Symptom of the Disease: Atlanta public school educators cheat to improve student test scores

Teachers, school administrators and principals were directly involved with various efforts – including outright cheating and changing student answers – to increase the Atlanta school systems student performance scores. Some even held “erasure parties” on weekends to change answers.

This is totally unbelievable even for someone who thinks the government should be completely out of the education business. From WSBTV in Atlanta, with my emphasis in bold.

The report stated that children were denied special-educational assistance because their falsely reported CRCT scores were too high, and during testing, teachers pointed to the correct answer while standing at students’ desks.

According to the report, Parks Middle School had the most educators accused of cheating under the direction of then-principal Christopher Waller.

Investigators who led the probe were appointed by former Gov. Sonny Perdue. They found cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.

Deal said investigators also found that 178 teachers and principals cheated, and 82 of those confessed to misconduct.

The superintendent of the Atlanta school system, Dr. Beverly Hall, left her position at the end of June, but during the last decade she was heralded as a savior of the public school system and received – get this – an average yearly bonus of $58,000 a year. In 10 years she raked in almost $600,000 in bonuses based supposedly on higher graduation rates and better student performance.

It looks like it was a huge government-funded and endorsed scam as an indirect result of the federal government’s No Child Left Behind education legislation introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and then-President George W. Bush. Atlanta’s first test results were abysmal and instead of fixing the issue and improving performance and scores, a good portion of the public education system’s leadership and line staff elected to cheat the system and screw the kids.

It is clearly not “about the children” for these despicable self-described educators.

Parents of the children who have been totally left behind are rightfully ticked-off. Many families even made important decisions based on test scores released yearly by the public school system. Families moved. Families purchased homes. All partly based on the falsified data released by the Atlanta school system concerning student performance and test scores.

Marsha Sims said when it was time to find a neighborhood with a good school for her triplets, she jumped through all the hoops, including poring over the test scores, before settling on Morris Brandon in northwest Atlanta.

Many families buy homes near Morris Brandon just so they can send their children to the school.

“I was comparing them. And to find out now that those test scores were possibly not correct, then how can you choose what school your child attends if they’re not correct?” Sims said.

When Sims saw the news that the long-awaited investigation of alleged cheating in Atlanta Public Schools was out, Sims said it was sickening.

“I was extremely upset. I mean extremely,” she said.

Valerie Irvin, whose son attends Best Academy, told Dore, “A lot of people need to be arrested.” “Not fines. I think people need to go to jail. I think people need some pain for what they’ve done to these poor kids and parents who think they’ve done well on their test scores,” said Irvin.

Sims also had harsh words for those involved.

“If they knew about it, or if they covered it up, they need to be held accountable,” Sims said. “They clearly did not do their job and they abused their power.”

The news story includes the full three part report (links to sections are here) including hundreds of pages. It seems like the next steps should be indictments, criminal trials and jail time for those involved. The reports overview notes …

Thousands of school children were harmed by widespread cheating in the Atlanta Public School System (APS). In 30 schools, educations confessed to cheating, We found cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in 44 of the 56 schools (78.6%) we examined, and uncovered organized and systemic misconduct within the district as far back as 2001. Superintendent Beverly Hall and her senior staff knew, or should have known, that cheating and other offenses were occurring. Many of the accolades, and much of the praise, received by APS over the last decade were ill-gotten.

A culture of fear and conspiracy of silence infected this school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct. From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS leadership in our attempt to gather evidence. …

The APS General Councel told us that one of her main duties was to provide [Hall] with “deniability.” Her aim was to insulate Dr. Hall from teh burden of responsibility for making difficult decisions. This veil of deniability at the school level was aptly illustrated by long-time Gideons Elementary principal Armstead Salters, who told his teachers: “If anyone asks you anything about this, just tell them you don’t know … just stick to the story and it will go away.”

Here is just some of the information outlined in the report concerning cheating and other issues.

  • Teachers and administrators erased students’ incorrect answers after the test was given and filled in the correct answers;
  • The changing of answers by teachers and administrators was, in some cases, so sophisticated that plastic transparency answer sheets were created to make changing the test answer sheets easier;
  • Changing of answers was often done at weekend gatherings, and in at least one instance at a teacher’s home in Douglas County, Georgia;
  • A principal forced a teacher with low CRCT scores to crawl under a table at a faculty meeting;
  • Teachers arranged classroom seating for tests so that lower performing children could cheat off the higher scoring students;
  • Children were denied special educational assistance because their falsely-reported CRCT scores were too high;
  • Students requested that they be assigned to a certain teacher because that educator was said to cheat;
  • First and second grade teachers used voice inflection while reading the test to identify the answer;
  • Teachers pointed to the correct answer while standing at the student’s desk;
  • Teachers gave the answers aloud to students;
  • Some teachers allowed students to change the previous day’s incorrect responses after fixing them correct answers;
  • Teachers looked ahead to discuss the next day’s questions;
  • In one classroom a student sat under his desk and refused to take the test. The child passed.

Information about the testing…

The CRCT is a multiple choice examination given annually to all public school students in Georgia. There are five subject areas that are tested: reading; English/language arts; math; social studies and science. Students are scored as “meets standards,” “exceeds standards” or “does not meet standards.” The CRCT is considered and important test because its results help determine whether a school makes “Annually Yearly Progress” (AYP) as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Read More…

15 replies
  1. Plainvillian
    Plainvillian says:

    Is there any institution not denigrated by moral/ethical relativism?? Who can one believe?? In what can one have faith?? Can any society long endure when its core is rotten?

  2. Tim-in-Alabama
    Tim-in-Alabama says:

    This is clearly the fault of George Bush and his illegal No Child Left Behind law. Ted Kennedy’s people actually wrote it, and it passed in a Democrat-controlled Senate, but the Hero of ?Chappaquiddick was against it after he was for it so he is forgiven. Just another in the many Bush messes for Bumpy Barry O’Bama and Joe the Dumber to clean up.

  3. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    Obviously, all they need is more money to set things right!!? /sarcasm
    Fine role models.?? So much for the honor system for teachers.? If I were a parent there, I would sue them blue.

  4. steve418r
    steve418r says:

    Some educators are hardworking and devoted to the betterment of society. That being said, there are many that do not give a rats a$$ about anything except the money. Clearly that is the case with these individuals. These are the ones that tell the kids it isn’t their fault, but the fault of the rich people with better financed schools. They fail to tell them that every individual is in control of their own future and hard work is the only pathway. Since they have cushy public service jobs with low performance expectations themselves, they want to pass that message on to the students. Hey with a little help for the students, they can get big bonuses as well. They teachers and administrators then take the money that should be spent on a better facility and better learning materials.

  5. winnie888
    winnie888 says:

    Parents in Atlanta need to organize (union-style, anyone?) and bring a class action law suit against the Atlanta Public School system and, dare I say it, the state of GA for reporting false test results that caused people to choose where to buy a home and settle their families.? The housing market is bad enough…imagine having purchased a home in a supposedly good school district only to have a scandal such as this make it even more difficult to sell your home??
    The city and the state need to be held accountable…at least civilly and definitely criminally for perpetrating fraud based on NCLB rules & guidelines & their ill-gotten financial gains associated with it.?
    The worst thing?? NCLB led to a lot of C(hildren)LB.? These idiots took something that could have benefited the children they profess to care so much about and turned it into a joke.? Flat-out & disgusting abuse of power.

  6. Murphy
    Murphy says:

    Welcome to Atlanta! Home Of All Children Left Behind.? Now we know where they came up with saying “Atlanta Georgia – The Big A”
    Georgia’s motto is “Wisdom, justice, and moderation” perhaps they thought there was too much “Wisdom & justice” in Atlanta……………. problem solved.? NEXT

  7. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    Of course, the alternate goal would be to get the program discontinued by making it a joke, leaving them to go back to their unmonitored, even worse performances.

  8. PatRiot
    PatRiot says:

    @ Winnie888
    To sue the APS and State of Georgis is to cheat the taxpayers twice.? The INDIVIDUALS need to be fired and sued.
    “And these children that you spit on are well aware of what they are going through…” David Bowie

  9. PatRiot
    PatRiot says:

    Sorry Winnie888? – the Bowie quote was directed at the APS.
    It?amazes me that people take more time and effort to work around a problem than it takes to actually fix it.
    Did the teachers actually think that the state and feds would be able to make quality decisions off of this bum information??
    And where have the Republicans been while the Dems have been in bed wit hthe teacher’s union?

  10. bill88w
    bill88w says:

    I am not at all surprised. In their 2005 book “Freakonomics” Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner go into detail about cheating on standardized tests. The Chicago school tests were used to develop the cheating algorithm to check answers. What is interesting is what the Chicago School CEO did, he tested students again to prove the allegations and then fired the cheating teachers. The Chicago School CEO was Arnie Duncan. You’ll find it in chapter 1.

  11. PatRiot
    PatRiot says:

    MAYBE? Arne Duncan did it for the right reasons – I hope so.?

    I just get a REALLY bad feeling when I hear that someone in the Administration is from?Chicago or Harvard.

  12. Linda Mae
    Linda Mae says:

    Sorry – I’ve spent 37 years working with 7th and 8th graders and the last 6 years with adult ed only.? The best way to fix education in the US is to get rid of politicians who use test scores to “grade” the teachers and the schools themselves.? In CT, the original tests were to indicate those in need of remediation and then to provide it.? Good test usage.? Then, the politicians took over, as did the real estate agents.? And then the tests took on a different meaning – to them? – but not to the teachers who used them correctly.? There is NOTHING on the grades 4, 6, & 8 CT mastery tests that our students shouldn’t learn, shouldn’t know.? You can visit the SDE testing site to find the skills from the reading and the writing sections.? They are spelled out.? There are even teacher work books which give lesson plans to teach or reteach the skills.? Ex.? there, they’re, their.? Verb tense usage.? If your students don’t know these basic skills, then a good teacher will review them throughout the year – in an interesting way.?
    The problem with education is that the newer teachers graduate with their heads filled with concepts such as “If a student can complete 5 of one skill, then they know it and move on.”?…

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