Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Unlike in DC, school test cheating administrators are being criminally charged in Atlanta

For the most part, DC has swept the test cheating that occurred during the Chancellorship of Michelle Rhee under the rug, likely because it interferes with the false narrative that the "reform" program in the DC Public Schools has been successful.  See "Michelle Rhee: Reformer, Zealot, Both or Something Else?" from PBS and "‘Frontline’ raises questions about test-score tampering under Rhee" from the Washington Post--which has mostly let this cover up go unwritten.

Right:  Noyes Elementary School in DC (image from USA Today), ground zero for DCPS test cheating.

Only because the paper's education columnist is married to the USA Today editor who led the investigative reporting endeavor with regard to Atlanta, although allegations of cheating in Atlanta were first raised by the local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and DC ("When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?") + the PBS show, has coverage of this bobbed up in the paper from time to time.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, authorities didn't sweep the newspaper's investigation under the rug, they did their own investigation, which led to the criminal indictment of the former superintendent as well as 34 other administrators, principals, and teachers.  See "Ex-Schools Chief in Atlanta Is Indicted in Testing Scandal" from the New York Times, "Grand jury indicts about 3 dozen educators in Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal from the Associated Press, and the "Cheating our Children" series from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

From the NYT article:

During his 35 years as a Georgia state investigator, Richard Hyde has persuaded all sorts of criminals — corrupt judges, drug dealers, money launderers, racketeers — to turn state’s evidence, but until Jackie Parks, he had never tried to flip an elementary school teacher. ...

In the fall of 2010, Ms. Parks, a third-grade teacher at Venetian Hills Elementary School in southwest Atlanta, agreed to become Witness No. 1 for Mr. Hyde, in what would develop into the most widespread public school cheating scandal in memory.

Ms. Parks admitted to Mr. Hyde that she was one of seven teachers — nicknamed “the chosen” — who sat in a locked windowless room every afternoon during the week of state testing, raising students’ scores by erasing wrong answers and making them right. She then agreed to wear a hidden electronic wire to school, and for weeks she secretly recorded the conversations of her fellow teachers for Mr. Hyde.

In the two and a half years since, the state’s investigation reached from Ms. Parks’s third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.

Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.

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.

On Friday, prosecutors essentially said it really was too good to be true. 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.

In Georgia, special prosecutors were appointed to investigate, and they did with the result that, according to the Times, "on June 30, 2011, state investigators issued an 800-page report implicating 178 teachers and principals — including 82 who confessed to cheating."   (The report is accessible via this article, "Here's the state's full report about the Atlanta schools cheating scandal," from Creative Loafing, Atlanta's alternative free weekly newspaper.)

In DC, the city's Inspector General did a desultory report that mostly ignored various allegations. Michelle Rhee was lucky to get out, because in DC, chances of what happened in Georgia, where the now retired Schools Superintendent ended up being criminally charged, are next to nil.

So much for accountability and transparency.  (In reality, in DC, test scores have not risen at all, and gaps between well off students and impoverished students have increased, since the "reforms" introduced by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee.)

And the Post perhaps has rested too long on the accolades they received from the Watergate Investigation

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home