Cracking a System Where Cheating Was Rampant
Well, this article about the Atlanta test scandal is a shocker: it's by Michael Winerip and it's NOT a hatchet job – will wonders never cease… Maybe it's because the facts are so grim that they don't need twisting or embellishing (though it's too bad that he didn't quote his hero, Ravitch, praising Beverly Hall):
The taking of Venetian Hills became the prototype for an investigation that found cheating at nearly half the Atlanta schools. A total of 178 principals and teachers — including 82 who confessed — had fraudulently raised test scores so their schools would meet targets set by the district, according to the report, released June 30.
Investigators described how Dr. Hall had humiliated principals who didn't reach their targets. Every year she gathered the entire district staff at the Georgia Dome. Those from schools with top scores were seated on the Dome floor; the better the scores, the closer they sat to Dr. Hall. Those with low scores were relegated to sitting in the stands.
Principals, in turn, humiliated teachers. At Fain Elementary, the principal, Marcus Stallworth, had teachers with low test scores crawl under a table, according to the report. At Parks Middle School, teachers who refused to join "changing parties" that were organized by the principal, Christopher Waller, to doctor answer sheets were isolated or let go, the report said.
Six principals, including Ms. Davis (who has since retired), invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to answer investigators' questions. Ms. Davis's lawyer said she did not cheat — with or without gloves. Mr. Waller also denied cheating. His lawyer did not return calls. Mr. Stallworth told investigators he did not cheat or harass teachers, although in the midst of the inquiry, he was dismissed by the district for "screaming at teachers and demeaning" them.
It is now clear that for years Dr. Hall headed a school system rife with cheating and either didn't notice, as she maintains, or covered it up, as investigators suspect. During that time, she was named superintendent of the year by two national organizations, and praised by the secretary of education himself — for her rigorous use of test data as an evaluation tool.
Apparently Dr. Hall applied that same rigor to fabricated test data, enabling her to collect $600,000 in performance bonuses over 10 years to supplement her $400,000 annual salary.
July 17, 2011