Despite the massive scandal in Atlanta, which many attribute to the hyper-pressure attached to testing and scores, the frenzy continues.
I just received this story from Edward Johnson, a persistent critic of short-term thinking in Atlanta:
“CRCT Pep Rally at Thomasville Heights Elementary_
April 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm
On April 22, 2013, a day before the CRCT, Thomasville turned up
their school spirit to motivate students as they prepared to take the CRCT. Pep
rallies are not uncommon before the CRCT, but Thomasville Heights took it
to another level this year. For starters, teachers creatively decorated 5
panels in front of the school with catchy slogans and imagery about the
upcoming CRCT. Throughout the month, student also heard daily test taking
strategies during the morning announcements as well as “CRCT Jams” (songs about
the CRCT). This helped to get students excited about the exam and more
importantly keep their minds fresh on the challenge at hand. There was also an
entire week dedicated to the CRCT where students dressed up based on a
different theme each day, to show their confidence in passing and exceeding on
the test. Last – but definitely not the least, Thomasville Heights put
together a concert/pep rally outside of the school, stadium style! The
wonderful Lil Bankhead of V-103 hosted the entire event, introducing the featured
performers, QT Jazz, Shameik Moore, Baby D and Young Sneed. Of course the
talented Thomasville Steppers graced the stage followed by performers from
various grade levels that shared their very own chants and songs – all in
honor of the CRCT. “We love our principal and teachers…we know how important
the CRCT is and we’re going to make them proud…” says an excited 4th grade
student, Tamia Shepherd.
Watch out APS, Thomasville Heights Elementary School is SUPER COUGAR
See it for yourself on the Thomasville Heights YouTube Channel :
This article asks the obvious question:
Why does Atlanta’s disgraced superintendent Beverly Hall face serious jail time for the cheating that happened on her watch–which she ignored or encouraged by demanding higher test scores–while Michelle Rhee continues to fly from state to state, urging legislatures to follow the DC model?
The article says that Rhee emerged–so far–unscathed because she has friends in high places.
As for the DC model, let us not forget that John Merrow documented that the DC schools are in worse shape now than they were in 2007:
He wrote to the Education Writers Association, introducing his post about the leaked memo:
“I am also reporting that, after five years of Rhee/Henderson, the DC schools are worse off by almost every conceivable measure: graduation rates, truancy, enrollment, test scores, black-white gap and teacher and principal turnover.”
Most of the readers of this blog are educators. Most don’t like high-stakes testing and the idea of punishments and rewards based on test scores. Many are ready to throw them both out as an assault on teacher professionalism. Many admire Finland, for example, where standardized testing is a non-issue and American-style accountability is unknown.
I thought it was important for everyone to read what Mike Petrilli has to say about Atlanta and what the cheating scandal means for the future of testing and accountability. Mike is a strong advocate of both. He is the #2 at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which advocates for testing, accountability, charters, and vouchers. I was on the board of TBF for many years. I left a few years ago when I realized that I no longer shared its agenda. In fact, I have dedicated all my energies to opposing its agenda, which I once supported.
Of the entire corporate reform world, at least of those I know, Mike is probably the most reasonable. I hold out hope that one day he may follow my lead and realize he is on the wrong side. At least, he wrestles with the issues, and that’s a hopeful sign.
He reminds me that in my last appearance in the corporate reformers’ academic journal, Ednext, I debated John Chubb on the subject of the future of NCLB.
His view: Mend it, don’t end it.
My view: End it, don’t mend it.
My view today: NCLB is a disaster; Race to the Top is a worse disaster. There is no way to mend a disaster. We need a new vision that begins not with data, but with a knowledge of child development combined with a passion for learning and for real education, not spreadsheet data.
This article by Daniel Denvir is the best article I have read to date on the Atlanta cheating scandal.
The “no excuses” mantra is at the root of policies that incentivized cheating. Atlanta is only the tip of the iceberg. There will be more, and most will go undetected.
What distinguished Atlanta was the thoroughness of the investigation.
Of course, adults should not cheat, and those who cheat should be punished.
But it is important to change the context that demands impossible results and punishes adults who don’t produce them.
It is especially pleasing to see this article in The New Republic, which is an influential political journal.
The Daily Howler notes that most of the mainstream media completely ignored the Atlanta events or barely mentioned them.
Only Chris Hayes had a panel on the subject, and two of the three panelists were a waste of air time.
One was a clueless parent, and the other was a paid mouthpiece for the hedge fund billionaires of New Jersey.
Parents mobilized to defeat the so-called “parent trigger” in three states.
They referred to it as the “corporate empowerment” bill.
It could also be called the Corporate Enrichment bill.
A reader writes:
“Yes, a lawyer is the acting interim Superintendent, Joe. His name is Dorsey Hopson. Before coming to Memphis, he was general counsel for the Atlanta Public School system (during the same time as the cheating scandal).”
Yes, it is true
Will he be called to testify about the organized cheating and the inflated s ores and the unwarranted bonuses that occurred when he was general counsel to the Atlanta Public Schools.
Accountability begins at the top, as it should.
This smart blogger read all the investigators’ reports from the Atlanta cheating scandal.
He or she realized that Atlanta was doing everything that reformers say is important.
The educators there were focusing on test scores above all else.
The teachers who got higher scores got bonuses and those who did not, got humiliated.
Incentivizing the workforce, yes?
The teachers had no tenure, so whistleblowers had no job protection and were easily fired.
The blogger writes: “So what rank-and-yank, cash incentives, all that leadership, and high expectations got Atlanta public school children was test scores so gamed that the schools lost Title One program improvement money, and children who needed special education services were disqualified from them because of their remarkable testing prowess.”
Atlanta is a textbook case of the corporate reform approach to education. What makes it different from other districts following the corporate reform textbook is that the governor sent in professional investigators.
Veteran journalist Sol Stern looks at the Atlanta cheating scandal from a different angle.
Pay for performance plans send big bucks to certain adults, he points out.
And those plans lead some people to cheat.
It is up to the people in charge to investigate.
He shows how in one egregious example in New York City, where the scores zoomed up, then collapsed, the city didn’t even bother to investigate the principal in charge of the school. She retired with a tidy boost to her pension. The city investigators said they couldn’t interview her because they couldn’t find her. Case closed.
A reporter did find her, however, at her listed address.
When the people in charge don’t want to know, they don’t find any smoke or fire or smoking guns.
Arthur Camins has written numerous thoughtful essays about the current ruinous trends in American education.
Here he reflects on some important lessons from the Atlanta cheating scandal.
“I’m waiting for the national editorials, leading policy makers and major foundations to speak out honestly about the lessons learned from the Atlanta cheating scandal. I’m waiting for them to change course. But, I am not holding my breath.
“From Enron to Arthur Anderson to the sub-prime lending debacle we have unambiguous evidence of a lethal combination. Unquestioned hierarchy, the arrogance of power and a singular focus on short-term metrics yield no integrity and subsequent cheating. When fear and financial rewards are combined honesty is lost.
“Cheating, especially of the erasure kind, is not new and was certainly known to Beverly Hall. Back in the 1990’s, when she was rising through the ranks, I worked as a District Science Coordinator in New York City. One day during the annual spring testing period we were summoned to the District Office and sent out to proctor testing in the classrooms of teachers who had been identified by the Central Board’s testing division as having an unusually high percentage of erasure marks on previous tests. The pressure was high then even without the threat of job loss or the promise of bonuses. Even then, there was no “speaking truth to power.”
“I was struck in the reporting this morning that Beverly Hall’s reign in Atlanta was characterized by fear. In the end, it is the absence of democracy, the primacy of bureaucracies over learning organizations that allows and encourages cheating. To paraphrase Isaac Asimov from one of his Foundation Trilogy novels, “Despotism is the last refuge of the incompetent.” I think some people rise to power for many reasons and at a certain point realize they really don’t have answers, but do not have the courage to admit it either to themselves or others. That’s when the cover up and self-righteousness take over.”