Your APS Cheating Scandal Update

July 8, 2011 10:09 am

by Buzz Brockway · 42 comments

11Alive’s Brenda Wood spoke with Sen. Vincent Fort, and others about whether or not No Child Left Behind was to blame for Atlanta’s cheating scandal. Hat Tip: That’s Just Peachy

Jay Leno talks about it.

SACS says the scandal may make regaining full accreditation harder for APS. Here’s Denis O’Hayer’s full interview with the SACS President.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

“I think the broadest issue in the [Atlanta scandal] raises is why many school districts and states continue to have high-stakes testing without rigorous auditing or security procedures,” says Brian Jacob, director of the Center on Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan. “In some sense, this is one of the least worrisome problems in public education, because it’s fairly easy to fix. The more difficult and troubling behavior would be teaching to the test, which we think of as a lesser form of test manipulation, but which is much harder to detect, and could warp the education process in ways that we wouldn’t like.”

Ann Kane and M. Catharine Evans writing at The American Thinker, blame Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Arnie Duncan for the scandal:

An oligarchy of high-powered individuals has been hard at work changing our country’s public schools. The elite financiers are inextricably linked to Duncan’s DOE and may have to answer for their part in the cheating scandals sweeping across the nation.

There are a lot of problems with NCLB but we do need accountability and a way to measure what students are learning. I think it would be a mistake to toss out the CRCT because of the APS cheating scandal. Let’s take the suggestion of Brian Jacob and look at security and auditing procedures associated with CRCT. While there are an alarming number of cheating scandals around the country, not everybody is doing it. Many school districts responded to so-called high stakes testing by getting better, which is what we want and helps students.

SOGTP July 8, 2011 at 10:16 am

I would like to thank the following Georgia politicians for giving us No Child Left Behind. Especially Governor Nathan Deal since now he is so appalled and shocked.

Georgia
Aye GA-1 Kingston, Jack [R]
Aye GA-2 Bishop, Sanford [D]
Aye GA-3 Collins, Michael [R]
Aye GA-4 McKinney, Cynthia [D]
Aye GA-5 Lewis, John [D]
Aye GA-6 Isakson, John [R]
Aye GA-7 Barr, Bob [R]
Aye GA-8 Chambliss, Saxby [R]
Aye GA-9 Deal, Nathan [R]
Aye GA-10 Norwood, Charles [R]
Aye GA-11 Linder, John [R]

Georgia
Yea GA Cleland, J. [D]
Yea GA Miller, Zell [D]

Then I would like to thank all the Georgia General Assembly that did NOT opt-out as there was an opt-out clause. Thank you. I hope that I speak for all the students that were cheated.

Rambler1414 July 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Whatever happened to individual responsibility?

Why are you blaming the system for this?
Greedy, unethical teachers and administrators are at fault here.

Cassandra July 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

Parents who allow their five year old child to attend school without the ability to read are far more culpable for terrible education outcomes, than a metric/bonus driven system without proper audit accountability. The audit function now reports directly to APS Board, and not the Super, which is super.

That said, APS is a system that allowed ‘Greedy, unethical teachers and administrators’, much like DeKalb County CEO form of government allows inefficiency and a bloated staff.

Jeff Dickerson nailed the issue on today’s GA Gang: Often children of one parent households have issues that cannot reasonably be addressed by any school system. These kids have little to no early development skills.

Why no APS whistleblowers? I agree with Dick Williams, AJC ought to be considered for a Pulitzer on their APS scandal journalism.

Ken in Eastman July 10, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Excellent points, all.

Mike Hassinger July 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

Which children do you want left behind, then? Accountability is a good thing, and the intent of NCLB was to raise the academic performance of students who could passed through a system without an adequate education. Blaming the APS scandal on NCLB is just an excuse for those who chose to break the law and the rules and continue the charade that is public education.

SOGTP July 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

Mike NCLB is a disaster. It holds no one accountable.

The two people most accountable are the students and the parents, but it does not hold either of them accountable. It puts arbitrary requirements on teachers, administrators, and school boards that can’t be held accountable.

The responsibility for education falls squarely on the shoulders of the parent, student, teacher. And the teacher is only there to assist.

Mike Hassinger July 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

Right, it was that complete lack of accountability that put such pressure on the teachers to fake better test scores. Lack of accountability in a law designed to measure results ALWAYS forces people to break laws.
I’m not saying NCLB had sufficient accountability. I’m saying that you can’t blame NCLB for teachers and principals altering tests to get better scores. NCLB didn’t make the teachers unable to do their jobs, and neither did the tests.
What’s your idea for measuring the performance of teachers?

ChuckEaton July 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

Whether you agree with NCLB or not, everyone was aware of the rules and it doesn’t justify the cheating that took place.

I personally think there needs to be some sort of an objective measure of learning. I’m all for vocational tracks later in a student’s academic career, but either a third grader knows math and reading or she doesn’t. If she doesn’t have these basic skills, then she’s going to have problems with life. Lying about it now will cause her big problems in the future.

The measurement is important for the taxpayers as well. Any given property tax bill is at least 50% public education expenses, the people who contribute to the system deserve feedback. My wife is a Realtor; those test scores play a major role in many home buying decisions.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 11:49 am

Why not AP Scores? SAT Scores? What did your wife do before the “data driven phenomenon” began? And even if the test scores are so important, do we need them every year? In first and second grades? What about Benchmark tests? What about the other benchmark tests? The average eleventh grader is tested eleven times in one year. That is eleven days of instructional time lost. Six percent of the school year.

What about the teachers who have to do mandatory training to proctor these tests? One training per test, so an 11th grade teacher is now out around 5 days. Another two percent of instructional time gone.

It keeps adding up, and what we have left is “drill and kill”. Not a great environment for learning, really.

What started as a test in accountability (Are teachers doing their jobs?) has turned into a multi billion dollar business where we overtest our kids.

macho July 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I don’t think a once a year test, to make sure a kid knows basic reading, is over testing. By the time the kid is taking the SAT, it’s a little late.

Testing kind of goes with the whole educational thing. It’s a bummer, everyone stresses about tests, it’s been a right of passage for a long time. Life is full of “tests.” Either you hit the bar or you don’t and any “2+2= whatever you want it to” good natured subjectivity isn’t helping the kids.

SOGTP July 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Exactly Chicky. I never took an SAT to enter University. Our high school was accredited by the state system. If you graduated high school you could matriculate to higher education.

Multi billion dollar business.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 8:23 pm

So what is your answer, SOGTP? Why are the tests so important now? What have we done in this data driven educational society except create an institution rife with cheating(which will only get worse with PfP)?

SOGTP July 10, 2011 at 10:39 am

They are important now because it is big business. Prior to SAT’s you could take a test derived by the school in which you were applying or state universities accredited high school curriculum. Successful graduation means you are prepared to enter that university. That is all the SAT does anyway.

CoolRightOn July 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

SOGTP, Your argument that NCLB is a disaster may hold up if the problems shown in APS were evident across the country. Heaven forbid we put requirements on teachers, administrators and school boards. What was being done before was working out just fine, right? Arbitrary? Sounds like sour grapes to me. The APS scandal was caused by NCLB in the same way those ads for Chik-fil-a peach milk shakes cause one to gain weight.

SOGTP July 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

Cool … not true. NCLB mandates outcomes and those outcomes may be unrealistic in those local school systems.

The parents and local administration should make the decision on outcomes. A bureaucrat has no idea what the outcomes should be in Union County Georgia or inner city Atlanta.

Your milk shake thing is my point. You could feed a dozen peach milk shakes to 1,000 people and the outcomes ill be different. If you specified that you wanted everyone to turn a peach color, you would have some turn green and get fat, or not change at all. Both outcomes are not what was mandated, so to get the money you’d have people painting their face with peach mascara.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, has tracked reports of cheating for more than two decades. The number of reported cases has exploded in recent years, with several now coming to light each week. In just the past few months, cases have been reported in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and many smaller communities (copyright AJC: http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/07/06/fairtest-country-is-seeing-an-explosion-of-cheating-reports/)

Please remember that by 2014 all students in AMERICA will graduate AND be proficient in all areas. We know that all people are not equal in all areas. Some are better in kinesthetic things; others excel in math and science; even others are good at language and spelling. If we continue to “level the playng field” (hate that term), then we leave all students behind.

NCLB set us up to fail our students. SOGTP is correct: nowhere in the enormous amount of pages of NCLB are parents mentioned or held accountable. I have seen apathy become epidemic in our schools since NCLB was put into place.

And to what cost to the taxpayers do we “tighten up security”? Right now, Georgia has accepted 400 million dollars in RT3 monies, and all that as happened is more people were hired, not teachers, not school administrators, and not one of those dollars actually went to the schools. What other funds do you want to use of your money to ensure that we test, retest, alternative test, and benchmark test our kids?

The CRCT is a joke. We are not comparing our students to other students in the US. We are comparing Georgia students to Georgia students. If we really, really want to ensure that no child is left behind, we test them occasionally, using a nationally normed test, and then compare the results to the same demographic of students in other parts of the country.

Rambler1414 July 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Ah yes, RT3.

Our educational system is REALLY going to start improving when we start merit pay for teachers. THAT’S the solution!!!! Craziest logic I’ve ever heard.

Mike Hassinger July 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I’m old enough to remember NFL and NBA athletes being illiterate adults, having been passed through K12 and college because of their athletic abilities. One was a graduate of Warner Robins High in Georgia. I’m in favor of testing because you can’t see failures or successes if you don’t.

How about the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at the start of the year, and then at the end of the year? Make a certain amount of progress, get moved on to the next grade. Don’t make any progress? Then the teacher is going to have to explain why that is. Just a thought.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm

We do pre and post tests at our school. I am in high school. Can’t count a grade for something they don’t yet know, so some/many will simply bubble in the answers without regard to accuracy. I tried counting it one year because about ten kids said they weren’t going to try. Got called on the carpet for it. Now mind you, if their scores were really, really bad in the beginning, and fair to middlin in the end, I come out smelling like a rose. But, due to the fact that I wanted real numbers, I was punished.

We can look from the previous year’s scores and standards. That would eliminate another test, as well.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Also, Mike, the cost of these tests is astronomical. One benchmark test, one grade level, one printing: 5k. Not including the grading and the disaggregating of the information. The data is financially killing schools.

Baker July 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

And now the costs of theses tests will go way higher as we begin to install all sorts of security measures and what not to protect against cheating. If we are at the point though where we can’t trust the teachers not to cheat, haven’t we already lost? It’s like the old who’s watching the watchers thing.

(and big thanks for the H/T Buzz!)

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Baker,

I prefer this translation, “And who shall guard the guardians themselves?” – Juvenal

And you have an excellent site. I check it out daily. I also found this on your site and it’s certainly relevant: http://www.albanyherald.com/home/headlines/Deal_to_DCSS_Not_so_fast_on_CRCT.html

Baker July 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks Ken- And you’re right about the Dougherty investigation. All of a sudden the local folks announced the investigation was closed, but then our Paragon of Ethics Governor Nathan Deal said he didn’t think so. And he’s definitely right. This kind of thing is apparently happning in lots of places and needs to aggressively investigated and rooted out from every level. Clearly though some institutional reform is needed in the NCLB model.

Mike Hassinger July 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I take your point, though a teacher complaining that something costs too much is a first.

We’ve spent trillions of dollars on public education (federal, state, local money over 40 or more years) and what do we have to show for it? Seriously, measuring results and making sure that r kids is larnin’ ought to be the MISSION of public education. I hate spending as much the next person, but if public education is important enough to take people’s taxes for, it’s important enough to make sure whatever they’re doing is working.

Kids don’t take the tests seriously? Let them sit in the third grade until they do.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm

You sort of missed my point, although I had lots of them all garbled together. I wanted my students to take the pre test seriously, and in an effort to ensure that my gains were authentic, I told them that I would count the pre test. My school said that I couldn’t do that. Guess why? The parent complained.

And if you think that teachers don’t count every penny, you are wrong. We would much rather have supplies, books, and real-time smart boards than benchmark tests that, I will state again, are crippling schools financially. I teach in a “good school” with great test scores, but I teach on an overhead projector…you know the one, where the teacher gets the blue hand? I teach out of novels that date back to when I graduated from high school (1986, although I am not wont to admit it much).

We have taken an idea of “data” and “data driven” to a whole new, bureaucratic level of incompetent nonsense. It all started with the question, “Are our teachers doing a decent job?”, which is a valid question. Trillions of dollars and billions of tests later, we are still asking the same stinkin’ question…

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I think you’re right. It’s quantitative vs. qualitative. Not everything that is real, or important, can be measured. Let’s not forget that test scores are merely a proxy for children learning.

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Still, we need some source of feedback to see what succeeds and what fails. We need a better solution than this one, but I don’t know what that would be.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I agree, but the last time I checked, I was the one in the classroom pointing out that Johnny and Janie can’t read, not the administrators, and not the legislators. But because so much angst has been thrown to teachers, we are no longer the trusted person in the child’s education.
One of the most depressing quotes from another AJC article was that teachers of students who “exceeded expectations”, although erroneously, in the following year were trying to figure out what they were doing wrong! A kids does great in third grade, but over the summer loses everything and can’t even read?

macho July 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm

There is no doubt in my mind you were a responsible teacher, but implicit in this scandal is the fact there are plenty of teachers willing to look the other way and move a kid through the system to get rid of him.

macho July 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Use both, but some of it is quantitative. You either know how to add or you don’t, you either know algebra or you don’t, you either know how to read or you don’t. I think to portray it all as subjective, means there is no objective way to measure performance.

It get’s real objective when it comes to getting a job. Many places give basic tests. It also becomes evident within the job application itself, that the applicant does not possess basic writing skills. What a wake-up call it would be if our kids got noting but subjectivity and hugs and when they went to apply to become an apprentice mechanic there was a basic math skills test.

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

macho,

I’m not arguing for all subjectivity, but is this the best way to measure a child’s increase in knowledge? There are also different ways to measure things and different levels of understanding.

A child can learn something by rote but not understand it. A child can understand a concept but be fuzzy on how it applies to a realistic situation. A child can understand an idea well enough to apply a concept, but not be able to build up from that concept to the next logical step.

Until then, we may be stuck. As I said above, “We need a better solution than this one, but I don’t know what that would be.”

And as Libertarian Chick implies, she’s in the classroom with the kids; she knows better than anyone else if the child is learning or not.

macho July 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm

The teacher does know who is learning or not, but since we’ve got plenty of teachers willing to lie about this fact (Libertarian Chick not included), there is no more perfect example of the need for a standardized, objective test.

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

There are a lot of teachers on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother was a teacher for many years and told me more than once that to be a good teacher was “a calling” just as a pastor is “called”. I think she was right.

Look at the difference between those who teach with passion and see every child’s attainment as a personal triumph and those teachers who simply put in the hours. The former are weighed down by the bureaucratic rules, regulation and testing. The latter are why they are required.

Libertarian Chick July 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Then fire the bad ones, Ken. It’s not that difficult of a concept. And before you talk about unions, there are none in Georgia. Look at what happened to the teachers at APS who did tell on their peers and superiors.

Ken in Eastman July 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Then fire the bad ones, Ken.

I’m not sure if you think I might oppose that idea or not, but education should be about teaching, not a job program for people with degrees in education.

When I was in 5th grade I had a teacher accuse me of making up the word “mammal”. “You mean ‘animal’, right? Mammal’s not a word.” Yeah, the bad ones need to go and go quickly.

Knowledge is limited, but ignorance is infinite.

SouthGATeacher180 July 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

There are some of you who are not teachers in the classroom. So let me give you some advice, listen!
Those can teach and those who cannot make legislation about teaching and learning.
Bottom line, the real problem with education is the legislators and the policy makers, not the teachers.
Before you read any further of my opinion: I am a conservative libertarian teacher who is in the trenches of our school system. So with much clout, I can say what needs to be said, because I deal with and fight it constantly.
The problem with No Child Left Behind is that it was enacted to create a cash cow for testing companies. The legislation prompts unrealistic expectations. Huge subsidiaries of textbook companies working with McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Riverside Publishing (to name a few) along with unaccountable “bastions” of power such as the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and now Gates Foundations (driven by education policy think tanks) have pumped billions to highjack our system of education because it is easy to manipulate. The reason it is easy because we have continued an 1800’s model of education for well over a 125 years. In addition to this, you have many colleges and universities educating teachers to teach these new models of teaching strategies that have been “proven” to increase achievement…now before I go on, the meaning of achievement has changed so many times, and we can no longer define it. That is because have legislators defining achievement in public ed to wrangle in their agenda which best suits them and their cronies. George Bush’s Brother, Jed, owns a large portion of the Pearson Publishing company and they often have dominated the textbook purchasing lists in many states offering perks and designed lesson plans for teachers to use…a one stop shop if you will of educating the children of America….that is a huge problem. Because when you accompany the new training of the teachers coming out of colleges getting tremendous donations from the Billionaires Club, like the Gates Foundation, then you are setting up an environment that creates reactionaries in the fields of education to believe that only new teachers have the answers and the older teachers do not. Consequently creating an environment that brainwashes the public that our schools are horrible….this was not done by accident.
If you let good teachers teach, remarkable things will happen…when you put everything into a test like NCLB does, then what you do is cause the learning process to never happen and all you do is teach to the test because the curriculum is designed around teaching to the test…and the only ones benefiting are the testing companies…billions of dollars are being spent on making the system counterproductive so that we can destroy the education system and cause our society to be weaker and weaker with each generation. I agree, accountability is a good thing, but not at the expense of learning.
But ALAS!! We have another beacon of HOPE, developed out of the same swamp of thinking, it is called National Common Core Standards partnering with the Charter movement….AKA ObamaStandards. Get ready for some more testing folks…its time to get out of the classroom and starting making a six figure salary with the testing companies.
Now about the cheating scandal…they do not even know how to cheat right…all they had to do was put new labels on new answer documents, but they should have continued this effort for the 2010 school year because now they look obvious….idiots. Most educators have been use to playing this political game, but with any game. But what has happened with this is the educators of the APS have testing fatigue and it caught up with them…if you want to cheat the system, you have to be smarter than the ones who are not in the classroom….one can use that for their own benefit ( good test scores) or use that energy to help their students ( which is what I do). Play the game and play it well….if you cannot play the game, get the hell off the team because you are killing kids.

Cassandra July 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

Sadly so, sounds like education corporations know the advocacy game. Fantastic insight!

macho July 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I get the fact that people don’t like others mouthing off about how to perform their jobs, it’s natural for any career, you always think you know your job better; and to some extent you do. The difference is (whether you’re conservative, libertarian or liberal) when your job is funded by the taxpayers, they’ve got a right to their opinions and a right to have some sort of assessment, no matter how vague or imperfect, of student learning.

Most people get the fact that the average kid in south Dekalb is probably not going to perform as well as in North Fulton. It’s not as if I think the teacher in North Fulton is somehow magically better than the one in Dekalb, because all those wealthy, two-parent, stable-household kids do well on the test. But there still needs to be an objective tool as to learning progress.

Chris Huttman July 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Value added statistics is the way to go. A school in South DeKalb that performs at 70% but has a lot of at risk students might be doing a lot better than a school in North DeKalb that performs at 95% but with no students with meal assistance (a good metric to look at to gauge the overall advantage kids have from the home).

Yet, that 70% school might “fail” NCLB and transfer all their kids to the 95% school in North DeKalb, which might not actually have great teachers, just kids that start above average because of having a parent that can stay at home and tutor at nights and summer. So then everyone fails.

Cassandra July 11, 2011 at 9:11 am

One DeKalb County blog that has done much to bring light, sunshine and disinfectant to DeKalb’s top-heavy, familial, and comparatively bloated school administration disagrees with Dickerson, macho, me, and Chris: DeKalb County School Watch.

Since I rarely agree with any of them, this is noteworthy!

DCSS usually produce reams of insider stats, contract info, and can be credited with calling out Pat Pope before the authorities took her off in handcuffs. But DCSS got this one wrong: They do not acknowledge that learning begins at home, that kids with a stable family situation are more likely to be good students, and that public schools have to take on all kids, regardless of behavior or disciplinary issues. They take a pol view and not a policy look.

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/07/this-is-dcss-spokesperson.html

Further, another blogger in North DeKalb writes an allegorical essay on the current state-of-education which I find really quite well done: Compares education to a failed factory.

http://theotherdunwoody.blogspot.com/2011/07/factory.html

Perhaps the most dangerous long-term threat to democracy is not producing young adults with critical thinking skills. In another weird confluence of agreement, I agree with Alexis Scott on that point.

Since the cost of information next to zero (formerly only executives, attorneys, etc. could afford a ‘clipping service’, now anyone using RSS feeds has this capability for virtually no cost.), the ability to sort facts, prioritize them, and develop a objective thought is absolutely imperative.

But 5 year old Johnny comes to school without knowing the alphabet. Dickerson is correct, regardless of his APS affiliation.

Ken in Eastman July 11, 2011 at 10:56 am

Parents who do not read to their children on a regular basis are committing child abuse in one of its most life-limiting forms.

Cassandra July 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Very well put, young man.

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