Dr. Hall responds to Blue Ribbon Commission’s CRCT investigation report

From APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall …

I accept the Blue Ribbon Commission Report and thank the members for their considerable time and effort in this difficult process.

I will review the report very carefully and will present to the Board of Education as they have requested steps that will be taken to follow up on the recommendations in the report.

I will not wait until August 16th to begin to make some immediate changes. As a matter of fact, we announced at the July Board of Education meeting, strategies we will have in place on day one to help students who failed to meet standards on the 2010 CRCT.  To ensure no child falls through the cracks we have created a 12-week individualized, accelerated academic recovery program to make sure they catch up quickly and succeed this school year.  After all, this is job one.

We have maintained all along that we will prosecute to the fullest any cases of cheating, and that remains our intent.

But we trust the media and public will focus on the main findings of the report that there is no orchestrated cheating in Atlanta Public Schools, that there are no low testing standards, that APS administrators demanded high standards, and that under pressures some people may have compromised the credibility of the school system and their own personal integrity to try to cut corners.  We will insist that our testing standards are strictly adhered to at every grade level. 

The Blue Ribbon Commission Report makes it clear: “The investigative team did not find any data or other evidence, nor were there qualified allegations made, that there was any district-wide or centrally coordinated effort to manipulate the 2009 CRCT scores and outcomes of students at 58 APS schools.”

If we are guilty of anything, we are guilty of demanding high standards of our students, teachers, and principals – and unfortunately in any large organization, a few people may cheat to try to meet those demands.

We will ferret them out and the consequences will be severe.

Again, I will report to the Board of Education a full set of actions based on the Report’s recommendations on August 16th as requested.

Finally, to the thousands of employees who report to work in our schools and central office every day, I thank you for all that you do and will continue to do for our 48,000 students. Thanks also to the parents and the community at large for your continued support and confidence in the students and staff of APS.

Our school system will clear this up and continue our focus on even greater student achievement over time.

13 thoughts on “Dr. Hall responds to Blue Ribbon Commission’s CRCT investigation report

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  1. It’s me again, Beverly. Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh. (I’ve been listening to Ray Stevens’ songs.) According to the Associated Press, according to the state report on CRCT cheating in the Atlanta Public Education System, you have been naughty in your capacity as head gorilla. They say that you knew about cheating allegations on standardized tests but either ignored them or tried to hide them. That pretty much does it for you. Now everybody knows that you’re not a pillar of the community like you pretended to be. It’s possible that you might be charged with doing something bad, like punishing the people who brought academic fraud in some of Atlanta’s schools to your attention.

    I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. The federal government might think you owe them back some money they misspent because of your misrepresentations. The state might think that you didn’t deserve your bonuses after all and ask for you to return all that money, and if you don’t have it anymore, why, they might ask what your size is in fluorescent orange jumpsuits. I do declare, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone lose so much reputation so quickly as you have. You couldn’t sink any lower if you went around telling people you were gay. On the bright side, nobody has accused you of pedophilia, yet. The way you treated children in the Atlanta schools, nobody would think that you might be fond of them.

  2. And the first wave of confessions are in the hands of GBI and the state’s investigation team. Like ripples in a pond, the information provided by those wise enough to have confessed early will lead to others who are guilty, but who have not confessed yet. Those who confess later might be dealt with more harshly, while God help those who don’t confess at all but who are proven guilty in a courtroom. The state might have to contract with prisons as far away as Florida or Texas to hold those folks.

    A tip for the ladies. If you are given a choice between serving your sentence in Broward Correctional Facility in Florida, or in MTV-Gatesville Texas, choose Texas. The Ft. Lauderdale prison is a really bad pest hole. I had a pen pal in there for a while, until I lost contact with her for some unknown reason. Maybe those big rats ate her.

  3. I didn’t know about this until today. But a couple of hours ago, I read Whitney Tilson’s School Reform Blog, and there’s an article there that recalls an Atlanta Journal-Constitution inquiry into why Atlanta’s NAEP scores and graduation rates started rising around 2003.

    According to the AJC (via Tilson), the Atlanta Public Schools essentially dumped its bottom third of high school enrollment between 2003 and 2005. During that time, about 18000 (eighteen thousand) teenagers were marked as having “transferred,” whether they ever enrolled in another high school or not.

    It was only natural, therefore, that the NAEP scores and the graduation rates would thereafter rise, since the students remaining in APS high schools were on the average brighter than the ones who were removed. And whiter, too. Although the roster of students offered to take the NAEP were still, approximately and by some stretch of Dr. Cordelia Orr’s imagination, “demographically representative” of the students in the Atlanta district, the demographics themselves had been changed.

    However, dumping the lowest achievers, whether it is sound policy or not, isn’t what is usually meant by “education reform.” You’re supposed to help the losers grow a bigger brain, you see, so that they aren’t obsolete hominids any more.

    Anyway, it seems that Dr. Orr did not actually contradict Mr. Scafidi’s remarks on that subject. She only pretended to contradict him, vehemently.

    (“Ben Scafidi’s column mistakenly questions… Unfortunately, Mr. Scafidi is spewing misinformation.” Ha ha. Very clever, Dr. Orr. Maybe she should be investigated next.)

    Further, and while I’m not directly experienced in such matters, I’ve been told that the federal government does not, neither in the past nor at present, actually check that the roster of students offered to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress test is complete. From what I’ve heard, it is possible for any dishonest officials who may be in charge of a school system to cherry-pick the list in order to omit, say, the bottom quarter. That would give a school system an artificial boost on their average NAEP score and should be regarded as another form of cheating.

  4. I heard that Gov. Perdue has sent the GBI to help out with the state CRCT cheating investigation being carried out by Mike Bowers and Bob Wilson. This is significant because GBI is “active duty” law enforcement, and if you lie to them you commit a felony. If you try to clam up and don’t cooperate by answering questions, they might start investigating you. You better have declared only actual dependents on your tax forms. You better have clean underwear on, too.

    Do you suppose that there will be some sort of “grace period,” during which generous plea bargains will be offered to those who “know something” and are the first to tell the nice state police officers? I don’t know. They might have the idea that they don’t need to do that. But, if they do, I expect that the prizes will start high but go down quickly, so each of you guilty folks (you know who you are) should really want to be the first in the door with the information that the cops are looking for.

    Somebody’s probably going to prison. It doesn’t have to be You.

  5. Whoa! Now it looks like the federal government wants a piece of some APS CRCT cheaters’ hides. You know how the feds work. Whichever of you APS principals ‘fesses up first will probably get off the easiest. If you know something worth telling, and you tell it first, then you might get a nice prize. Just don’t lie to the feds, or you might end up in that Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and there’s some mighty ugly rumors about the kinds of things that go on in there.

  6. Well, well. It’s happening in New York City, too!

    A recent article in the New York Times carries this title:
    NYC Racial Achievement Gap “Returns”

    Annotated text from the article is included below.

    The quotes are theirs, there to indicate sarcasm. The race gap in the scores on the state standardized tests of New York’s elementary and middle schools actually never went away. Cheating by school officials only seemed to make them do so.

    Two years ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (Jewish) and his schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein (likewise), testified (i.e., lied) before Congress about the city’s impressive progress in closing the gulf in performance between minority and white children. The gains were historic, all but unheard of in recent decades.“(Just like in Atlanta.) Over the past six years, we’ve done everything possible to narrow the achievement gap — and we have,” Mr. Bloomberg testified. “In some cases, we’ve reduced it by half.” (Ha ha. No they didn’t.)

    “We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever,” the mayor said again in 2009, as city reading scores — now acknowledged as the height of a test score bubble — showed nearly 70 percent of children had met state standards. (Notice that the cheating went “over the top” in New York in 2009, the same year as with the Atlanta Public Schools.)

    When results from the 2010 tests, which state officials said presented a more accurate portrayal of students’ abilities, were released last month, they came as a blow to the legacy of the mayor and the chancellor, as passing rates dropped by more than 25 percentage points on most tests. (The same thing happened in Atlanta.) But the most painful part might well have been the evaporation of one of their signature accomplishments: the closing of the racial achievement gap. (Poof!)

    Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians. (Just as you might predict by reading the published papers of Arthur Jensen and J. Philippe Rushton.)

  7. chillywilly, you’re right. Madame Attorney Payne “concluded” that the 2009 CRCT scores were corrupted because of “neglect” and because of “failures to follow proper procedure.”

    Are we supposed to believe that the suspicious erasures were made by some mysterious and as-yet undiscovered force of nature while the boxes of answer sheets were left unguarded? Why no, of course not! Somebody had to take those answer sheets out of the box and perform the eraser trick on them. That’s what really caused the cheating. Neglect in handling the answer sheets merely provided the cheater with opportunity. The cheating itself was something additional.

    Reid: It’s utterly moot whether APS has set standards beyond AYP as set by the No Child Left Behind Law. The fact is, APS can’t even AYP. Honestly, that is. It’s useless to speak of higher standards when the minimally required standard hasn’t actually been met.

    In my opinion, Dr. Hall is saying and writing all the clever things that one might expect her to say and to write. From the time I began thinking that I had enough information to have an opinion about this scandal, I’ve believed that she has been hiding some degree of guilt behind fair words. Guilt exceeding that of “she should have known, but didn’t check.”

    I live in West Virginia, and I’m shaking my head over the apparent inability of Georgia to get the corruption out of Atlanta, where it has seemingly settled in to stay. The CRCT cheating in 2009 is just only one of several major Atlanta area corruption threads I’ve been monitoring. I watch Atlanta, but I wouldn’t live there for the same reason that I enjoy seeing monkey shenanigans at the zoo but dare not put my hand inside the monkey cage.

  8. The deleted expletive in my 2nd post was BS, written out in full.

  9. Reid, you didn’t see my first comment because it has been “awaiting moderation” since I posted it on August 4th. That was the post that explains why the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report has a deficiency of worth, which becomes obvious when you examine the state’s statistical data closely.

    I’ll repeat and expand on it here.

    A look at the data puts the lie to the commission’s statement that they focused on where the CRCT cheating was “clustered.” On some graph paper, plot the percentages, from high to low, of suspected classrooms in APS elementary and middle schools judged “severe” by the state for tampering on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test, and you don’t see any clustering.

    The data on the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I’d provide the URL to that data, but I suspect that might be what caused the moderation flag in my first post, which the moderators here have never bothered to lift.

    There is a slope in the data, but no clustering. There is no obvious reason for why the investigation commissioned by the Atlanta Public Schools decided to restrict their focus to the 12 schools in which the suspected cheating rates are highest. The slope continues on its gentle and regular way, and there is no abrupt break, or “stairstep” in the graph at the 13th most suspicious school.

    It appears that this commission arbitrarily decided to designate only schools suspected of cheating in more than 2/3 of their classrooms as warranting “serious concern.” And that decision is very suspicious. All by itself, it requires that the State of Georgia disregard the commission’s report and do their own, rather more thorough and unforgiving, investigation.

    The state’s standard for “severe concern” is 25% of classrooms suspected, and the Blue Ribbon Commission should have investigated all 43 schools which are in this category.

    Why? Because there’s probably more cheating to be found in the 31 schools having 25% to 66.7% of their classrooms suspected of CRCT score tampering than there is to be found in the 12 schools with 66.7% to 90% of their classrooms suspected.

    Why? Because more schools are involved (31 as opposed to 12), with more classrooms, teachers, and students. The commission chose to ignore most of CRCT cheating within the Atlanta Public Schools. It is difficult to imagine why an honestly conducted investigation would do that.

    It’s also hard to understand why the commission would disregard the fact that the Atlanta Public Schools seem to have more suspected cheating than all the rest of the State of Georgia combined, and still have the opinion that the guilty parties are a few low-level teachers who failed to learn good morals.

    The Blue Ribbon Commission’s report looks like a whitewash. It contrives a distinction for the twelve APS schools having the highest percentages of suspected classrooms and attaches to that distinction an importance it does not really have. This was almost certainly not ignorantly done. The people on the commission are smart people who must have known full well that they were playing a trick on the public. The state should disregard the report and all its “conclusions,” and launch its own investigation.

    Going from high-left to low-right, the data points on the chart represent these Atlanta Public Schools:

    1. Parks Middle, 89.50%
    2. Gideons Elementary, 88.40%
    3. Peyton Forest, 86.10%
    4. F L Stanton, 83.30%
    5. Usher Elementary, 78.40%
    6. Venetian Hills, 75.40%
    7. Capitol View, 70.80%
    8. Connally Elementary, 70.50%
    9. Dunbar Elementary, 68.60%
    10. Scott Elementary, 68.00%
    11. Blalock Elementary, 66.70%
    12. Perkerson Elementary, 66.70%
    13. Towns Elementary, 63.60%
    14. Woodson Elementary, 63.30%
    15. Whiteford Elementary, 59.30%
    16. D H Stanton Elementary, 58.30%
    17. Boyd Elementary, 56.10%
    18. West Manor Elementary, 54.90%
    19. Turner Middle, 54.00%
    20. Kennedy Middle, 53.20%
    21. Fickett Elementary, 51.40%
    22. Finch Elementary, 48.00%
    23. Deerwood Academy, 47.80%
    24. White Elementary, 47.40%
    25. Hutchinson Elementary, 47.00%
    26. Humphries Elementary, 46.70%
    27. Benteen Elementary, 43.10%
    28. Beecher Hills, 42.60%
    29. East Lake Elementary, 42.00%
    30. Cook Elementary, 40.70%
    31. Fain Elementary, 39.70%
    32. Thomasville Heights, 39.10%
    33. Crim High School, 33.30%
    34. Dobbs Elementary, 33.30%
    35. Coan Middle, 31.40%
    36. Slater Elementary, 30.30%
    37. Benjamin S Carson (Best Academy), 30.00%
    38. C W Hill Elementary, 29.40%
    39. Cascade Elementary, 28.80%
    40. Heritage Academy, 28.20%
    41. Adamsville Elementary, 27.80%
    42. Cleveland Elementary, 26.10%
    43. University Community School, 25.00%

    The schools are shown with their percentages of classrooms suspected of CRCT answer-sheet tampering in 2009.

    Just by adding up the percentages, you can guess that about 41% of the cheating happened in the uppermost 12 schools (which had the focus of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s concern), while about 59% of the cheating happened in the schools rank…ed 13th through 43rd, in order of suspected classrooms.

    That’s neglecting the remaining schools in the Atlanta school district having fewer than 25% of their classrooms suspected, and it assumes that the average number of classrooms is the same in schools 1-12 as it is in schools 13-43.

    This just goes to show that the much-delayed report of the BRC isn’t as authoritative as Beverly Hall wants you to think it is. I won’t speculate here on why it has this deficiency of worth. Whatever the reason might be, it is obvious that the truth has not been found and that the BRC’s report is a whitewash intended as political damage control.

    An adequate investigation into the tampering on students’ answer-sheets on the 2009 CRCT has not yet been done. Atlanta Public Schools have had their chance to get to the bottom of things, and they have failed. It is time for Governor Perdue to ask the appropriate state government departments to do the job correctly.

  10. What does APS plan to do about external investigator Penn Payne & the two employees in Finance that cheated on the time & attendance? Every case that Penn Payne has investigated needs to be reopened and investigated by someone who doesn’t have ties to APS. The evidence is overwhelming that at least two employees in the Finance Division took time off from work and coded the Time Sheets as if they were at some Education Meeting. There was absolutely no Education Meeting taking place on many of the days that these two employees were absent.

    Now if you want to come clean, lets come all the way clean.

  11. How much more clear can Beverly Hall be!

    She says, “We have maintained all along that we will prosecute to the fullest any cases of cheating, and that remains our intent.”

    And she’s also right about having HIGH standards for APS students, teachers and schools. The school system has set innovative standards BEYOND No Child Left Behind.

    So if there’s any outrage to be directed at anyone, it should be directed at anybody who let fear, cheating or manipulation forsake integrity and hard work!

    Read the FULL report. Do not brand APS as a cheating system based on the actions of a few.

  12. The silver lining on this inadequate report is that for a few years the Atlanta Public Schools won’t be able to get away with cheating on the CRCT. If they try, the state government will swing its hammer and somebody will rue the day they were born. So, for a while, we’ll probably see that there has really been made in the school district little or none of the progress for which its Superintendent has been copiously praised and awarded.

    Of course, later, when the heat is off, the cheating will start creeping back again, wherever students have more than the usual difficulty in learning the academic skills customarily required for their grade level. Atlanta seems to be conspicuous in that regard. I wonder why.

  13. Beverly Hall writes:

    “If we are guilty of anything, we are guilty of demanding high standards of our students, teachers, and principals – and unfortunately in any large organization, a few people may cheat to try to meet those demands.”

    (Expletive deleted by moderator.)

    The high standards come from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law, which requires schools to show Adequate Yearly Progress. Most of the Atlanta Public Schools would have fallen short of meeting AYP if they had not cheated on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test in 2009. In fact, this kind of cheating, for this same reason, probably began in the Atlanta Public Schools prior to 2009, simply because APS would have begun having difficulties with AYP before most of Georgia’s other school districts did.

    J. Philippe Rushton and Arthur R. Jensen would be happy to explain why that is so.

    Anyway, the standards that Beverly Hall claims as her own aren’t really hers. They are federal standards that APS does not appear to be able to meet without either cheating up the students’ test scores or stripping the tests of that degree of difficulty which makes a test a meaningful measure of educational progress.

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