The Governor released the 800-page report on the Atlanta School System's cheating scandal. It paints Beverly Hall in a very bad light and reveals the shocking number of teachers and principals willing to put their integrity on the line in order to show respectable test scores for their schools - even though it literally costs the students their education, as it robs these students who would have been entitled to private tutoring in order to catch up what the tests showed they had missed of the chance to level the playing field -- for life. This is ground that is nearly impossible for young students to regain.
The AJC has the entire report available to read online. Click here to read the article and access the report.
Page 55 of Volume 3 (Findings) of the report states,
THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Dr. Hall had the support of community leaders after becoming superintendent. She courted philanthropic and business leaders rather than spend her days in the schools, working in the "trenches" and speaking one-on-one with teachers to know what was happening in her district. In many ways, the community was duped by Dr. Hall. 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. Her image became more important than reality. What began as a minor cheating scandal at Deerwood Academy, led to an investigation by a then-obscure state agency, headed by a former elementary school teacher. This was the first CRCT cheating by APS uncovered by a governmental agency, the Governor's Office of Student Achievement. Questions began about Dr. Hall's leadership.
When the 2009 results were published, they were startling. Governor Perdue ordered an erasure analysis. There were concerns that the high scores were the result of cheating. Many of Dr. Hall's supporters defended her and the district. The possibility of a negative reflection on the Atlanta "brand" caused some to protect Dr. Hall and attack the messengers. Image was more important than the truth.
An email we obtained illustrates this belief. The email, from Senior Vice President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Renay Blumenthal, stated that the BRC final report is to be "finessed" past the Governor. (Ex. 47). This effort was unsuccessful. Somewhere in this process, the truth got lost, and so did the children.
We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined There were 38 principals of those 56 schools found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating. We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public School System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that, there was test cheating in their schools. We empathize with those educators who felt they were pressured to cheat, and commend those who were willing to tell us the truth regarding their misconduct. However, this report is not meant to excuse their ethical failings, or exonerate them from their wrongdoings. The massive test score increases alone, on the CRCT beginning in 2001, were enough to trigger an inquiry by Dr. Hall or others to determine if the gains were achieved legitimately. We interviewed experts in the education field, including teachers, principals and superintendents, who agreed that the incredible increases in the test scores, over a short period of time, should have drawn the attention of Dr. Hall and her cabinet.
The standard deviations with regard to the WTR erasure analysis on the 2009 CRCT were so high as to rule out any conclusion other than cheating. However, we stress that a high standard deviation does not always mean that a particular teacher cheated because we know that some teachers' tests were changed by others, without their knowledge. Additionally, during the 2009 CRCT and previous testing years, security protocols were regularly breached with reckless disregard for state-mandated procedures.
Amazingly, while APS was in denial, entities such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recognized these gains as extraordinary and began raising questions as early as 2001. The AJC questioned test score gains in APS in 2006 and 2009. Never once did Dr. Hall, or other ofticials, investigate to confirm that these scores were legitimate. While others were questioning these gains, Dr. Hall denied that the scores were a result of cheating, attributing the gains to their educational initiatives and prowess. To make matters worse, the district then touted the principals at schools with the highest increase in scores, like Parks Middle School, as models of APS and the district's achievements.
The very last part of Volume 3 names names. It's so sad to see high-ranking school officials sink so very low. Having had our own experience with educators changing answers on student's tests, DeKalb needs to take this report to heart and see it for what it is: People selling their souls to protect their jobs at the expense of the very children they are charged with educating.
Today's print version of the AJC has an in-depth report on the findings. It's worth the cover price...