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

Quid Pro Quo

July 8th, 2011
3:05 pm

~clapping for Write your Board Members~ You are so correct! I wonder what justification SACS will give for not taking away the accreditation for APS after all of this? I can hardly wait to hear how they spin this one!


July 8th, 2011
3:06 pm

I spent 9 years out of college in education. I enjoyed the challenge and loved the students. I left the field out of disgust over what I saw as a growing epidemic of poor administration. I was asked on one occasion by a school principal to forge a signature on a check made out to her & her husband, it was after that I decided I could no longer work under people like this, here we are 30 years later, the problem still exists. This entire espisode is a disgrace to educators everywhere, because let me assure you, this kind of leadership is elsewhere, I was witness 30 years ago.


July 8th, 2011
3:07 pm

I think theres much more to the cheating that will ever be found out.

Understanding Atlanta

July 8th, 2011
3:08 pm

This is indeed apalling. But let me play devil’s advocate for quick minute. I can see how some of these teachers either cheated or didn’t report cheating. Let’s say you’re a single parent that’s a teacher. You’re faced with the choice of “staying quiet” and going along with the plan or terminiation. Let’s say you did speak out and get terminated….in the education field once a teacher is terminated they are blackballed and can’t get hired by another school system (regardless of the reason they were fired). At this point they have to file suit against APS for unlawful termination and find another career in the meantime.

Yes, it is wrong what they did. It was a total diservice to the students and those teachers should be dealt with. But just as Errol Davis said “Culture will always trump strategy.” We don’t know what would have happened if these same teachers were in a system where they recieved support from mid and upper level administrators sprinkled in with a little parental involvement.

It would be interesting to see how much parental involvement there was in these schools?

APS Retiree

July 8th, 2011
3:22 pm

It is about time the true atmosphere of APS has finally been exposed. Unfortunately, when Administrators always try to insist it is “FOR THE CHILDREN”, I was always asking, what children They were referring to? No, it was for those fattening their pockets claiming there was no money when Teachers needed supplies and materials purchased for use with the students. Even down to needing copy paper, it was a big issue. But The Superintendent and other administrators among the top brass still got BIG Bonuses, yet there was no money for the Schools. I truly hope Dr.Davis will not stop at the school level when he adresses “Cleaning House” because there are top executive directors,coordinators, etc. in the building with him who need to go since they were placed there during the Hall Era and have the same mindset of the Principals because many of them are continually acting as they did when THEY were formally Principals. Atlanta has always been known as a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” system. People who really worked hard and deserved promotions did not get them. I hope he will seek out those among the many deserving left. Unfortunately, a lot of the Best took earlier retirements or resigned and moved on to other school systems who recognized their abilities and allowed them to show them. Since all APS was concerns centered around T H E Test, look at where it has gotten them.


July 8th, 2011
3:27 pm

This is very embarrassing for the city of Atlanta. Did these educators learn about ethics? What type of message do you now send to children after doing this? This is partially why some kids grow up stealing and cheating their way through life. Because they see grown ups do it and think, “Oh – its ok. Mom and dad did it.”Children’s lives are pretty much at stake because of the stupidity. These people that did this need to have a hefty fine and not allowed to teach in the country. McDonald’s might hire them.


July 8th, 2011
3:33 pm

Univ of West Georgia graduated most of those teachers caught cheating and the head of the Education department stated on TV last night that it didn’t surprise him. Well Mr Metcalf it surprises me and it should you too. Makes me wonder what the U of West Ga teaches!


July 8th, 2011
3:40 pm

The teachers were not angels, but I don’t think they cooked up this cheating scheme.

I hope the authorities will strongly consider criminal prosecution for APS administrators who were involved.


July 8th, 2011
3:44 pm

concerned resident

Acording to wikipedia APS has 54,956 students & 3,860 staff. So 400 out of 3,860 is 10% not 1%.
Are you an aps grad?


July 8th, 2011
3:52 pm

this is a RICO-scale criminal enterprise designed to fatten the wallets of everyone who participated.

if the school board can’t/won’t protect their students against felony fraud and conspiracy, then the school board truly deserves to lose its accredidation.

a very strong move in the right direction is for the school board to contact the district attorney’s office and get arrest warrants for beverly hall, kathy augustine, and all the rest of her inner circle of assistant superintendants and principals for cashing in bonus checks based on these phony student test results.


July 8th, 2011
4:10 pm

Is anyone really surprised by all of this? It is just one more example of racial politics at work in “The ATL”. When we hire the best “Black” person for a job instead of the best “person” this is what will happen. In a way you cannot blame African Americas for acting this way, but it is still wrong. Now, that we have an African American President can we put all this racial sh@t behind us and move on?


July 8th, 2011
4:10 pm

Seems like Dr. Egghead and his gang missed the boat on APS for about a dozen years – surly Dr. Egghead has an “real” educator on staff that fully knows that those improvements were nothing but rubbish – had to be cheating – So much value of SACS – zero value ad ? Fire SACs and Hall ! Both are useless !


July 8th, 2011
4:36 pm

What we have here is a cancer on Atlanta Public Schools…advanced, caused in large part by No Child Gets Ahead, but is all boils down to personal, conscious decisions made by a group of people. The few that made the personal decision to pursue personal gain have hurt the many (and there are many) that truly are committed to educating our children. This whole series of events is sad, but I think APS will emerge from it a much better system.

Richard Braswell

July 8th, 2011
4:39 pm

“History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson circa 1933

Wise words eighty years past from a man that walked the walk. I would put those words and a picture of Dr. Woodson at the entrance of every school in the Atlanta Public School System. I would disassociate entirely from the National Education Association, set the bar and move forward. Apparently it is too easy to become an administrator in the APS. I liken it to becoming a congressman, I think everyone reading this can grasp that analogy. The past administrators in the APS did nothing to improve the standing of the students. That is to say that the children did not learn to ” do for themselves and have to depend solely on others”, and then that which was accorded them was false. Examine the reports of this fiasco from the beginning. Note the efforts of the APS Board, and some of the community, to whitewash and conceal an overt and ongoing criminal enterprise, using children, children that need an education like a sucking chest wound needs a seal, as grist. The administrators of the APS were and are paid well, but like Lazurus, the children got CRUMBS. Parents…demand that the entire board be removed for lack of confidence. Choose carefully the replacements and consider what has happened and the long term effect of those you choose. Monitor the actions and accomplishments of the board as a unit and make sure that the children get their full share of time and expense. Also, there is no good reason for the actions, actually the inaction, of the APS board. That said, there must be another motive, other than stupidity, for what has happened. MONEY…look at the attendance records and the money received and money spent on meals. Cheating on test scores is just the tip of a criminal enterprise that used children as a shill.

A Studint

July 8th, 2011
4:47 pm

i donnt no what yall talking bout. Im an ATL studint and I good at school n taken those testings.

That's Great

July 8th, 2011
4:49 pm

My friend in NY was telling me they were making jokes about Atlanta similar to dumb Pollock jokes you hear as a little kid

Charter Schools in Atlanta

July 8th, 2011
4:52 pm

Charter Schools in Atlanta —> It’s time.


July 8th, 2011
5:01 pm

dallas biggest newspaper weighs in on kathy augustine on today’s editorial page

(yes, you can run but you can’t hide…the desoto school board that hired her to start on july 11th will now meet on that same day to decide what to do with her)

Editorial: DeSoto needs to re-evaluate new superintendent

DeSoto school officials should re-evaluate their decision to hire Kathy Augustine as the district’s next superintendent, given that a Georgia state investigation has just named her as a key figure in a huge Atlanta test-cheating scandal.

Board members in DeSoto apparently thought they knew the whole story when they hired Augustine, who at the time was second-in-command of Atlanta schools and hailed by some as an architect in that district’s academic turnaround. But a massive just-released report alleges widespread cheating on state tests and questions whether the academic transformation is the real deal.

Augustine, second only to Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall, supervised daily classroom instruction, but, absurdly, she denies knowledge of or involvement in any cheating.

That’s not how the investigation sees it: Augustine “failed in her responsibility for testing activities and for ensuring the ethical administration of and proper security for” state tests. Even worse, the report alleges, she helped cover up information that teachers and principals erased wrong answers and penciled in the right ones on student test sheets.

Augustine told state investigators she should not be held accountable for cheating on her watch, a baffling statement that she repeated this week through her lawyers. She seems to think it’s sufficient that she has “learned a hard lesson” and will make sure that testing protocols in DeSoto “reflect the best in class security measures.”

Apparently, she has something to learn about what leadership and responsibility entail, which should raise a giant red flag for DeSoto board members, teachers and parents.

The Georgia report found that cheating occurred in 44 of 56 Atlanta schools and involved at least 178 educators, including 38 principals. At least 80 of those involved have confessed, and others have described a climate of fear, intimidation and duplicity spewing from the district’s top administrators.

How could any DeSoto parent or teacher have confidence in Augustine on the heels of this kind of report? Unless she offers better answers than she has thus far, she has torpedoed her credibility.

Given her position in Atlanta, if she didn’t know about the cheating, it means she was asleep at the switch. If she did know, she’s unworthy to lead any school district. Children need teachers who care and will work to make them better. Their superintendents must not allow systematic cheating to replace student achievement and undermine necessary educational reform.

If a CEO and company workers played fast and loose with booking revenue and hid debt in order to hit financial targets, we’d call it investor fraud. In the classroom, it’s education fraud. And it’s cheating taxpayers, as well as students.

The school board, parents and entire community of DeSoto have some serious re-evaluation ahead of them. They would be wise to move quickly. Augustine is scheduled to report for her first day on the job Monday.


Allegations against Augustine

An investigation by the state of Georgia into cheating on state tests released its findings this week. Among the accusations against Kathy Augustine:

Misinforming state officials: Augustine and another Atlanta schools official approved a letter to the state indicating there was no evidence of cheating at one particular school. “This was a false statement, and both [Lester] McKee and Augustine knew it.”

Withholding public information: “There is sufficient evidence that both [Beverly] Hall and Augustine did not properly maintain this public document and illegally withheld its release,” the governor’s office report states. Augustine contends that the document, which addressed possible cheating, was in an unopened email.

Failed oversight: The governor’s report says Augustine “failed in her responsibility for testing activities and for ensuring the ethical administration of and proper security for” state tests.

Richard Braswell

July 8th, 2011
5:05 pm

Charter schools are an excuse for failures in public schools…a self perpetuating myth.


July 8th, 2011
5:09 pm

When punishment time rolls around nearly every one of the cheaters will try to use the Nuremberg (”I was just following orders”) defense. And once that “she said/she said” finger pointing gets underway Hall and her inner circle will really become implicated.


July 8th, 2011
5:27 pm

School Building: $5 Million Principal Salary: $100,000 Eberhard Pink Pearl Eraser: $1 Cheating Scandal involving school system: Priceless

Computer-based Testing?

July 8th, 2011
5:36 pm

In the year 2010, we are using a pencil and paper as the method to gather test results? And, let me get this straight, we let the people whose job and job performance evaluation depends on these tests administer the tests AND turn in the tests? I’m not excusing the dishonest actions of these people, but could you anyone possibly design an EASIER way to cheat?

card me

July 8th, 2011
5:36 pm

the aps can just play the race card and get accreditation—that always works in atlanta–black mecca.

New Arnold Schwarzenegger Film: "Kindergarten Eraser"

July 8th, 2011
5:38 pm

Those who can, do. Those who cannot, erase. Did nobody notice that these schools use 400% more erasers than all the other schools, combined?

If it's too good to be true

July 8th, 2011
5:56 pm

For someone like Augustine to say that had no idea is utter 100% hogwash. Unless you have implanted memory chips into the brains of students, you don’t get test score improvements of 30-40-50% in a given year. With the same students, the same teachers, and the same facilities, there is no magic wand to suddenly turn an under-performing student into a genius. Especially, in this case, these students are from poor, segregated minority communities, where parental and community support is just not there.


July 9th, 2011
7:20 pm

You think accreditation is going to be hard now? Just wait until SACS learns that the Interim Superintendent that the Atlanta Public Schools’ Board just appointed to oversee their national headline cheating scandal was at the helm as our state’s higher education system as chancellor during a period of serious allegations that will be disclosed soon in a Georgia Whistleblower case in Fulton County Superior Court by our former colleague. The facts in this case are sealed by the new Attorney General. Yes, the one that pledges government transparency. I can see the movie now – “Atlanta…Politics as Usual!”


July 9th, 2011
7:27 pm

What’s funny is that the people they put in schools as interim principals to fix the problems have used the same tactics as those in the reports. Anytime someone says “I’m not here to make friends…..”, watch out! When you cannot name everyone on your staff without a cheat sheet at the end of the year, watch out! When you cannot name one child in a room at the end of the year, do you really care? When you have 10 parents show up to curriculum night and you are not appalled, do you REALLY care? When you sneak out of your office when a parent wants to talk to you about their child, is that a leader? And contrary to people thinking that every low performing school with disadvantaged students and parents are the same, their not. Don’t destroy the culture without consulting the teachers that have been there for years and understand it. And lastly, when its time to report back for a new year….I hope you acknowledge the fact that NO teacher was implicated in the cheating scandal even though your thoughts to those around you were different. I’m just saying….


July 10th, 2011
12:01 pm

I have no respect much less sympathy for teachers who cheated because I’m unconvinced any teacher ever believes they will be fired – fact is, teachers are RARELY fired!! And I’m less convinced that all of this cheating occurred and not a single person blew the whistle – these are just a bunch of individuals with no morals or ethics who failed to be committed to their number one priority – educating the children!


July 11th, 2011
9:33 am

Very interesting. We will see what happens. Its just hard to find an Administrative Position. The Good Old Boy and Girl Network is alive and well all over the State. Many professionals will never get a shot at leadership b/c of politics!!!

Eb Db Dahbee doobee

July 12th, 2011
6:32 pm

The biggest favor those teachers could have done those students was give them test scores that showed they can tell time and walk upright!
Just drive by a campus at the end of the day and see them slothing around with their pants on the ground yelling some unintelligable statement to their girrfrint and you will realize that this countries future is very bleak. If the ability to mouth hip hop lyrics and listening to noise, i mean music on an ipod is what this world needs we are in fantastic shape for the future. If a teenager needs to be able to add, count, talk, reason or apply intelligence in any way……we are screwed. Hopefully all kids need are baggy pants, gold teeth, oversized rims, sideways hats and a pistol and a HO since that is all they want. I do not know why the state bothers to try to school them because it does no good and they do not want to learn. If we are stupid enough to try to teach them then hire snoop doggy doggy to be their teacher since he is the only one they learn from anyway. If you want them to learn math then dub it into the thug angel Tupacs lyrics and they will all be math wiz’. give free scholarship to everyone that gets pregnant before age 12 and fill up the colleges next year. Reward everyone that can read above a 2nd grade level by age 17 with an ounce of crack and you will see some readers out there. Who in the world would want to suffer the misery of becoming a teacher, especially in Atlanta.