Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Revered Educator’s Fall From Grace

Disgraced former Atlanta super Beverley Hall speaks to the media for the first time in this NYT article.  I almost feel sorry for her, except I think she knew and hid it:

From 1999 to June, Dr. Hall was the forceful, erudite and data-driven superintendent of a once-failing urban school district that became a model of improvement.

During her reign, scholarship money delivered to Atlanta students jumped to $129 million from $9 million. Graduation rates, while still not stellar, rose to 66 percent, from 39 percent. Seventy-seven schools were either built or renovated, at a cost of about $1 billion.

Dr. Hall maintains that she never knowingly allowed cheating and does not condone it, but acknowledges that people under her did.

Still, the scope of the report — which she and others argue was overreaching and contained inaccuracies — shocks her.

"I can't accept that there is a culture of cheating," she said. "What these 178 are accused of is horrific, but we have over 3,000 teachers."

The devastating report came in July. Two longtime government lawyers who were asked by Gov. Nathan Deal to investigate charges that answers had been changed on state standardized tests found that students had sometimes simply given correct answers. In other cases, they said, staff members erased wrong ones and filled in the right ones. One school held weekend pizza parties to fix tests.

No criminal charges have been filed, but the district is scrambling to respond to two sweeping grand jury subpoenas. It will turn over at least 20 hard drives of information containing communication among school lawyers, board members and staff members, along with scanned records dating back to the 1990s, said Keith Bromery, spokesman for the district.

The report asserted that Dr. Hall, while not tied directly to cheating or the direct target of a subpoena, had to know about it or should have. She tried to contain damaging information, it said, and did not do enough to investigate allegations, especially after 2005 when "clear and significant" warnings were raised.

And she was, investigators and people who worked closely with her said, more interested in adoration than achievement. Some said they believed they would be ostracized if they did not deliver the results Dr. Hall wanted.

Dr. Hall says she tried to create a culture that demanded achievement, based on her core belief that every child — no matter his or her life circumstances — can learn enough to meet certain standards.

But even her supporters say that belief was so unbending that people would rather erase wrong scores — and reap the financial and workplace perks associated with improved test scores — than tell her children could not pass.

…Although she acknowledges that she should have given more attention to testing security procedures and to evidence that cheating might be widespread, she bristles at the suggestion that children should not be held to high standards or that she was intimidating and isolated.


A Revered Educator's Fall From Grace


Published: September 7, 2011

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