Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DeKalb DA opens investigation of CRCT scores

DeKalb DA Gwen Keyes likes to get her name in the press for opening various investigations, but then never really follows through with a tough, thorough investigation. Her "investigation" of Pat Pope from a few months ago was a whole lotta nothing. She said she'd look into the Dunaire suicide. Let's see if she really follows through on the Atherton cheating scandal. Aren't Gwen and C Lew fellow Leadership DeKalb alum?

Also, Atherton Asst. Principal Dorothea Alexander was re-assigned. So she's still on the payroll making the nice asst. principal salary, probably in another made up Central Office job. At least Berry had the sense to resign. If anyone takes the fall for this, it will be Berry and Alexander. The Central Office administrators who are supposed to catch this in the first place have nothing to worry about.

DeKalb DA opens investigation of CRCT scores
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The DeKalb District Attorney’s office has launched a probe into allegations of cheating on school standardized tests that could lead to criminal charges.

Don Geary, chief assistant to the district attorney, said Wednesday that state law makes it a felony to tamper with state documents.

Geary said the investigation will not necessarily be limited to Atherton Elementary, the DeKalb school that had the most extraordinary gains.

The school’s principal, James Berry, resigned after being confronted with questions about the scores. The district removed Assistant Principal Dorothea Alexander from the campus pending further investigation. “We’re looking at everything,” Geary said. “It could lead us anywhere, it could lead us only there.” He would not say who or how many people are targets of the investigation.


pscexb said...

I seem to recall that Dr. Berry admitted to changing answers, at least from a report on WSBTV last Friday. Typically an AP is in charge of testing for a school. It could be possible the principal changed the answers without the AP knowing about this. Maybe that is why the AP was reassigned, close enough to the crime but not really guilty of it.

Cerebration said...

For the life of me, I can't figure out what this means,

“It could lead us anywhere, it could lead us only there.”

Ella Smith said...

I do not think we will ever know the truth. I think Dr. Berry has taken the blow. I am wondering if he is at retirement age and decided it would be best just to retire early.

Ella Smith said...

The problem is we live in a society that thinks lying is fine. This is the reason it is hard to get a honest verdict in the courts also. It is sad. I was not raised like this and just tell the truth. I do not understand. When I make a mistake I admit I make a mistake. It really is not a big deal.

Anonymous said...

The possibility of Berry doing this totally on his own without his AP knowing is low indeed.

I still can't get over how Lewis, Talley, Moseley and Ramsey didn't question the ridiculous improvement in test scores. They either knew and ignored it or didn't want to know.

Ella Smith said...

They of course did not want to know. They did not want such a thing happening in our school system.

No Duh said...

I think that quote means -- our investigation could lead us to other cheating schools in DCSS (if any), or it could stay contained to Atherton.

Paula Caldarella said...


Police say a DeKalb school principal and his assistant principal have been arrested in connection with an investigation into whether student test scores were altered to improve school performance.

Former Atherton Elementary principal James Berry was arrested at home Friday. Assistant principal Doretha Alexander turned herself in to police Thursday night and was later released on bond.

They face charges of altering public documents.

The arrests follow an audit last week that found a high number of eraser marks on tests from four Georgia schools, including Atherton. State officials have said the higher scores helped the schools meet federal standards.

Berry resigned last week, while Alexander was reassigned by district officials. Neither has returned multiple calls seeking comment.

Anonymous said...

“still can't get over how Lewis, Talley, Moseley and Ramsey didn't question the ridiculous improvement in test scores. They either knew and ignored it or didn't want to know.”

How do we know that no one questioned the scores? The scores were actually questioned within the school system as soon as they were announced. No one admitted to changing or knowing of tests being changed at that time. Given the denials, the only possible proof of cheating was in the hands of the state of Georgia in the Governor's Office of Student Achievement or GOSA (I hate these education speak initials). They were the proper agency to investigate because they had the evidence (the test sheets) which by law could not be released to a school system. DCSS officials are constrained by law and loyalty to refrain from accusations about employees without proof until the investigating agency (GOSA) released their findings. After the investigation, which was aided by DCSS officials, GOSA came up with recommendations which DCSS has adopted. One other county however, has not agreed to accept the results and will conduct their own “audit”. I would be surprised if the DeKalb DA finds any other schools because the agency that watches over these things, GOSA, is pretty good at catching the anomalies. The DA might determine if the principal, assistant principal, or any other employee participated in the cheating. However, if they all deny complicity, probably only a grant of immunity to a participant would get a full account.

Anonymous said...

From the disgraced James Berry:
“I pulled out every stop known to man.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, December 14, 2008

A miracle occurred at Atherton Elementary this summer, if its standardized math test scores are to be believed.

Half of the DeKalb County school’s fifth-graders failed a yearly state test in the spring. When the 32 students took retests, not only did every one of them pass —- 26 scored at the highest level.

No other Georgia fifth grade pulled off such a feat in the past three years. It was, as one researcher put it, as extraordinary as a snowstorm in July. In Atlanta.

Atherton Principal James Berry said the scores were the product of intense tutoring.

But state education officials said last week they will investigate steep gains at Atherton and four other schools as a result of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s inquiries.

“It’s a big red flag,” said Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. She said officials don’t know what caused the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores to soar, only that they require explanation.

Atherton’s unlikely performance was one of a handful the AJC uncovered by analyzing student scores on the CRCT and retest. The surges were so far outside the norm they raise questions about whether those schools’ retest scores are valid.

As a result, the findings also suggest some schools —- such as Atherton —- that relied on the retest to reach academic goals might not have met federal standards.

Atherton originally placed in the 10th percentile among Georgia fifth grades on the math test, meaning 90 percent of the 1,200-plus schools scored better, the newspaper’s study shows.

After the retest, Atherton jumped to the 77th percentile. The move was unduplicated by any school statewide.

The Atherton student with what was likely the biggest gain answered just 16 math questions correctly his first time taking the test —- a slightly better result than a student could expect after guessing on all 60 multiple-choice questions.

On the retest, however, the unidentified boy joined the ranks of high scorers, answering 50 questions correctly. Students needed 29 right to pass.

Two experts said the school’s rocket ride to the top tier may be too good to be true. They said educators have yet to discover methods that would cause such a jump.

“We don’t know of any interventions that do this,” said Gregory Cizek, a testing expert at the University of North Carolina.

Improving so many scores so much after 18 days of summer school, he said, “is miraculous.” He likened it to a July blizzard.

In an interview, principal Berry said the school made a tremendous summer-school effort to address failing students’ weaknesses.

“This was all but giving blood,” he said. “I pulled out every stop known to man.”

Asked whether he had any concerns about test security or score validity, Berry said: “Oh my God, I hope not. I know the people that I chose were pretty honest. I would hope that that wasn’t the case. Well, I can honestly say to you that I don’t think that that was the case at all.”

DeKalb school officials are investigating because of the AJC’s questions, spokesman Dale Davis said.

Tom Bowen, vice chairman of DeKalb’s school board, said it was hard to believe that retest prep would make so much of a difference for so many students.

He suspects a score-processing error, he said, but impropriety remains a possibility. He said he welcomed the investigations.

“The children who receive these scores are not served if these scores aren’t valid,” Bowen said. “They would get a false sense of their achievement level.”

Atherton’s spectacular fifth-grade retest scores bumped the school into compliance with the federal “adequate yearly progress” standard under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to find the article with his quotes, but remember that Crawford Lewis was angry and indignant that anyone would question the test score increase in the first place.

"DeKalb school officials are investigating because of the AJC’s questions, spokesman Dale Davis said."

DCSS Central Office did not investigate this until the AJC brought it to them! They had to know something was crazy amiss, but they closed their eyes and prayed it would go away.

Anonymous said...

"I would be surprised if the DeKalb DA finds any other schools because the agency that watches over these things, GOSA, is pretty good at catching the anomalies."

Anon 11:53, I respectfully disagree with this statement. The only reason GOSA investigated these schools is because of the ridiculous swings in test scores. They were all "bad" cheaters. Schools that may have fudged the numbers with less impact will almost always escape detection.

I commend the DA's office for swift action which I presume was supported by DCSS.

Now let's focus on high school kids who are cheating with cell phones and PDAs. This is very unfair to the students who do not cheat. DCSS needs to begin the school year with a strong statement on academic honesty, support the teachers who enforce the rules and REQUIRE principals and area superintendents to back the teachers.

Anonymous said...
Superintendent Crawford Lewis conducted his own investigation and determined there was no evidence of wrongdoing – though he didn’t have access to the test sheets, which were already in the state’s possession, district spokesman Dale Davis said.


Nice investigation, Ron Ramsey and Crawford Lewis. There is a statistically impossible increase in test scores, and Ron and his Internal Affairs staff can't find anything wrong? What a joke.

themommy said...

Apparently Dr. Lewis et all really believed that those students at Atherton had created a miracle. Dr. Berry gave a presentation to principals about he had accomplished the huge gains last year. (Of course, he left out the part about cheating.)

Cerebration said...

Nice apron on Dr. Berry...

How incredibly sad. He had it made in the shade - his six-figure salary as a DCSS principal was not in jeopardy whatsoever... now, he'll be lucky to run the fry station at Mickey D's --

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Dr. Berry and many others in DCSS including one school (I believe SWD) still live off the royalities of "DRUMLINE".

No Duh said...

Maybe I've watched too much CSI, but won't Berry's fingerprints be all over those tests? And/or the APs prints, too?

If they are, seems like a slamdunk to me. Maybe he can redeem himself by teaching fellow prisoners to read.


Anonymous said...

In DeKalb's defense, we are the only school system of the 4 involved to have taken any action. I understand that Dr. Lewis was on his way over to fire Berry when he resigned. The AP, who apparently has not confessed, was removed from her position as the investigation continues. Atlanta and Fulton have done nothing and, in at least one case, the system is still defending the test scores!

Anonymous said...

The AP was moved to another position but was still on payroll!! I'm glad her butt is in jaal now!

Cerebration said...

Here's a BIG possible repercussion from consistently not making AYP -- some of our schools COULD become one of Obama's "turnaround" schools - meaning - the school can be shut down by the federal government- every teacher and employee fired - and replaced with a charter school of the feds choosing.

This has been happening in Chicago (Arne Duncans hometown) - in fact creating one of the military schools from a closed public school. It's serious folks - we better fix our poorest performing schools or face Obamas cuts and replacements.


Now - black teachers in Chicago have banded together to sue the Obama administration -

"Chicago Teachers File Racial Discrimination Suit Against Obama Administration's School “Turnaround” Plan

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

"The fired teachers are disproportionately African American, and the newly hired teachers are not.”"

Anonymous said...

It is about time the feds stepped up to the plate.

Cerebration said...

Yes, this is very real. The Obama administration will be closing schools. No questions. They are starting with 5,000 and don't seem to have a limit.

Anonymous said...

Well what we have now is not working and it is hard to believe the feds will do worse. If they come up with a national curriculum it will at least add some intellectual integrity to the notion of a national test.

No Duh said...

Anon 4:06.

Bing, bing -- on to the bonus round!

You nailed it.

If we had national standards, maybe the Feds wouldn't take $$ away when a school fails, but when its state tries to screw with the standards or cut rate, etc. At least that would be quantifiable and measurable.

Anonymous said...

In the bonus round we'll ask rising DCSS juniors and seniors to read the Georgia State Constitution and the United States Constitution. Then they will write a paper wherein they will explain, with constitutional reference, either why the feds should step in and take over or why the the states should maintain control without federal involvement. Extra points are awarded for addressing the constitutional support for federal funding.

Follow-on required reading is "Operational Necessity" by Gwen Griffin.

Have a nice summer.

Cerebration said...

For a paradigm shift, here's a post from DeKalb Officers blog -

This is a joke right? People arrested for cheating on school test? What is Gwen Fleming thinking?

Terrell Bolton has stolen thousands of dollars from the citizens of DeKalb County. He has falsified documents as it relates to his illegal comp time. He used seized vehicles for personal use against federal law. Bolton hired people and billed other cost centers besides the police department. He billed other cost centers for equipment. Terrell was not even in the state, but was visiting his family and was paid for it! Yet no indictments or arrest.

The Recorders Court has between 90 and 120 MILLION dollars unaccounted for and no criminal investigation!

This is just incomprehensible! The insane are running the asylum!

They do have a point...

Anonymous said...

from anon12.08

Uncle Crawford sent out this Hot Flash to all DeKalb employees. Guess it shows what he thinks about cheating!


To: All DeKalb Employees
From: Dr. Crawford Lewis, Superintendent
Subject: Message From the Superintendent
Date: 24 June 2009

As you know by now, Atherton Elementary School was recently implicated in the CRCT cheating scandal that has been a source of much publicity by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).

As Superintendent, I was both concerned and surprised that this investigation was elevated to the front page of Sunday’s AJC newspaper and warranted a probe by the District Attorney’s office. Dr. James Berry and Mrs. Doretha Alexander are good people who made a grave mistake. They both acknowledged their involvement and accepted their consequences. They have served the DeKalb School System with distinction for many years. It is important that you know that the school district was not consulted nor played any role in their recent arrests. While we do not condone their actions in any way, they should be allowed to move on with their lives.

DeKalb County School System is a family, and during difficult times family should come together. As a family, I am asking the entire system to reach out to Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander and show your support. An e-mail, card or phone call will go a long way towards showing Dr. Berry and Mrs. Alexander that we still care about them. The DeKalb County School System is a great school district working together to ensure that all of our students are successful and prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Distributed By
The DeKalb County Postmaster

Cerebration said...

Is he serious? That is so outrageous. What a disappointment. He has an opportunity to condemn their actions, yet instead coddles these two cheaters?

Anonymous said...

A more prompt, kind and gracious response than when the system experienced a child's suicide. How sad.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled at the message that C. Lewis sent to all employees. While individuals might disagree about whether their conduct deserves criminal prosecution, they are professionals, both held supervisory positions and must be held to a higher standard.

It is wholly inappropriate for the Superintendent of schools to publicly express sorrow or concern for them or their plight. (yes, this message is a public document). It could easily be misconstruded as excusing their fraudulent conduct. This type of paternalistic attitude is exactly why many feel that Lewis is no longer capable of leading this school system out of the financial, ethical and academic hole it has created for itself. I think I have to agree.

No Duh said...

That might be the most bizarre intermemo I've ever seen. Anon 5:56 is right -- I'm beginning to think Lewis has to go. Is Lewis getting a cut of Berry's Drumline royalities? You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

It is such an unnessacary gesture. The people in the system who know them and like them should gather around them as any friend would. The people in the system who don't know them should think long and hard about whether cheating is worth it and move on. And all the employees who are appalled that those two slandered DCSS should write them a card to say THAT!

While I have my notecards out, think I'll jot a note to Bernie Madoff, too.

Anonymous said...

The AJC got the memo and wrote a story about it. I guess it was only a matter of time- a few hours.

This was really poor judgement. The DCSS received enough national negative publicity about the cheating and now this!

Lewis should have distanced himself from these two who disgraced the teaching profession and instead he is asking all employees to "support" them. This is not good.

One Fed Up Insider said...

I hope that the AJC will keep digging deeper. The AJC has let so many things fall through the cracks for way to long.

What CLew did today is total not called for. If I did something like that or any other DCSS employee did that you know that I would have been fired. I am disappointed and disgusted in the same breath.

I don't know if CLew is getting a kick back from "Drumline" but I do know that there are many that are.

I hope that some DCSS employee will start a blog just like the Police did and show the really wrong things that they see in the system.

Cere what you and all you guys are doing. Thank you so much.

Cerebration said...

Welcome! Send anybody here who has a comment to make - as long as it's truthful...

Here's a quote from the AJC article -

In an interview late Wednesday, Lewis said he stands by his decision to send out the memo.

“These people are devastated,” he said. “They do have families. They do have children.”

He said the two, both 20-plus-year employees, have been “annihilated” by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in its recent coverage of the investigation and their arrests.

“They’re not rapists. They’re not murderers,” the superintendent said.


Boy, I just don't know what to say. Dr Lewis is not a preacher - he's a school administrator. Those children were cheated. The parents were cheated. Everyone was led to believe that Atherton school was doing a bang-up job - and little did they know that the children were actually failing! How can anyone do that with a clear conscious - just to save your own $$$$ salary?!! Right off the backs of those kids. But does Dr Lewis admonish these people for cheating these kids? NO - he too is apparently more concerned with the adults making a high income than actually and honestly delivering the goods...

Cerebration said...

New - from today's AJC -

In contrast to Fulton and Atlanta, the DeKalb school district denied the AJC’s request for the personnel files of former Atherton Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander, saying they are exempt under the state Open Records Act because they are part of an investigation. The newspaper plans to ask Georgia’s Attorney General to take action on the denial.

State law is clear such files are open to public inspection, said Tom Clyde, an attorney for the AJC. “That does not change when a public employee is being investigated,” he said. “That would defeat the purpose of the law, which is to let the public decide for itself if employees have been carrying out their responsibilities in a suitable way.”

The standards commission is investigating both Berry, who resigned, and Alexander, who the district reassigned.

Principals Bear Weight of Test Scores