Can 'take-no-prisoners' superintendent save scandal-plagued Atlanta schools?
Atlanta's new interim superintendent has given new powers to whistleblowers and is eyeing bonus policies that rewarded high test scores.
(Page 2 of 2)
Students whose scores were affected in the cheating scandal will be given as much remedial help as needed, Davis said.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The system has about 3,000 teachers and 6,000 employees overall. They will all be required to have annual ethics training.
Twelve principals had already been reassigned before the state report, because of apparent improprieties. But as some students prepare to start back at their year-round schools next week, many anticipate Davis starting actions against a number of educators at Monday’s board meeting.
Although Davis identified the need for a culture shift, he noted that “the vast majority of our principals, teachers, and staff are dedicated, honest, and hard-working people who always have the best interests of children in mind.”
That sentiment was echoed by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan in an interview with 11Alive News television in Atlanta. But, he, too, said deep problems need to be addressed in the city.
“What was so disappointing for me here: it was not an isolated individual or two. This was clearly systemic – this was clearly a part of the culture in Atlanta. That simply can't happen. That is absolutely inexcusable,” said Secretary Duncan.
Cheating investigations elsewhere
As Atlanta deals with the fallout from the state report, another Georgia school district is still under a cloud of suspicion. Gov. Nathan Deal said earlier in the week that the investigation into Dougherty County Schools was ending, but he reversed the decision Thursday, citing “grave concerns” raised by investigators.
The Dougherty district has been open and cooperative every step of the way, and officials “feel confident we will be exonerated,” says spokesman R.D. Harter.
That district does not tie bonuses to test scores, Mr. Harter notes.
Last year officials changed the locks to ensure that there were only two keys for each school’s “security room,” where testing material is held. Not even custodians have a master key, Harder says. And every year, the testing evaluation coordinator trains staff to remind them of the security procedures.
Because the state audit of test scores only looked for wrong answers that had been erased and changed to right answers, Harder says, it’s difficult to know if cheating took place. Those kinds of erasures should be compared with erasures that were changed to other incorrect answers, or correct answers changed to incorrect answers, he says, since some students make a lot of changes or get to the end and realize many of their rows were accidentally misaligned.
Test scores in the nation’s capital are also under suspicion. USA Today reported an unusually high number of erasures on tests between 2008 and 2010 in 100 District of Columbia schools. This week the US Department of Education joined an investigation.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.