Your morning jolt: Cheating scandal will make APS accreditation harder, says SACS chief

The CEO who oversees the firm that will determine whether or not Atlanta Public Schools will regain full accreditation says the APS cheating scandal is the worst ever seen in the U.S. — and will make it harder for the system to redeem itself by September.

Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvanceEd, parent firm of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, made his remarks in an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM). Listen to it here.

Among Elgart’s points:

– The APS scandal “is probably more extensive and broad-based than we’ve experienced any place else in the country.”

– “We’re very concerned with the ability of the school system to effectively move forward. It’s critical that the leadership of the system take strong and decisive action to guide it through this very difficult period of time….Leadership by this board – unified, focused and strong – must be demonstrated in order to help this system move forward.”

– Elgart also said that SACS will be looking at how the Atlanta school system addresses elementary and middle school students who were moved, unprepared, into high school. “This is certainly a new wrinkle,” he said.

– The head of AdvanceEd said APS will lose no points for deciding last night to abandon its search for a superintendent to permanently replace Beverly Hall. Elgart described former university chancellor Erroll Davis, who was given a one-year contract, as “very capable.”

The bottom line for the Atlanta school board: “The challenges ahead of them are far greater today than they were before this report came out, and that includes accreditation. This is a very unusual event, in that it was such a wide span of inappropriate decision-making and inappropriate actions,” Elgart said.

***
On a related note, Gov. Nathan Deal late Thursday reversed himself and said a probe into CRCT scores in Dougherty County schools would continue. From the press release:

“After completing the Atlanta Public Schools report, we had hoped that we were at a stopping point,” said Deal.

“Unfortunately, I have received word today that the investigators’ review of their preliminary results in Dougherty County has raised grave concerns. We owe it to the children of Dougherty County to get answers, and our commitment to equal protection under the law requires us to treat all jurisdictions equally.

“In other words, the state simply cannot single out Atlanta if strong evidence suggests similar patterns elsewhere.
“I have instructed the investigators to present me with a complete report of their investigation into the Dougherty County School System as quickly as possible.”

The quote from one of the investigators:

“After reviewing the preliminary results of the investigation in Dougherty County on Wednesday and today, contrary to my initial impression, I do not believe the investigation should be terminated,” said former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers in a message sent to the Governor’s Office. “Given those preliminary results, it is my recommendation that we complete the investigation in Dougherty. We will do this expeditiously with as little intrusion into the school system as is possible.”

***
Those municipal contests in Macon have become a true pot-boiler. From the Macon Telegraph:

Macon City Council candidate Chris Horne filed a complaint Thursday asking that the local and state Democratic Party look into and publicly dismiss allegations by his opponent, incumbent Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, that there is a “Republican conspiracy to take over local and state government, supposedly involving (Horne), Mayor Robert Reichert, and other well-known Democrats.”

…Lucas has accused Horne, who qualified with the county board of elections to run as a Democrat, of being backed and financed by Republicans.

Lucas posted on her Facebook account Sunday that “my opponent and my husband’s are bought and paid for by Repubs.”
Her husband, David Lucas, is running against Republican Bobby Gale and Democrat Miriam Paris in a special election to fill the state Senate District 26 seat that became vacant when former Sen. Robert Brown resigned to run for Macon’s mayor.

***
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s claim that his campaign problems are “exactly” like those endured by Ronald Reagan in 1980.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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80 comments Add your comment

Centrist

July 8th, 2011
9:21 am

Concerning the greater odds of the APS now losing accreditation – as the teenagers say: “Well, duh!”

Centrist

July 8th, 2011
9:36 am

Since we didn’t get a morning jolt today when only the obvious was put forth – anyone STILL think we should be raising taxes when unemployment is so high and going the wrong way?

[...] a look at my AJC colleague Jim Galloway’s blog on the WABE radio interview with Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvanceEd, parent firm of the [...]

KILJOY

July 8th, 2011
9:39 am

Apparently, Dr. Egghead just woke up and heard about the cheating scandal. Guess he’s been too busy running the BOE.

deegee

July 8th, 2011
9:44 am

Wouldn’t it be better if we just let the kids take the test when they start the school year and then place them in academic tracks based on the test scores? Then you could test them at the end of the school year and measure how well they did against their baseline scores? Even the organizers of the Peachtree Road Race understand that you want as many people as possible to participate but you can’t let grandma start at the same time the Ethiopians start.

td

July 8th, 2011
9:47 am

The APS board and the new Super should come out today and in a blanket statement FIRE every teacher involved in this scandal. They should then send an open letter to the PSC to revoke their teaching certificates forever. This would send a loud and clear message to SACS. Then the governor should send a open letter to the AG recommending that all violators (including Hall) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

td

July 8th, 2011
9:49 am

deegee

July 8th, 2011
9:44 am

We do not agree often on these blogs but I agree with your statement 100%.

deegee

July 8th, 2011
9:55 am

Thanks, td. I play tennis for fun. It’s no fun for me or for my opponent when I’m outmatched. It can’t be any fun for students or teachers when their individual goals are unrealistic.

sally d

July 8th, 2011
9:55 am

The problems in APS exist system wide. The culture in the system promotes arrogance , the leaders do anything to teachers and get away with it. Undo pressure was placed on the high school teachers also. We were subjected to the same types of threats, disrespect pressure to cheat and pass students. We were told that all students were going to college. Career Education dept was wiped out. AYP had to be met, principals cheated, lied on teachers, did anything to look good.The leadreship team cheated, and if you did not cooperate you were placed on a PDP, or tranferred to another school and blackballed. Tthe school system has no respect for employees that are disabled, they violate the Americans with Disabilities Act as if it does’nt exist. The elevators don’t work in some schools so if you are in a wheel chair you have no access to certain areas of the schools. There aren’t enough handicap parking places, those spaces are reserved for the administrative staff. APS is awful, the culture is awful.

Grits

July 8th, 2011
9:56 am

The quality of public school education has been going downhill since the federal government got over invoved in the 1960’s. With the cultural diversity, lack of morality and more Big Government involvement the situation will only worsen.

sally d

July 8th, 2011
10:02 am

Don’t replace the fired administrators with retired APS principals that worked under Hall. They have the same dictatorial leadership style. Nothing to offer, walking around with their clip boards trying to intimidate teachers.

[...] SACS says the scandal may make regaining full accreditation harder for APS. [...]

John Doe

July 8th, 2011
10:14 am

As an Atlanta School Teacher whose name was not in any ethical violation yet my school was cited, I have deep concerns about how people are vasking in the 172 people who were highlighted and not the other over 2,700 employees who were not. As I read some of the reports I too am bothered but I am even more bothered about how nothing is being made mention about the students who achieved that were not helped.

SpaceyG on Twitter

July 8th, 2011
10:16 am

I gotta get into the school investigation biz in Georgia. Talk about job security.

Harry Callahan

July 8th, 2011
10:25 am

Are all you Democrats still staunch supporters of public schools? LMAO

@ Harry Callahan

July 8th, 2011
10:35 am

And your suggestion is what? Charter schools or private schools. Charter schools don’t have restrictions and the students don’t get what they need. Private schools aren’t affordable for most people, especially in this economy. So once again, I am interested in your solution. Vouchers?

JW

July 8th, 2011
10:37 am

Yes, still supporting public schools, Harry. Unlike you, I realize that the 170-180 APS cheaters do not represent the hundreds of thousands of honorable and hardworking teachers. It would be like me ridiculing all homeschool parents because of the few that allow their children to sit at home and do nothing all day. Or labeling all private schools as worthless because of the few that only seek to indoctrinate rather than educate.

rr

July 8th, 2011
10:39 am

Callahan: What is the working alternative that will benefit the whole nation, not just a small territory or group? Share your ideas

Centrist

July 8th, 2011
10:44 am

@ John Doe. First, thank you and all of the others who resisted the institutionally accepted temptation to cheat. I’m sure all of the employees felt the professional and personal pressure to do so, especially if they thought it could be done with impunity. Second, many posters on the “Get Schooled” blog in the AJC made your point that it was really the students who ultimately got cheated by greedy, self serving APS employees ignoring their welfare. Again, thank you along with the vast majority (some probably didn’t get caught) for putting the students welfare as your top priority. Teachers are one of the backbones of our society and the good ones deserve our recognition, support, and gratitude.

Insider

July 8th, 2011
10:44 am

Charter schools ARE public schools

It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure the kids get what they need no matter what type of school they attend

Xavier

July 8th, 2011
10:46 am

I lay this at the feet of every parent in Atlanta who has a child who attends the APS. Every parent, who is worth anything, has a general understanding of how smart or knowledgable their child is. When you listen to him or her speak, when you observe the decision making abilities they have, it tells you certain things about th elevel of education they are receiving and absorbing. If your son or daughter has a problem with baic information at home, it means that no matter what the test says, things are bad. Parents are to blame for not keeping up on what has been happening with their children. Period.

Concerned Resident

July 8th, 2011
10:49 am

Why are these principals, teachers, and adminstrators allowed to retire since they’re involved in the cheating scandal? Termination, some type of restitution for bonuses received, revocation of professional licensing, and possible jail time should be the options on the table.

tonto (aps teacher 2001-2004)

July 8th, 2011
10:51 am

@ sally d 9.55am

A-friggin’-MEN!

I taught @ Turner Middle, under Joyce Clarke…
Talk about megalomania…

Xavier

July 8th, 2011
10:51 am

On a 2nd topic….,Georgia seems to be doing alot of cheating, but we still rank 47 or 48 in the nation (state wise) when it comes to student testing scores??? We don’t even cheat well enough to rank in the middle pack of the country?? Not good.

td

July 8th, 2011
10:54 am

Insider

July 8th, 2011
10:44 am

It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure the kids get what they need no matter what type of school they attend

Amen. A child can be in the worst school in America but if he/she has the support and backing of his/her parents then he/she will succeed.

Xavier

July 8th, 2011
10:54 am

@Tonto- I went to Turner High School back in 89. Things were that bad in Turner Middle? Sorry to hear that. Sad day to be a Atlanta grad.

rr

July 8th, 2011
10:56 am

My daughter was raised in Texas, when we relocated to Georgia she was in High School 10th Grade. She was upset, very upset because she said the curriculum of the 10th grade here was what she covered in the 8th grade. The system failed her because, she should have been advancing, but instead she was just going through the motions.
Maybe we should look at the culture and behavior of other successful states/cities and follow what they do.

Cutty

July 8th, 2011
10:57 am

Seems like an investigation of all GA school systems with irregular CRCT scores is in order.

Fiona Throrpe

July 8th, 2011
10:59 am

What good would that do? The problem is our school system needs to be fixed. Firing teachers only solves yesterday’s problem. How can we implement standards to allow our children to learn and compete with the remainder of the world instead of continually preparing them to take a test?

Centrist

July 8th, 2011
11:00 am

All professions have bad apples mixed among the ethical folks. Some professions and unions accept more of the bad apples than others – but it should be up to professional leaders to weed them out instead of accept or shuffle them to another department. Our military is a good example – they have a creed of “I will not lie, cheat, or steal; nor tolerate those who do”. Our government bodies do not pay much attention to that – especially the last part. Such an example is a large part of our problem.

EducationFirst

July 8th, 2011
11:10 am

Now Dougherty County. I cannot say I am surprised with this development. Just think, now that we are a Race to the Top state, and teacher compensation will soon be tied to student performance, we will likely see more and more of this. It is too bad that testing has such a strangle hold on our education system.

Shar

July 8th, 2011
11:11 am

Teachers and administrators were enabled by part of the Atlanta business community who were interested in maintaining the city image and the school budget, from which they reaped very, very large payouts. Atlanta Education Fund members such as Renay Blumenthal, who wanted to “finesse” the obviously-rigged “Blue Ribbon Commission” report past the governor, Atlanta Metro Chamber president Sam Williams who sent an email to the Board not only picking out the supposedly “independent” members of the BRC but specifiying what the findings should be and how to “spin” them, and GE Vice Chair and AEF member John Rice, who castigated and tried to marginalize those who cast doubt on the BRC intentions and findings, all should be held equally accountable for the fraud that has been perpetrated against Atlanta taxpayers and the betrayal of Atlanta’s students.

I am hoping that the District Attorney will broaden the scope of the investigation begun by the governor’s office to include those who profitted from the theft, lies and treachery committed by Beverly Hall and her administration, and will consider RICO charges against all of them.

Concerned Resident

July 8th, 2011
11:18 am

Atlanta- Top ten in foreclosures, bank failures, cheating scandals, and unemployment! Please relocate your businesses here to help our economy! Yea, right!

Bob

July 8th, 2011
11:28 am

I have two observations: Our country has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and since the creation of the Dept of Education, public education has gotten progressively worse. Recognizing the problems should make them easier to solve…right? Just my opinion.

Parent in APS

July 8th, 2011
11:31 am

As long as Errol Davis and the board clean house — starting with firing everyone implicated in the report — then I really don’t see what pulling APS’ accreditation would accomplish. Yes, the Governor’s report was bad, but to anyone who has been following along, it really wasn’t all that surprising. The report detailed how some of the cheating was done, which is interesting, but it was pretty much already obvious based on the erasure analysis and dramatic score changes that significant cheating had occurred. Plus Elgart and SACS didn’t put APS on probation because of the CRCT cheating scandal, but rather because of Board in-fighting — which in-fighting was apparently primarily over how to handle and investigate the cheating scandal, which now in hindsight looks like that was an appropriate issue for the Board to be vigorously looking into.

I think the Board probably made a wise decision in hiring Errol Davis for a year. It would have been too hard for one of the two new superintendent candidates to come in at this juncture, or when Davis had just began to address the situation. So now Davis and the Board need to make sure and thoroughly clean house. Assuming that is done or is being done by September, then SACS should not pull accreditation as that would just punish those who are left behind to carry on and were not involved in the cheating.

rr

July 8th, 2011
11:32 am

I agree with Centrist and Shar, It is a culture of unethical behavior. We should not accept it, this goes from the top down. From the political movers and shakers to teachers and the taxpayers who accept or don’t accept the behavior. It is a culture of…financial success is more important than educational progress.

justjanny

July 8th, 2011
11:40 am

@Parent in APS, you are absolutely correct! Mr. Davis should be allowed to start anew with new leadership.

LMAO

July 8th, 2011
12:22 pm

Errol Davis should completely clean house. Bring in folks who are not traditional educators and bring in some of the brightest minds who are currently unemployed to run the schools. There are a number of CEO, CFO and COO types unemployed who would do an outstanding job. Charge the other teachers with accessory after the fact because 90% knew what was going on and did nothing about it. What’s worse most stood by and let the system bully them into silence over fear of their job. What about the children? If enough would have stood up this would have been nipped in the bud six years ago. If they don’t have compassion for the kids who were duped then they shouldn’t teach.

Next – Governor Deal I think all schools should be investigated. For instance, it is very easy to have your students skip over answers they don’t know and later fill in the correct answers for them. No erasures just use the right #2 pencil. Example of a fishy situation in White County. No 6th graders in one school failed the Reading Test but 11% failed Social Studies? That’s nearly statistically impossible. Social Studies is nothing more than READING the question and answering the question.
Social Studies is the easiest part of the CRCT. My kids pass everything but exceed in Social Studies every year.

Investigate more school systems…I think you will find Atlanta and Dougherty County are NOT ALONE. Otherwise we wouldn’t be 48th or 49th each year in education. MMMM – LMAO

LMAO

July 8th, 2011
12:52 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Most have seen this. Time to review it again.

rr

July 8th, 2011
1:21 pm

I love this. So perfectly said. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now, how do we get there, where do we begin?

Concerned Resident

July 8th, 2011
1:24 pm

Still not sure why this scandal would jeopardize the accreditation process. 400 teachers and administrators only make up one percent of APS.

deegee

July 8th, 2011
1:30 pm

Concerned Resident, Georgia moved up from 34 to 17 in the national obesity ratings. Just 7 to go and we’ll hit another top ten list!

Steve

July 8th, 2011
1:57 pm

What I find appalling, is that some catagories had a 94% failure rate. Some catagories had a 21% passing rate. This is attrocious. Where’s the outrage over that ??

APS Parent

July 8th, 2011
2:01 pm

@LMAO — that youtube video is amazing. Thanks! Think we can get Sir Ken Robinson to come consult in Atlanta???

shyril

July 8th, 2011
2:51 pm

Enter your comments here

Quid Pro Quo

July 8th, 2011
2:52 pm

Wake up folks! This is just a dog and pony show for the cameras. A whole bunch of people will broker some backroom deals and in the end, cheaters or not, national story or not, APS will NOT lose accreditation! YOU BETCHA! Others have been sacrificed for WAY less but in the end, nothing will happen.

shyril

July 8th, 2011
2:54 pm

I agree 100% with td. Revoke all 178 certification. Fire all involved and forward to the DA every name except those that confessed. Beverly Hall should be number one on the list!!

LMAO

July 8th, 2011
2:54 pm

I’m sure Sir Ken Robinson would love to bring his approach to the Atlanta system. His approach is the best I’ve seen and makes all the sense in the world. The problem is will the traditional educational system be open to his approach? I doubt it because we’ve killed creativity in education in return for the cookie cutter one-size fit all approach.

I think if Atlanta would embrace some of Dr Robinson’s approach the children will enjoy learning. Hell they don’t have to get Dr. Robinson. Ron Clark’s Academy right here in Atlanta is a prime example of making education work for children who are not suppose to have the capacity to learn.

Hey APS HIRE RON CLARK!!!!

Write Your Board Members

July 8th, 2011
3:00 pm

By ignoring the bad behavior of the board of ed in DeKalb, SACS is rapidly losing any semblance of credibility.

Just My Two Cents

July 8th, 2011
3:04 pm

Where is the NAACP, Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton et al for this black on black civil injustice against our African-American childern in Atlanta. Will someone release a statement, organize a march or protest against the crime family otherwise known as administators for Atlanta Public Schools. I’m guessing…”No”. I need for my sisters and brothers who are educators to step out of their Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes Benz and grab a copy of Carter G. Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro”. Before the school year starts, read it thoroughly, reflect and possibly consider it for a book study during the upcoming school year if you work in a Title I school.