Thursday, July 7, 2011

Atlanta Higher Ups Have Found A Way To Get Passing Grades - Cheat, Cheat, And Cheat Some More

The hammering outside (stucco guys putting up mesh) is matched only by the hammering in my head after reading the following article: "Investigation Into APS Cheating Finds Unethical Behavior Across Every Level". This is disturbing on a number of levels, including that the superintendent under whose direction this rampant, long term cheating occurred, no, was encouraged, was named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year.

Good grief.

Here are the particulars from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes.

Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served.

The report accuses top district officials of wrongdoing that could lead to criminal charges in some cases.[snip]

This is just mind boggling. For once, I am practically speechless at the depth and breadth of cheating that went on from the highest levels down for as long as it did. At the very LEAST this is unethical, egregious, and reprehensible. Wow.

There is so, so much more to this story, including this:
[snip] For teachers, a culture of fear ensured the deception would continue.

“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.

The voluminous report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.

The investigators conducted more than 2,100 interviews and examined more than 800,000 documents in what is likely the most wide-ranging investigation into test-cheating in a public school district ever conducted in United States history.

Holy crap. This just boggles the mind, doesn't it?

And what about this Superintendent of the Year, Beverly Hall? Oh, I am sure you can guess:
The findings fly in the face of years of denials from Atlanta administrators. The investigators re-examined the state’s erasure analysis — which they said proved to be valid and reliable — and sought to lay to rest district leaders’ numerous excuses for the suspicious scores.

Deal warned Tuesday “there will be consequences” for educators who cheated. “The report’s findings are troubling,” he said, “but I am encouraged this investigation will bring closure to problems that existed.”

Interim Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis promised that the educators found to have cheated “are not going to be put in front of children again.”

Through her lawyer, Hall issued a statement denying that she, her staff or the “vast majority” of Atlanta educators knew or should have known of “allegedly widespread” cheating. “She further denies any other allegations of knowing and deliberate wrongdoing on her part or on the part of her senior staff,” the statement said, “whether during the course of the investigation or before.” [snip]

Oh, I am sure Ms. Hall denies all of the charges. And of course, that two different governors investigated what happened in Atlanta means nothing. Surely, she did nothing to deserve this level of scrutiny. Ahem:
[snip]Hall preferred to spend her time networking with philanthropic and business leaders rather than walking the halls of her schools, the investigators found.

But when the scandal erupted, she withheld key information — state data on the suspicious erasures — even from executives and civic leaders who the school board, at Hall’s urging, appointed to conduct the inquiry.

“In many ways, the community was duped by Dr. Hall,” the report said. “While the district had rampant cheating, community leaders were unaware of the misconduct in the district. She abused the trust they placed in her.

“Hall became a subject of adoration and made herself the focus rather than the children,” the investigators wrote. “Her image became more important than reality.” (Click here to read the rest.)

I encourage you to read the rest of this article - there is so much more in it, and to this story. Teachers were threatened with loss of livelihood if they told what they saw, and were generally threatened or intimidated.

This was the bottom line for what happened in Atlanta:
[snip] “In sum, a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation permeated the APS system from the highest ranks down,” the investigators wrote. “Cheating was allowed to proliferate until, in the words of one former APS principal, ‘it became intertwined in Atlanta Public Schools ... a part of what the culture is all about.’ ”[snip]

I can only imagine how long it will take to clean up this "culture of corruption." I don't envy them the task. But it is one that must be done, for the sake of the children, and of those teachers who did not willingly conspire to cheat, cheat, and cheat some more. I can only hope that justice will be swift and unwavering in dealing with (former) Superintendent Hall and her minions. They deserve nothing less for the insult they have brought upon the institution of education, and Atlanta. Shame on them. Copyright © 2011 by Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy

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