I hate to rain on Atlanta Public Schools’ parade, but yesterday’s restoration of the system’s full accreditation is premature.
It’s premature, that is, if you think the real problem in APS is the system’s pervasive cheating scandal. Interim Superintendent Errol Davis appears to be making significant progress at cleaning house. But the professional reviews of teachers and principals implicated in the scandal — not to mention the criminal investigations of some of them — are not yet complete. There’s still work to be done in figuring out which students were affected and how much remedial help they need to close the gap between what they learned and what the cheaters made it appear they’d learned. And, the AJC reported a couple of weeks ago, the scandal may have reached into Atlanta high schools as well.
The removal of APS from probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, only makes sense if you agree with SACS that the big problem in Atlanta was the infighting among school board members. True, the board’s 5-4 split and leadership struggle have been resolved. But those problems not only paled in comparison to the cheating scandal; the cheating scandal created them. The five-member majority began throwing its weight around, drawing tsk-tsks from SACS, because those board members realized they’d been hoodwinked for years by (thankfully, now-ex) Superintendent Beverly Hall and the board’s previous officers.
They’re not doing that anymore, but the real heavy-lifting at APS is still very much under way. You wouldn’t know that from the “Mission Accomplished” banner handed the system yesterday.
UPDATE at 11:15 a.m.: As if to hammer home the point, the Georgia Department of Education said this morning that the cheating scandal means dozens of Atalanta elementary and middle schools have lost their federal standing. From the Associated Press:
Georgia has revoked the federal standing for more than 40 Atlanta elementary and middle schools named in a massive cheating scandal.
The Georgia Department of Education released data Wednesday morning showing that a handful of the schools have lost their status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act dating back to 2001. The majority of the schools had their standing yanked for only 2009.
That means the schools can face sanctions under federal law and may have to return thousands of dollars in federal money for each year they reported inflated test scores.
But, hey — at least the board members are all holding hands again!
NB: We’ll also be getting 2011 AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) data for schools in Atlanta and elsewhere today.
– By Kyle Wingfield