Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Standardized Testing Gone Wild

The Plumbers Edition:

Superintendent Beverly Hall ordered the destruction of investigative documents that detailed “systematic” cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public Schools, according to a former high-ranking district official.

Hall also instructed subordinates to omit “adverse findings” from a new version of the report and then publicly cited the revised document in an aggressive rebuttal of the cheating allegations, the former official says.

When she protested, the former official says, her supervisor said the district had the right to “sanitize” the investigation and that “the matter was closed” because Hall “had directed that all other documents be destroyed.”

Destroying or altering government records is a felony in Georgia, carrying a prison sentence of as much as 10 years.

So the latest spin from the Weekly Reader is former Superintendent Beverly Hall as Richard Nixon.

The accusations appear in a letter to the superintendent from a lawyer representing Colinda Howard. Lawyers for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a copy of the letter and related documents, which came to light in a criminal investigation of cheating by teachers and school administrators on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. A team of special investigators, appointed last August when state officials found the district’s own inquiry inadequate, is expected to report its findings to the governor this month, which could result in prosecutions of district officials.
Howard related irregularities that occurred in the summer of 2008 during CRCT re-testing at a southwest Atlanta elementary school, Deerwood Academy.

Deerwood was among the schools that showed suspiciously large gains when the AJC analyzed the CRCT re-test in the summer of 2008. When the newspaper asked about the increased scores at Deerwood and another school, district officials said they saw no reason to investigate and were satisfied the gains were “valid and defensible.”

The district also withheld information in 2009 when the AJC asked to review all internal complaints and investigations of test cheating for the previous three years.
More hard-hitting sleuthing from the Weekly Reader. In virtually every story this "newspaper" writes about the standardized test "scandal" in Atlanta, it constantly references itself as a victim of "deception" and other "criminal activities" by Atlanta Public School officials. As if not cooperating with a media inquiry (even from something pretending to be a real newspaper) is somehow a crime.

Fundamentally what we're seeing here is a classic case of moral panic and media frenzy, the facts (in this story, we're talking about simple hearsay) be damned. I suspect the Weekly Reader won't rest until all available Atlanta Public School officials, administrators and teachers are frog-marched in front of the cameras in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits.

Because that's exactly what we need to be spending our criminal justice resources on: prosecuting teachers and administrators who fail to meet standardized test requirements.

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