have no idea in large part because, despite this statistically glaring reversal of fortunes, those investigating possible cheating in Atlanta Public Schools didn’t deem East Lake Elementary suspicious enough to warrant their attention.

They interviewed just three of the school’s 39 employees, and none of its students or their parents. A separate analysis identified 12 other schools as even worse, so they spent little time or energy trying to find out what happened at East Lake and 45 other schools where adults appear to have cheated to make their students — and thus themselves — look good.

The steep drop-off at East Lake was also seen at many of the other 45 schools: At Cascade Elementary School, scores fell in all 15 tests from 2009 to 2010, by an average of 9 percentage points; at Fickett and D.H. Stanton, there were drops in all but two of the 15 tests; at Boyd and Dobbs and Heritage, all but four. And so on.

The 12 more-scrutinized schools truly were worse than the others. But a rigorous and statistically conservative — very conservative — analysis had already winnowed the 58 Atlanta schools from more than 1,700 public elementary and middle schools across Georgia.

These 58, and 43 in particular, were already considered the worst of the worst in terms of suspected cheating. The point of the investigation was not to find and focus on the worst of the worst of the worst.

And the process of paring the list to just 12 was inherently flawed: It indexed the 58 only in relation to one another rather than to schools with answer sheets that didn’t have loads of suspicious erasures.

The state and the analysts hired by the investigating panel are in a he said, she said situation about whether access to more sheets was ever requested. But it hardly matters — only 58 schools’ tests were examined, and that very plainly makes an inadequate basis for essentially clearing most of them right off the bat.

Yet that’s what the investigators did, and one wonders why.

One wonders if the point of the exercise became protecting the brand of Atlanta Public Schools by limiting the fallout. One wonders whose interest that really serves. But not whose interest it doesn’t serve: that of APS kids.

79 comments Add your comment

barking frog

August 20th, 2010
7:28 pm

What ever happened to just grading on the curve?

Southern Comfort

August 20th, 2010
7:37 pm

Enter your comments here

Southern Comfort

August 20th, 2010
7:40 pm

Oops…

Meant to say, if you want to be brought from darkness to light, you have PTA, district meetings, board meetings, or city council meetings. There are many venues where one can begin to shine light into the darkness. However, if you’re a Cobb resident, they might not take you as serious as someone who lives in the school district that’s affected by the investigation.

Another way is to do away with the standardized testing crap and get back to teaching the basics the way they were taught before all the emphasis on testing.

Grand Forks

August 20th, 2010
8:42 pm

Public schools are horrible. Anything that has anything to do with government is horrible except for the military.

uhoh

August 20th, 2010
8:43 pm

Ok, I’ll say it. It’s a failure of the black school administrators in a predominately black school system. Some of them ought to be in jail for this.

killerj

August 20th, 2010
9:42 pm

when you offer money for peformance what else did you expect?
somebody slipped the the money toward those schools, someone in a high position and I bet they were not black,just by working around the boys & girls clubs of america.

@@

August 20th, 2010
9:45 pm

I don’t know how anyone’s conscience would allow them to steal a child’s education.

If the school administrators aren’t gonna do their job…teachers aren’t gonna do their job… and parents aren’t gonna do their job…then maybe it’s time for the kids to repeat the grades they fail.

It’s their education…maybe THEY’LL take it seriously.

barking frog

August 20th, 2010
9:47 pm

GF 8:42 Public schools are so-so, but when it comes to
students, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t
make him drink…

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

August 20th, 2010
9:59 pm

Well, they ought to go to prison for keeping us conservatives from punishing them right away. We beleive if anything happens it’s got to be somebody’s fault. And if the kids ain’t learning nothing ir’s got to be the schools fault. It can’t have nothing to do with us parents not making kids study or paying attention to what the kids are doing or paying enough taxes to hire real good teachers or build good schools.

These Atlanta schools tried to cheat us out of punishing the dickens out of them. So all the people running them or working in them need to be fired and then sent to prison. Including josef nix. He’s guilty just for teaching in one of the schools. Besides, he’s kind of uppity.

I’m glad Sonny finally done something. It’s about the only thing he’s done in 8 years. Besides building some pretty good boat ramps and fishing spots. I’m still going to court to get little Sonny Zell George’s name changed to jusr Zell George.

I sure hope some good law and order rednecks are on the jury when these people go to trial. Have a good weekend everybody.

CJ

August 20th, 2010
10:21 pm

…only 58 schools’ tests were examined, and that very plainly makes an inadequate basis for essentially clearing most of them right off the bat. Yet that’s what the investigators did, and one wonders why.

You’re a journalist with the only Atlanta daily (that I know of), Kyle. Instead of wondering why, you might consider asking the mysterious “those investigating possible cheating” and then letting us know what they said.

As inspiration, Ezra Klein, a liberal blogger with the Washington Post, frequently posts unedited transcripts of his interviews of politicians and other individuals who he disagrees with.

josef nix

August 20th, 2010
10:29 pm

Well, Kyle, you invited us Refugees to stick around…I will on this one for sure…but not tonight…Friday’s my time not to go picking fights, so I’ll be over at Jay’s Underground…but I WILL be back… :-)

Claude

August 20th, 2010
10:46 pm

Teachers and principals who cheated got performance bonuses. Even now that the cheating has been exposed, they get to keep their jobs and don’t have to repay the bonuses. Meanwhile, vast numbers of Atlanta youth are entering adulthood totally unprepared to get and keep a good job. What a wonderful city.

Hootinanny Yum Yum

August 21st, 2010
12:10 am

Wow. Very well thought out and presented opinion piece.

So CT concentrates on Laura Schlessingers’s n-word rant, while Atlanta Public School’s are literally lying, cheating and stealing the future of our children.

So, who’s really doing the most damage? APS or Dr. Laura?

nelson

August 21st, 2010
7:08 am

The reason for cheating is deceving others about your intelligence. Children see it and hear it all the time. The grocery store uses deception all the time, the bar code is entirely different when the scan brings up the price and is different from the price listed on the shelves. They hear it all the time with politicians telling what they are going to do for the populance and what they actually do when they are elected. Deception is so much a part of everyday transactions, that students come by deception very naturally. Look at Roger Clemens, the quintesential role model for youth, deceiving the fans into thinking he did not use drugs. Deception[cheating] is the all american way. Take the President, the ultimate roll model, he has never laid it on the line about his religion, the President claims he pays every day, does that mean, facing east and praying five times a day, or the prayer that I used as a lad, “now I lay me down to sleep”. It is a time for an honorable way of doing business.

Buzz G

August 21st, 2010
7:36 am

Sending your kid to a public school around here is a close cousin to child abuse.
Teachers unions are mainly the reason. They have so much political clout that we will never see our schools fixed.
Which is exactly why we need a voucher system. And impeach any judicial dictator who gets in our way.

Eric

August 21st, 2010
8:10 am

I think the root problem is with an undue importance placed on standardized tests and a compensation/bonus plan tied to its performance. Both need to be removed in order to reduce the temptation to cheat. I agree with Southern Comfort–teach the basics well and quit obsessing over test scores.

eddy

August 21st, 2010
9:25 am

I’m sure that the so-called educators at the identified schools feel so good about themselves…that is until they got caught. The erasures were not just random acts by a single teacher here or there. This was a concerted effort on the part of many administrators and teachers in each school to correct the tests so that they could receive their bonuses and show what a superior job of teaching they did. And so they cheated. Hope that the investigation can singled out most of them who perpetrated this scam and then fire them immediately, revoke their teaching licenses, etc. In elementary school, the basics are required….reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic,geography, etc. If the students are drilled on these topics until they “get it”, they’ll have a chance to be successful in the middle school and high school. They do not need all of the fluff and feel good topics in place of the basics. Social promotions must go….don’t pass a failing student just so he/she will feel good about themselves. Eventually this leads to functionally illiterate people who cannot get a job because they don’t have basic skills. And so it goes…..

It's Obvious

August 21st, 2010
9:29 am

It’s obvious that the APS has been and is corrupt ! Maybe Ann Cramer can write another letter to editor and have all of the kids transferred to her darling Ron Clark Academy – Ann will provide the funding and the scholars will excel – what a crock ? Bet the special investigators will thrash this corrupt system to it’s knees within weeks. Beverly Hall is a fraud and needs to be fired and prosecuted for her soiled leadership.

J.B. STONER

August 21st, 2010
10:07 am

I would not let my children attend any school in Atlanta metro area period.
Send them to Forsyth Co. and get away from all thugs.
End of problem.

Grand Forks

August 21st, 2010
10:13 am

“Public schools are so-so, but when it comes to
students, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t
make him drink…’

Yes you can. If a parent is paying for their kids education, trust me, the kid will be forced to drink the water.

J.B. STONER

August 21st, 2010
11:48 am

Corruption is the way Atlanta schools only know.
Look it up, always has been, always will be.

barneyb

August 21st, 2010
12:02 pm

Stop trying to race-bait. This is NOT a racial issue. It’s an issue of sorry parents who refuse to take part in their children’s education. Make them study, help them study, do homework, etc. Why do you think some schools are high-performing? PARENT INVOLVEMENT!!!!

elliemae

August 21st, 2010
12:04 pm

Amen to sorry parenting. Teachers unions may play a part, but there are plenty of good teachers. Without parental support at home, the teachers can only do so much, regardless of whether they have good or bad teachers. This begins with the home environment. Some people have no business having children.

J.B. STONER

August 21st, 2010
12:13 pm

barneyf— get a clue.

elliemae, right on about parenting.

But so many of these parents dont care and dont know who daddy is.

josef nix

August 21st, 2010
12:38 pm

Mr. Wingfield answers his own question in his headline, “Limited school-cheating inquiry leaves us in the dark.” The general public and the media pundits have been in the dark for decades now as to what the problems are besetting the public educational systems. They, though, are the ones who turned out the lights.

I would be the last person to come to the defense of these liars and cheaters. I work in the APS. Our site fits the free lunch, at risk criteria almost as a poster child. We were not one of those schools caught up in the mess and we met the stupid CRCT results and AYP with a distinguished rating and under conditions worthy of the NKVD. Our “success,” if that’s what you want to call it, is now being questioned by the pundits and public right along with those other 58. It’s galling to say the least.

That, though, is not the point. This “I’m shocked” attitude being taken is just as hypocritical as anything those schools have come up with. The very same people who drive 85 in a 65, cheat on their taxes, or pocket the ten spot the clerk mistakenly put in the change returned–and then brag about getting by with it–are often the very ones leading the charge. Ours is a culture of lying and cheating. These school employees changing answers are nothing more than a reflection of the greater society about them. If they are guilty of anything out of the ordinary, it would be that they are a spectacularly stupid lot in going so overboard and raising a red flag.

Being an employee of the system, and using my real name here, discretion is the greater part of valor when expressing an opinion. I’ve learned my lesson there the hard way. You don’t bad mouth the bosses and expect to get by with it no matter the place of employment. Make the boss look good and don’t make waves is the rule of the workplace. That’s why nobody in the system spoke up and out publicly, but we did know looking at those scores from way back that it stank on ice. But those scores were made public and those who should have been watching and could have called them in for inquiry without facing reprecussion preferred to stay in the dark.

Who should have been watching? Kyle and Company, the posters here throwing stones. Now somebody has struck a match over in the corner on one single issue. They are calling for heads to roll, and believe you me, I’m a Madame DeFarge here, but just like the Jacobins they are, they will never take their own share of responsibility for the pretty pass and have no plans whatsoever for how to “fix” it. Most of them could not even name their own school board representatives and you can bet they don’t attend the school boards’ meetings. They are called “public” schools for a reason.

If indeed those lights are ever turned back on, the general public is not going to like what they see because it will be a mirror they are looking into.

Not So Casual Observer

August 21st, 2010
12:45 pm

Instead of arguing over the racial aspects of the problem why not do a study of the worst public school systems and those traits that are common to each.

Study the states in the worst financial condition and determine which political party controlled the purse strings.

Do the same financial study for the major cities and determine the political party and racial make-up of the mayor and leaders.

Stop the arguing and live with the facts.

Not So Casual Observer

August 21st, 2010
12:55 pm

As long as the mayor and council, along with the school superintendent, have control over enormous budgets that allow an unscrupulous administrator to hide theft – there will be theft.

The Atlanta airport is a long-running joke of nepotism and unsavory financial transactions. These come into the light through an individual case and once the particular case is adjudicated the crooks go back to business as usual. The population of Atlanta electing these criminals sees nothing to change since they are “their” crooks.

This is a 40 year problem but that does not mean reform is impossible, only very difficult to change until the “culture of corruption” is renounced by the voters.

Not So Casual Observer

August 21st, 2010
1:04 pm

Unions are the root of all the financial problems in the United States today, along of course with Goldman Sachs.

Both organizations began their criminal enterprise in the early part of the last century and have continued unabated to this day. More money than we can count stolen from the American public by the unions and Goldman Sachs and yet here they are as prominent players in the current and previous administrations in Washington and influential in Atlanta.

Wake up Atlanta and the metro area, run the criminals out of your local elected offices, then the state and finally Congress and the White House. We have the oportunity on November 2 to send a clear message at every level.

The time has come to “Throw Out the Trash” in November.

josef nix

August 21st, 2010
1:09 pm

Not so casual

Okay, I’m with you…let’s throw the rascals out come November…let’s start with the Governor’s office…we’ve got a choice of cancer, polio or an as yet undiagnosed illness…who do you suggest?

jt

August 21st, 2010
1:29 pm

A lot of these problems DO start at home.

What do you expect when you have Uncle Sam as the father figure.?

The black family unit was doomed from the start of LBJ’s progressive great society wet dream.

It is sad.

barking frog

August 21st, 2010
1:30 pm

Public schools are so-so, but when it comes to
students, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t
make him drink…’

Yes you can. If a parent is paying for their kids education, trust me, the kid will be forced to drink the water.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Clinton attended public schools. Bush attended private schools. Who is better educated?

Wallace

August 21st, 2010
1:30 pm

THERE ARE NO TEACHER UNIONS IN GEORGIA!!!! Get your facts straight people!

Wallace

August 21st, 2010
1:31 pm

@Barking Frog – Good point but I think in W’s case it was more of a genetic malfunction.

JADEN

August 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

josef nix,how significant other,got fun from Bookman

barking frog

August 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

Wallace 1:31 I think it was Clinton who had the problem
in his jeans.

AmVet

August 21st, 2010
1:46 pm

Not so, I presume either your shtick is just that, or that you really are uniformed.

“Unions are the root of all the financial problems in the United States today…”

Membership in labor unions is now at 8% of all American workers. Eight percent.

Your claim is too ludicrous to even take seriously…

GLENN BECK

August 21st, 2010
1:49 pm

Top of the day to josef nix. I know you support me,always have.
Called me ’silly’ before,huh.
THINK DIFFERANT NOW,HUH ??

Southern Comfort

August 21st, 2010
2:09 pm

Unions are the root of all the financial problems in the United States today, along of course with Goldman Sachs.

Show me where politicians and wall street is unionized, and I’ll agree with you on that. Otherwise, what AmVet said.

josef nix

August 21st, 2010
2:18 pm

Wallace
Unions, hell, we don’t even have effective professional associations!

Jaden
Not really following you there…

Glenn
If you mean the real Glenn Beck…a silly queen, still. Is there some reason I should change that opinion?

AmVet
Some good posts last night…thanks…

josef nix

August 21st, 2010
2:19 pm

SoCo
If the mafia constitutes a union, maybe…

Algonquin j. Calhoun

August 21st, 2010
3:46 pm

I teach in the University System of Georgia and it is mind numbing, trying to read anything Georgia-educated duncecaps write. My students from Britain, Italy, China, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Zambia, Niger and other countries are much better at expression through the written word than most of my American students. The worst of the lot are the kids “educated” here in Georgia. Some of the papers are so poorly written that they are unintelligible. Ostensibly, these students are there to further their education. The reality is that most of them need remedial, basic English classes. It’s disgraceful, pathetic and an indefensible sham to pronounce these students educated and graduate them from high school. The quality of their high school teachers must be brought into question and the level of involvement of the parents examined. I’ve been told that the level of those dropping out of high school is fifty percent but there’s another thirty or forty percent who are graduating but don’t know a damn thing. What I’m saying should not be interpreted to mean that these young people are stupid. Far from it! These kids have been robbed. Funds for education are constantly being cut, schools are closed, classes are overloaded and teachers, who are despised and blamed, have their pay cut or they’re let go. Teaching was once a noble and respected occupation. Now, thanks to know nothing Republinazis like Palin, educators are portrayed as un-American commies or worse. It’s a sad situation but Republicans have been trying to destroy the public education system for a long time now. It all began when public schools were desegregated. All of a sudden, there was a “Christian Academy” on every other corner. The Christian thing to do was to keep Whites and Blacks separate and unequal and the means of doing it was economic. Those of means, and desiring the maintaining of apartheid, sent their kids to academies while the less economically set, and the believers in equality, sent their kids to public schools. Sadly, the public schools, many anyhow, are substandard educationally. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that the academy educated kids are uniformly educationally superior to the publicly educated kids. They aren’t! The kids being denied a good education, for whatever reason, will come back to haunt us. The jails are full of them!

Demopublican

August 21st, 2010
3:48 pm

The APS is starting to resemble a wall street investment firm

No More Progressives!

August 21st, 2010
3:53 pm

Labor unions in the United States

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States

Wrong, ScamWet, as usual. 12.4% of total workforce.

If so, how could such a small group bankrupt GM?

Also, why do we even need the NLRB?

AmVet

August 21st, 2010
4:05 pm

No More Thinking is now sourcing wiki?

Oh the humanity!

And as a tribute to his ever-present intellectual dishonesty, the degree of difference is negligible, anyway.

No More Brainpower, you ostriches always look at the tinier percentage of an equation to explain the outcome rather than the 90% or so of the equation.

Jeez, you ideologues are hopeless.

And thank gawd you aren’t running the space program. We’d still be trying to get to the moon.

OK, no more feeding the trolls for today. Friends and beer drinking duty calls and I’ll leave the blog to the Einsteins like No Mas…

GLENN BECK

August 21st, 2010
6:14 pm

……………………..

GLENN BECK

August 21st, 2010
6:19 pm

josef, you know all about’queens’, don’t you.

One day you will wish you let me enlighten you about ‘Brother Mean’ in the white house.
Pay attention,son.To whats going on around you.
Don’t watch Fox news, you really are in the dark.

When it’s all been taken away, don’t look stupid and ask…..WHAT HAPPENED ???

you were told…

stands for decibels

August 21st, 2010
6:41 pm

For newcomers to this thread:

1) Read J-Nix’s piece @ 12.38, then SoCo’s @ 7.40.

2) ignore pretty much everything else.

No More Progressives!

August 21st, 2010
6:44 pm

Negligble difference?

American liberalism is the only venue where you can make stuff up on the fly. If 5 (or more) friends agree with you, it majically becomes fact.

If GWB had made a 4.4% error, you’d have a rectal-cranial inversion.

GLENN BECK

August 21st, 2010
6:59 pm

for newcomers to this thread:

1) Disregard j. nix

2)Always disregard ’stands for dixables

3)Watch Fox News.

Southern Comfort

August 21st, 2010
8:01 pm

josef

The Mafia does collect dues… You might be on to something.