Menu
Paid Advertisement
view counter

Atlanta officials could face jail time in standardized test cheating scandal

By Paul Socolar on Mar 29, 2013 08:25 PM

Former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 other Atlanta teachers and administrators were indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury for their role in that city's massive test cheating scandal - charged with conspiring to manipulate test results to make the school system look better than it was.

According to press accounts, Hall could face up to 45 years in prison for racketeering and other charges for her involvement in what is alleged to have been a decade-long conspiracy. She and the others have until Tuesday to surrender to authorities.

Conclusive evidence of cheating was found in 58 Atlanta schools. Hall, who was once named national superintendent of the year, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

For in-depth coverage, see the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, whose reporting played a major role in breaking open the cheating scandal; coverage can also be found in USA Today, the New York TimesCNN, AP, and other national outlets.

From early on, the aggressive, high-profile investigation of cheating in Atlanta has been in sharp contrast with the handling of the probes here that resulted from the discovery in 2011 of widespread irregularities on the PSSA.

In Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, investigations of adult cheating on standardized tests continue into a second year, but District and state officials have released little information on the findings. No resolution is reported on the investigation of cheating at 53 District schools. 

Any reactions to the news? Would you like to see a much more public investigation here? Are criminal charges appropriate for these kinds of acts?

Click here
view counter

Comments (43)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2013 8:30 pm

Philly's turn . . . soon!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 8:52 am

Philly/Penna has a way of hiding its dirty laundry. Politicians getting palms greased...investigation...doubtful.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2013 9:47 pm

Sorry but no big deal is going to be make out of Philly's cheating episodes because the District is too busy trying to close down schools. It's already known here who cheated and it's been published.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2013 9:11 pm

the problem here is that the state has been complicit in the cheating. they knew about it and decided not to do anything. the opposite of georgia.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 29, 2013 10:51 pm

Here's another report on the Atlanta situation, from Michael Winerip at the Times, who has been following the investigation there ... some vivid accounts of how this all played out.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on March 30, 2013 5:54 am

Thanks for posting the article. Who does this sound like?

"Dr. Hall was known to rule by fear."

"Like them, she was a fearsome presence who would accept no excuses when it came to educating poor children. She held yearly rallies at the Georgia Dome, rewarding principals and teachers from schools with high test scores by seating them up front, close to her, while low scorers were shunted aside to the bleachers."

"The district spent $100,000 a year for a security detail to drive her around the city. At public meetings, questions had to be submitted beforehand for screening."

Why isn't Pennsylvania investigating? We're still waiting to hear about Wagner Middle School from 2012. Why isn't DC investigating Michelle Rhea and her successor Kaya Henderson?

Submitted by Truth (not verified) on March 31, 2013 3:53 pm

Sounds like Ackerman.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 30, 2013 12:43 am

Just like this cheating on the tests by some administrators and teachers, these investigations can be manipulated for a political agenda. Who can forget Pa. Secretary of Education Tomalis trying last fall to use different criteria for test results to rate charters and public schools to make charters appear better than they are?

The basic premise that high-stakes testing, which evaluates only one aspect of learning, should be used to rate teachers and schools needs to be questioned. Tests should be used to diagnose learning problems in order to fix them, not as punitive bludgeons to vilify teachers for social conditions over which they have no control.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 30, 2013 3:29 pm

You mean it's not teachers' fault the kids come to school depressed, beaten, hungry, feeling unloved, sick etc.??

Submitted by Paul Socolar on March 30, 2013 12:10 am

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "When she told one principal in 2005 that his contract was not being renewed, Hall reportedly said it was because she was “not interested in incremental gains.” "

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:00 am

Interesting you mention that......cause when I mentioned the slow but steady gains that my north Philly school has made over the past 5 years .....from 20 to 30% prof/adv in Reading and 25-38% prof/adv in Math .....my principal called these gains "minuscule". We got into an argument about this....I am still in a bit of shock..but I guess these are the words the principal's bosses must be telling her at 440.

Submitted by concerned citizen (not verified) on March 30, 2013 1:52 am

"A new Camden charter school will be run by Gureghian's CSMI, operator of Chester school suspected of adult cheating. South Jersey Times."
I read that item in the Notebook's Notes from the News March 29. Why does Gureghian get rewarded in New Jersey for his cheating in Pennsylvania? Why does the South Jersey Times article completely ignore Gureghian's cheating history?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 5:06 am

45 years? Federal sentences are absurd.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on March 31, 2013 3:46 pm

Totally agree.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2013 6:47 am

It's really an abuse of power by prosecutors.

The prosecutor offers you a plea deal of 5 years. Or you can go to trial and they will go for 45 (effectively life in prison).

Assume someone is innocent. If there's better than a 1 in 9 chance the jury gets it wrong, you should take the 5 years. And that's not even factoring in the cost of defending yourself in a trial.

So much for the right to a fair trial.

Submitted by High School Teacher (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:54 am

"Would you like to see a much more public investigation here? Are criminal charges appropriate for these kinds of acts?"

Yes to both questions. When cheating occurs on these tests, those of us who are honest and truthful end up being told we're slackers and not doing our jobs. Meanwhile the cheaters get promotions, raises and public praise.

I would love to see this pursued here in Philly. No matter if they're on sabbatical (guess who that is), retired or in a prominent position in our district, they should be found out and made to pay for their deceit, just like in Georgia.

Those who cheat on the test don't lie for the children; they lie for personal gain.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:38 pm

I don't entirely buy this because everyone knows who those admins were and what schools they came from. The test scores plummeted after they left. None of this necessarily makes anyone else a slacker, people shouldn't take this internally.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 5, 2013 3:27 pm

But we teachers *were* treated like we were slackers. And the public perception was "why can't those teachers get the scores up like the other schools did?"

Of course the answer is "because we didn't cheat" but that doesn't mean much when the public seems so ready to believe that teachers are shiftless and lazy.

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on March 30, 2013 12:10 pm

If the Archie white wash confirmed any lesson it is that the powers to be in Philadelphia cannot punish the corruption of one of the big players.

What will happen in Philadelphia is a few low level teachers who were inadequately represented by the PFT will be scapegoats for the whole thing and the 440 crowd will move on to the next scam to justify their existence.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 1:52 pm

Anyone caught cheating should be locked up. That is fraud against the taxpayers!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:37 pm

What do you do if you are in a room with a teacher who cheats and you can't say anything? The principal certainly doesn't want to know.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 10:53 pm

Call the Attorney General's office and report them.

Submitted by Anonymous 62 (not verified) on March 31, 2013 5:04 pm

There are many tiplines. PDE has one, state investigation has one and SDP Accountability has one. Google it but numbers are posted on other Notebook articles.

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on March 30, 2013 3:07 pm

Only people unacquainted with the noxious effects of poverty believe that massive educational deficits in the home can be ameliorated by schools. This invincible ignorance conveniently removes poverty from table. Thus, the powers don't have to deal with the poor. They can crow with delight that "poverty doesn't matter." We can fix the schools by selling them off to hedge funds. They can eliminate pre-school, because it really "doesn't help." They can continue to throw people off health insurance. They can deny people a living wage. About forty years ago, former judge Lisa Richette wrote a book called, "Throw Away Children." Now children are thrown to financial wolves whose only incentive is to make money upon the backs of innocent children. And cheat like mad to prove that they are right. Shame on us!

Submitted by High School Teacher (not verified) on March 30, 2013 5:06 pm

"Shame on us"?

No. I have given many years of my life to helping these children by teaching, volunteering and voting in ways that might help. Society might be throwing these children away, but don't include me in the shaming.

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on March 30, 2013 5:26 pm

Typo. sorry. Shame on them! It is interesting to think how we in the schools are so concerned about bullying, when in reality, the school districts, superintendents like dr. Hall and the late Dr. Ackerman, and Michelle Rhee are consummate bullies. In fact, our country is ruled by bullies. They are bullies in business. Bullies in hospitals. I read today that St. Christopher's Hsp., laid off 2% of their workforce and threatened anyone who spoke to the press with loss of severance pay. Bullies, bullies everywhere. Bullies taking about necessary health care. Bullies refusing to consider raising the minimum wage. What does anyone gain by impoverishing the American workforce?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 6:52 pm

Thanks, Eileen, for putting all of this in context.

My question: Teachers and administrators who refused to take part or were (or suspected to be) whistleblowers or whose test scores did not go up fast enough were fired.

Paul,
Have you heard anything about these people filing suit to get their jobs and lost salaries back?

Thanks,

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 30, 2013 7:30 pm

Eileen--You had me until the last line. The 1% gains in a obscenely gigantic way when they can impoverish the workforce. Unions are the only buffer between the 1% and everybody else. By that I mean that unions help ALL workers. The elections of 2010 all over the U.S. gave new heart to the corporations' unforgiving and unrelenting goal to increase profit margin by reducing the rights of the workforce.
By the way, The Broad Foundation--Eli Broad--Believes in unions. Yes, you read that correctly. However, the kind of unions they propose are "Company Unions" which were outlawed in the U.S. in 1935. Company unions are almost worthless and useless to workers and are run by the corporations themselves. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 30, 2013 7:32 pm

Eileen--You had me until the last line. The 1% gains in a obscenely gigantic way when they can impoverish the workforce. Unions are the only buffer between the 1% and everybody else. By that I mean that unions help ALL workers. The elections of 2010 all over the U.S. gave new heart to the corporations' unforgiving and unrelenting goal to increase profit margin by reducing the rights of the workforce.
By the way, The Broad Foundation--Eli Broad--Believes in unions. Yes, you read that correctly. However, the kind of unions they propose are "Company Unions" which were outlawed in the U.S. in 1935. Company unions are almost worthless and useless to workers and are run by the corporations themselves. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:52 pm

When something happens in a school the principal says right off: do NOT talk to the press or anyone who approaches you. That kind of autocratic behavior always amused me as if one is not allowed to talk.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on March 30, 2013 9:38 pm

Funny thing is, if all of this cheating is happening, why then are sooo many SDP NOT making AYP?....that says to me that the teachers are being honest and the students are either honestly failing or they fail to care and pick any answer just to be done with the tests.

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on March 30, 2013 10:11 pm

Some of the schools were making AYP until the anti-cheating mechanism were put into place. Go back and check the record. Then the scores returned to where they were before. Some of the principals of those schools were given promotions because their tenure was apparently so stellar. Now we know there was cheating. The principals in question have retained their promotions. Look for more cheating to come. Once the teachers are again possibly entitled to a raise in 2017, it will be based upon test results and principal recommendation. There is little discussion in educational circles about the huge proportion of kids who are skimmed off the top and attend parochial, private, and elite magnet schools. Masterman and Central are two of the best schools in the state. Their students are taught by the same "bad" teachers who teach in every other Phila. public school. How is it that they make AYP without cheating and without the noxious testing pull out classes?

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on March 31, 2013 1:55 am

My former school [I transferred out this year] is now closing and we did not make AYP for almost 9 years in a row...my comment to the principal was " at least we know that we did not cheat and the kids did what they could as best they could"....bottom line everyone will not be a doctor lawyer or whatever .....and it is not for everyone to do so otherwise who would cook, clean, teach, patrol, supervise, itemize, etc?...... It is was and is unreasonable to think EVERY child in every grade will be reading proficently by any date ever.

A realsitc goal is to push every child to read, write, and think....these are the people who will be driving along side us on the highways, checking our medications at the pharmacy and serving our country overseas.......we all need some realism in our teaching to make better people not human calculators.....

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on March 31, 2013 5:19 am

There is no correlation between PSSA scores (and now Keystone in high schools) and ability nor is the test(s) a predictor of a student's future. The PSSA / Keystone are designed to test specific skills at a specific time and place. Some students are good "testers." To measure someone's worth - as the powers that be do with their obsession with testing - by a test score is unethical. With the growth of "no excuses" schools (e.g. Young Scholars, KIPP, Mastery, etc.) and "no excuses" teaching programs like Teach for America (TFA), the test score is THE goal and measure of worth for students and teachers. A love of learning, critical and creative thinking, caring, etc. can't be measured and judged by THE test score so they are erased.

Rahm Emanuel, President Obama, Michelle Rhea, Arne Duncan, etc. attended elite private schools. (Emanuel went to public schools when his family moved to a wealthy suburb.) Emanuel, Obama, and Rhea send their children to elite private schools. Their children, including Duncan's who apparently go to school in Arlington, VA, a wealthy suburb, are not under the threats of "Race to the Top" and threats of closure because of test scores. Many people have said this, but if Obama has any integrity in education, he should promote an agenda that is suitable for his daughters. I won't hold my breath...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2013 8:53 am

Let's be frank, most people with means and opportunity send their kids to rather elite schools, so that is not the problem in my mind. it becomes an issue when they are in positions of power to help set standards for ALL children and DONT advocate for quality public education for all. I agree with this sentiment said above, >> ". Many people have said this, but if Obama has any integrity in education, he should promote an AGENDA that is suitable for his daughters.">> I don't know why any President would be a part of working toward the destruction of an insittution he should be attempting to bolster.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 31, 2013 9:30 am

Yes, it is always easier when you're speaking about "other people's kids." Obama has been not only a massive disappointment but a disgrace for ignoring the plight of so many people who were looking for "hope and change." He doesn't even bother to pretend to care about their needs...............except, of course, when he pandered for votes a few months back. Of course, look at the alternative----------Romney, YIKES !!

Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 31, 2013 4:42 pm

The AJC coverage is fantastic. I only wish that there was a timeline of the articles the AJC has published on the scandal so that I could keep track of them and read them in chronological order.

One of the paragraphs in the article "'The art of war' at Atlanta Public Schools" says this:
"Far from Hall’s inner circle, in schools across the city, teachers and other employees heard a clear message: produce higher test scores to meet the standard known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or face the consequences."
(http://www.ajc.com/news/news/the-art-of-war-at-atlanta-public-schools/nW...)

This paragraph points to the influence of NCLB in all of this cheating mess. It's clear to most reasonable people that our nation's emphasis on standardized testing needs to change. At the same time, there are many who benefit from the standardized testing industrial complex and they will lobby like hell to keep the standardized testing industrial complex in place! God help us!

EGS

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 31, 2013 6:04 pm

EGS--You are so right, It's all about money. Who was it who said, "Money for nothing and the drinks are free?"

Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 31, 2013 8:12 pm

dire straits? actually it's, "money for nothing and your chicks for free".

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on March 31, 2013 8:40 pm

I knew that, I think. You know where my priorities lie or is it lay? Nothing against "chicks," of course. I love Dire Straits especially the video showing different sports teams tripping all over the place. Needless to say, I can't think of that song either.

Submitted by linda (not verified) on March 31, 2013 7:21 pm

May I suggest the following:

If found guilty let the sentence be for 10 years, retirement age not withstanding, that the guilty have to go into the classroom and TEACH.

Anyone agree?
Linda K, who has at least 18 more years to go

Submitted by tom-104 on April 1, 2013 9:52 am

Some have noted the way high-stakes testing has been used in Philadelphia to vilify teachers who work with a large population of students from low income families. The New York Times article about the Atlanta test cheating scandal is a must read to understanding our recent history.

http://tinyurl.com/c93ym8w

This quote in particular stood out:

"Dr. Hall arrived in Atlanta in 1999, the final step in a long upward climb. She had advanced through the ranks of the New York City schools, from teacher to principal to deputy superintendent, and then in 1995, became the superintendent in Newark.

In Atlanta, she built a reputation as a person who got results, understood the needs of poor children and had a strong relationship with the business elite.

Her focus on test scores made her a favorite of the national education reform movement, nearly as prominent as the schools chancellors Joel I. Klein of New York City and Michelle Rhee of Washington. Like them, she was a fearsome presence who would accept no excuses when it came to educating poor children. She held yearly rallies at the Georgia Dome, rewarding principals and teachers from schools with high test scores by seating them up front, close to her, while low scorers were shunted aside to the bleachers.

But she was also known as someone who held herself aloof from parents, teachers and principals. The district spent $100,000 a year for a security detail to drive her around the city. At public meetings, questions had to be submitted beforehand for screening."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 25, 2013 4:21 pm

Teaching was a joy until standard testing and ranking became the focal point in the district. Students shouldn't be ranked in the same manner. Many aren't test takers, but are quite articulate and can teach lessons because they have gained an expertise through what they've learn from the teacher and on their own. Some children learn at a different rate than others, slow, average, fast... By all means, testing should be used as a tool to determine whether the child has needs. You can't fix what is broken, if the results aren't true. So testing has become a contest. Scores have to meet a certain level of proficiency in order for the school to be considered a star among stars. I loved teaching. I loved seeing the light go on when my students were able to grasp the lesson they were learning. I was elated when my students bypassed me and followed their own dream of becoming a teacher, lawyer, doctor and more. However, I know that they knew the struggle they had to face. "Testing" is a frightening word, whether it's standardized or teacher made. Students tend to buckle under the pressure of not meeting the grade. Then there are those who are born test takers. They fear nothing, because they look at testing as a puzzle or another challenge to hurdle. I've had the pleasure of working with them as well. In stating that ... I would like to appeal to the people creating the tests. Are you reaching for needs of the students or setting impossible goals? We all take tests in one way or another, for higher education, job placement, increasing rank, or to maintain the job level. Testing is broad based and covers many aspects. But testing doesn't always define the true knowledge gained. Look at our schools now: Home economics- N/A, Shop- N/A, Art- N/A, etc, etc, etc. Keep taking these valuable tools away, you'll have nothing left but robots. Creativity can't be tested, because it changes through time in every element and every scope. Our children are supposed to shine, not go super nova. I don't know Dr. Hall or what her intent was. It should have been to embrace the minds of the students and to create a program that best suits their needs and no matter what the score, work with the children to bring them to a comfort zone in their learning. They will embrace it and take it where they want to go with it. These children have goals and aspirations, if we take time to listen. It's a shame to see a test will be the defining rule to whether they attain their goals or not.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

          

Philly Ed Feed

Print edition

Recent Comments

Click Here
view counter
Click Here - Paid Ad
view counter
Click Here
view counter
Universal Family of School is Recruiting Talented Teachers
view counter

view counter
Click Here
view counter
Keystone State Education Coalition
view counter
Click Here
view counter
Click here
view counter
Advertise with TheNotebook.org
view counter
Click Here
view counter
Reserve your ad in the next edition of The Notebook
view counter
Top

Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300
notebook@thenotebook.org

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy