Monday, April 1, 2013

In Atlanta a Massive Cheating Scandal Accuses the Former Head of the School System

Confessions Aplenty – But Can They Convict the Superintendent?

T. Lynne Pixley for The New York Times
From left, the men who ran the 
investigation, Robert E. Wilson, 
Michael Bowers and Richard Hyde.
One of the ugliest, if not the most ugly ever school cheating scandals took place in the Atlanta school 
system over the past ten or more years. And it was criminal.

Dr. Hall and the 34 teachers, principals and administrators “conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistle-blowers in an effort to bolster C.R.C.T. scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores,” the indictment said, referring to the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

  The impetus was to improve test scores so that the school system in Atlanta would be seen as a great success, and provide great rewards for the administrators, including the district superintendent, Beverly Hall.

During the decade she led the district of 52,000 children, many of them poor and African-American, Atlanta students often outperformed wealthier suburban districts on state tests.

Those test scores brought her fame — in 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named her superintendent of the year and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, hosted her at the White House.

And fortune — she earned more than $500,000 in performance bonuses while superintendent.

While the trial is to be held, that cheating took place is a foregone conclusion.  Many teachers have accepted their guilt and confessed to the activity.

The impetus was clearly the pressure brought by Ms. Hall.

Dr. Hall was known to rule by fear. She gave principals three years to meet their testing goals. Few did; in her decade as superintendent, she replaced 90 percent of the principals.

Teachers and principals whose students had high test scores received tenure and thousands of dollars in performance bonuses. Otherwise, as one teacher explained, it was “low score out the door.”

And while the evidence against those who changed test scores appears to be overwhelming, Ms. Hall claims she is innocent and that there is no direct evidence to charge her with a crime or knowledge.

As she has since the beginning, Mr. Deane said, Dr. Hall has denied the charges and any involvement in cheating or any other wrongdoing and expected to be vindicated. “We note that as far as has been disclosed, despite the thousands of interviews that were reportedly done by the governor’s investigators and others, not a single person reported that Dr. Hall participated in or directed them to cheat on the C.R.C.T.,” he said later in a statement.

and so Ms. Hall will have her day in court, and the state will have to prove their case against her.

The hero, if there is one in all of this may be former Republican Governor Sonny Perdue who pushed for the investigation despite huge pressure to leave it alone.  Being a Caucasian and a conservative Republican naturally there were suspicions about the Governor. But he was convinced he was right and he went ahead anyway.

But no state has come close to Georgia in appropriating the resources needed to root it out.

And that is because of former Governor Perdue.
“The more we were stonewalled, the more we wanted to know why,” he said in an interview.

In August 2010, after yet another blue-ribbon commission of Atlanta officials found no serious cheating, Mr. Perdue appointed the two special prosecutors and gave them subpoena powers and a budget substantial enough to hire more than 50 state investigators who were overseen by Mr. Hyde.

which once again reinforces the concept that when Republicans are elected and do the job of good governing they are successful.  And if they do a good job, they should be.

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