Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Make it so

Reflections [HDR] 
Originally uploaded by sibastiNo
APS suppressed scandal | ajc.com
Atlanta Public Schools officials, including Superintendent Beverly Hall, carried out a broad campaign over two years to suppress mounting allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

Hall, who built a national reputation on raising urban students’ test scores, worked with top aides and prominent supporters to minimize or conceal evidence that some of the district’s much-vaunted gains were not legitimate.
Read the whole article.
AJC report confirms Perdue decision to probe Atlanta Public Schools | ajc.com
State investigators took over a probe of Atlanta Public Schools in August after Gov. Sonny Perdue said he was concerned the search had been deliberately narrowed.

Monday, his spokesman said that decision appears to have been confirmed after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported local officials carried out a broad campaign over two years to suppress mounting allegations of widespread test cheating.

"That's why the state did what it did," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said.

The AJC compiled the report using hundreds of documents obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act. It said Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall and other system officials exerted far greater influence than previously acknowledged on a local investigation of 58 schools with suspicious test scores.
Looks like they're trying to hang Dr Hall for it. That answer is too easy, and won't address the greater problem.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Would you let your fourth-grader wear this backpack to school?

Backpack too racy for Pasco elementary school
[The child's father, Fred] Ferrer said Quentin, a fourth-grader, wore the backpack to school for about two years without any complaints. Last week, though, another parent noticed the illustration and complained to a secretary, who brought the backpack to the attention of teachers who told [Principal Ken] Miesner.

Read the article. Dad's a real piece of work.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Caution, meltdown in progress

Accreditation at risk for Atlanta Public Schools; lawsuit also filed | ajc.com
Atlanta Public Schools risk losing accreditation if their bickering school board cannot right itself and comply with the law, a key agency warned Wednesday in a formal threat of action.

The cautioning letter from Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, came on the same day four dissenting board members filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the appointments last month of a new chairman and vice chairwoman. The plaintiffs said they had no other recourse after colleagues acted illegally and refused to change course.

...Members on both sides agreed as late as this week they should be talking to mediate their differences. But even with the threat of litigation looming, they still could not agree in which order.

Four members wanted the board to undo its actions that changed leadership first, saying it would bring the board into compliance with the law. The other five refused, saying that they were in compliance unless or until the courts ruled otherwise.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Well, it DOES say "Advertisement"

L.A. Times Replaces Front Page With Fake 'Law & Order' News; L.A. Times Readers Really Pissed - The Consumerist

An advertisement that appeared to be the front page of The Times took readers by surprise Wednesday morning. Many of them called or sent e-mails to protest the fake news reports of vandalism and murder at NBC in Burbank. As of noon, The Times had received 61 e-mails, all but one of them critical, and 51 phone calls.
Well, that adds up to a significant percentage of their readership these days, doesn't it?
The ad, which readers discovered after unfolding the page, was for the TV show “Law & Order Los Angeles.” The actual front page, with a lead story about the debate between gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, was just behind the ad.
Our top story tonight: Another TV show is set in Los Angeles. Film at 10:00 pm on NBC.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

There, see how easy it was to spend $28 million?

Under new federal guidelines all New York City street signs will have to be made lower-case - NYPOST.com

Federal copy editors are demanding the city change its 250,900 street signs -- such as these for Perry Avenue in The Bronx -- from the all-caps style used for more than a century to ones that capitalize only the first letters.

Changing BROADWAY to Broadway will save lives, the Federal Highway Administration contends in its updated Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, citing improved readability.

At $110 per sign, it will also cost the state $27.6 million, city officials said.
Can you imagine what will happen when the fed'ral gummint discovers KERNING?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You can talk, you can talk, you can bicker, you can talk

WABE: State Investigators Warn Atlanta Public Schools to Stay Out of the CRCT Cheating Probe: A Conversation with State Investigator Bob Wilson (2010-09-16)
The investigators appointed by Governor Perdue to look into allegations of cheating on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test in the Atlanta Public Schools have rejected a request from Atlanta school officials who wanted to participate in the probe.

Former state Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson have also warned the Atlanta schools against mounting their own investigation. APS already has the results of a probe by a blue ribbon commission appointed by the school board. But Governor Perdue called it "inadequate."
Well, that's what he calls it. You don't want to know what the teachers call it.

A-a-and here comes another layer of investigators

Feds probe Atlanta schools | ajc.com
Federal authorities are investigating whether Atlanta Public Schools committed fraud by illicitly boosting scores on standardized tests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

...The CRCT provides a key measure of whether schools are meeting standards mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Meeting the standards can earn those schools additional federal money, which principals can spend for almost anything they wish.

But if the schools are found to have earned extra grants through inflated scores, officials could face criminal charges. The U.S. attorney’s office also could ask a judge to order the school district to reimburse the federal government. The bonus grants for Atlanta schools total nearly $360,000 a year.
This strikes at the core of the fiction that public schools are locally-run. "We can't just tell you what to do," says the Fed, "but we'll make it worth your while to do it our way, if you take my meaning." And the local school boards, for their part, will jump through any hoop the Fed puts in place to get that money. The idea of NOT doing so simply doesn't occur to them. "That's OUR money," the school board will say. It was written into the budget years ago.

"Bonus" grants? Hah!

Can't tell the boardroom from the playground

Dissenting ATL school board members don't accept new chief | ajc.com
Four dissenting Atlanta school board members on Monday called on their new chairman not to sign items or speak on behalf of the board as a whole, saying they will not recognize Chairman Khaatim Sherrer El as the body's leader "until it is ruled by higher authorities otherwise."
When are these clowns up for re-election?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This may be why newspapers are dying

Out on a limb: Cat stuck in tree finally descends - USATODAY.com

On the other hand, I've always felt it will be local news that saves the local newspaper. National news is a glut on the market, and local outlets' habit of filling their pages with the AP wire adds no new value to it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's pandemic!

Cheating Brit teachers gave wrong answers - UPI.com
British education officials say teachers at three schools were caught helping students cheat on a standardized test when kids gave the same wrong answer.
Perhaps the teachers had just transferred to Britain from Atlanta.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oh, yeah, we do have a city Board of Education

School board in 'eye of a storm' | ajc.com

From an interview with Khaatim Sherrer El, the newly-elected chair of the Atlanta school board:
It’s been very unsettling for me that with all of the issues that have come out, the one body that the public has not heard from is the Board of Education. We’ve heard from the governor. We’ve heard from the state Board of Education. We’ve heard from various stakeholders in this city. But at the end of the day, none of them are elected to represent the citizens in this city when it comes to what’s happening in APS. That’s unacceptable to me. ...I was completely shocked and floored to find out about the decisions that had been made about the coming together of the Blue Ribbon Commission before this board even had a chance to formulate a plan about how we wanted to move forward.
One gets the impression the previous leadership was hiding under the table hoping the ruckus would blow over.

Friday, September 17, 2010

“We all know government can’t stand to give up a source of revenue”

Ga. 400 toll may not expire as promised | ajc.com
The 50-cent toll on Ga. 400, set to expire next summer after the road finishes paying for itself, may be extended for years to fund improvements along the highway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

The state is also considering an increase in the toll to $1 for those who pay cash, to encourage drivers to sign up for a Cruise Card, according to local officials who have been briefed on the idea by the State Road and Tollway Authority.
I don't think anyone ever seriously believed that the Ga. 400 toll would go away. Isn't a politician's promise sort-of the Gold Standard of Lying?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Musical Chairs at the board of education

Atlanta board dumps chairwoman and vice-chairwoman during cheating probe | ajc.com
A slim majority of the Atlanta school board voted Monday to approve a controversial policy change and elect new officers to replace its sitting chairwoman and vice-chairwoman.

Members took the 5-4 votes after failing yet again to reach consensus, despite intervention that has included Mayor Kasim Reed. They also cemented a rift that has erupted at a crucial time for the school system, drawing condemnation from members in the minority who called the actions illegal after the board's attorney advised against it.

"You don't even have a cause, except you don't like the way [the former chairwoman] did things, according to some of you," member Emmett Johnson said. "Do y'all believe in the rule of law?"
Sure they do. They didn't bring guns to the meeting, right?

State investigators launch tip line in Atlanta test cheating probe | ajc.com

State investigators launch tip line in Atlanta test cheating probe | ajc.com
Special state investigators looking into alleged test cheating in Atlanta Public Schools have set up a confidential tip line number for anyone who wants to report possible violations.

The number, 404-962-3849, went active at noon Wednesday, according to a memo obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The memo said the line may be answered by a live person or voice mail. If callers want a return call, they are to leave a telephone contact number.
The CRCT cheating scandal fights its way back to the newspapers after several days' free publicity for the Fox Theater.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

But it's in a memo, you can't ignore a memo

Memo directs Atlanta school employees to cooperate with state cheating investigation | ajc.com
Superintendent Beverly Hall has issued a memo directing all Atlanta Public Schools employees to cooperate with a special state investigation into alleged test cheating "or risk being found insubordinate."

"Any employee who fails or refuses to fully cooperate with the special investigators may be subject to formal disciplinary action, including termination," the memo said.
Well, since you put it like that, I'm sure everyone will be 110% cooperative now.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hyatt Regency: "We were beginning to get feedback that we were dated"

No more retro for iconic Hyatt Regency | ajc.com
The iconic Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta is ditching its '60s origins to catch up to the 2010s.

That fan-shaped floor tile dating back to the hotel's 1967 opening, gone.

The giant front desk preferred when cash payments ruled, out of here.

And that original 18,000-pound canopy over the elevators, history.
Hey, while you're at it, put in three or four more elevators.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

“I wonder if they were given instructions and directions of how to constrain this investigation rather than to explore it”

'Lite' investigation of Atlanta test cheating | ajc.com

This report is a textbook-quality example of how you write a new story when you don't have any new facts to present. On the face of it, it may appear that there's no need for such a thing, but the Sunday paper should contain a roundup of news that broke over the previous week. Plus, I have to admit, I smile to see this story refreshed. We must not be allowed to forget about this.
Atlanta questioned just 230 of 3,100 employees assigned to the 58 schools suspected in the cheating scandal; investigators spoke to three or fewer people at 34 of the schools. High-ranking school district officials — among them, the top aide to Superintendent Beverly Hall — conducted or observed 140 of the interviews. And a data analysis commissioned for Atlanta’s investigation appears to have limited the inquiry’s scope.

...When they ordered Atlanta to investigate the 58 schools, state officials gave directions as clearly as they could, said Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

Officials wanted the district to establish a chain of custody, Mathers said, by interviewing anyone who could have touched test papers at each of the 58 schools. Principals, assistant principals, testing coordinators, teachers, test proctors: All, she said, should have been questioned.

...The company’s president, John Fremer, recently defended Caveon’s work in an interview with WABE, the public radio station operated by the Atlanta school board.

“It was a very thorough investigation,” Fremer said. “Did we end up with people like in Perry Mason saying, ‘Oh, that’s it, I confess’? No. We didn’t end up with that. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.”

He offered no reasons, however, for the irregularities found in so many Atlanta schools — in the 12 Caveon cited, and beyond.

“It’s kind of puzzling to me why the overall level of wrong-to-right erasures is so great,” Fremer told the radio station. “I don’t have an explanation for that.”
Funny, that's exactly the question you were hired to answer. Way to admit incompetence, there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who watches the watchmen?

Bowers, Wilson to investigate CRCT | ajc.com
The cheating scandal at Atlanta Public Schools raised questions about what happened during tests in hundreds of classrooms. Now, two seasoned litigators will begin digging for answers.

The two men have conducted numerous high-profile investigations. Each once served as top prosecutors, only to step down to seek higher office and then suffer defeat. They have since become successful private attorneys with reputations as hard-nosed litigators.

Taking extraordinary action last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue picked former state Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to head a special investigation into testing irregularities at the Atlanta and Dougherty County public school systems.

J. Tom Morgan, who worked in the DeKalb DA's office under Wilson and worked with Bowers in private practice, said both men are detail-oriented lawyers who are compatible with one another.

"They will call it as they see it," Morgan said. "They will leave no stone unturned. Neither one of them is scared of anything."
ATL superintendent loses shine | ajc.com
Hall insisted during an interview Thursday that Atlanta’s gains during her tenure are real. “We have stayed the course for a very long time in a very difficult environment,” she said, referring to the district’s mostly poor, highly transient student body. In the interview with AJC editors and reporters, Hall also asserted that no cheating has been proved, any cheating was perpetrated by unscrupulous individuals,* and that the aggressive teacher accountability system that she initiated had nothing to do with any wrongdoing.

“It’s always possible,” she said, “for some human being to cheat.”

But the district’s skewed data call into question the two feats most responsible for Hall’s national stature: the dramatic increase in the graduation rate and the skyrocketing scores on state and national achievement tests.

...For a month before schools administer the test each spring, records show, transfers spike at Forrest Hill Academy, an alternative school for students with academic or behavioral problems. Concentrated at Forrest Hill, contained by wrought-iron and chain-link fences,** these poor-performing students no longer are liabilities to their home schools. Instead, their CRCT scores count against Forrest Hill, where failure rates on portions of the exam run as high as 97 percent.
Looks like the grown-ups have finally taken an interest in the people who've been playing school over at Atlanta Public Schools. It's about time.

* Gosh, thanks, Dr Hall. I was sure it was all the honest folks who were cheating. Thanks for setting us straight.

** Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses, are they still in operation? I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

“Even the schools. Even the libraries have no money for books.”

Griffin Daily News - Retired librarian overseeing book giveaway
Thousands of books from Bookworms Bistro and Coffees at the old Coca-Cola building on Taylor Street are being given away this week.

Jan Rogers, a retired librarian, said 20,000 used books were available after Bookworms closed. Rogers was inspired to purchase the books by a friend who is traveling to the African nation of Ghana and, among other things, is delivering new books and shoes.
A lot of the remaining books are being donated to various libraries and schools, but Rogers estimates that once those are gone there will still be 6,000 books left.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From the school board to the Mayor to the Governor

How does a (let's face it) local school board issue find its way all the way up to the Governor's office? Well, partly because the Governor's office is right across the street. But we can't discount the presence of unmitigated ineptitude. Let's have a round-up of the week's news:

Not so easy listening: WABE interview with Beverly Hall on CRCT cheating probe and whether warning signs ignored

Well, what do you expect her to say?

Atlanta superintendent calls alleged cheating ‘a painful chapter'; vows to regain public trust
"Let me be clear: As superintendent, the buck stops here ... Our children deserve better," Hall said. "They have a right to teachers and administrators who believe in them and who are willing to teach them determination instead of deception."
Nice words, Dr Hall. We needed them months ago when the investigation started, though. And this was the same meeting where the Mayor intervened to attempt to cool hot tempers.

Memo outlined APS cheating response, strategy for Hall
State senator, taxpayers group demand Atlanta school superintendent's resignation
“It bears out a lot of what we’ve been saying — that the investigation was a set-up with Beverly Hall’s cronies circling the wagons and not really having an independent and transparent investigation,” [state Sen. Vincent] Fort [D-Atlanta] said.
Perdue calls Atlanta's cheating investigation "woefully inadequate"
Perdue to appoint investigator to look at Atlanta schools
Gov. Sonny Perdue made a rare appearance before the state Board of Education over alleged cheating in Atlanta public schools, calling it "a sad day."

"I know you share my deep disappointment with the results. To this day, we still have not gotten to the bottom of what was revealed in the 2009 CRCT results," Perdue told the board Wednesday afternoon.

“This is about individual students being robbed and cheated of their one fair shot at a good education.”
"I know you share my deep disappointment..." = "Start acting like you want to get to the bottom of it."

Perdue still has questions; Hall supports state investigation into Atlanta Public Schools

Again, what would you expect her to say?

Perdue: Atlanta cheating probe was stonewalled

Wait, hold on. That isn't what the governor said.
"When people said, we don’t have to talk to you, the investigator says OK, we’ll just go on somewhere else. If I’m in charge, then I say, look, you have a choice. We’re going to get to the bottom of this one way or another. You better be telling your side of the story. This is not yet a criminal investigation. There are no Fifth Amendment rights at this point. But the actual facilitation of lawyering-up and stonewalling does not seem to have been, to me, discouraged at all."
The story is big enough without exaggerating.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The future ain't what it used to be

The Myth of Technological Progress | Taki’s Magazine

Oh, I wish those delightful Internet billionaires good fortune in their various hobbies designed to get human beings, rather than government bureaucrats, back into space... Watching poor Buzz Aldrin, world bestriding colossus of my youth, jet around the world begging people to take an interest in this sort of thing fills me with intense sadness for what we have lost.
I've been thinking of it this way: The New York World's Fair of 1939-40 was the "World of Tomorrow", and we spent the next 25 years trying to make it come true. By the next New York World's Fair, in 1964-65, we had pretty much succeeded -- but that Fair didn't provide any dramatic visions to push us through the next twenty-five years. That fair was more about tourism than technology, as those that have followed have also been. The last stateside Expo, in New Orleans, has the distinction of being the only one to declare bankruptcy during its run. But they did get Riverwalk out of it.

Welcome to the future.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Multiple choice: Are you [a] incompetent [b] dishonest [c] blindly arrogant [d] all of the above?

High CRCT test scores trumped honesty | ajc.com

The schools cited in the cheating investigation serve mostly poor neighborhoods and have long histories of substandard academic performance. Many of their students come from single-parent homes and lack support from family members in pursuing their studies. But their higher scores of recent years gave credence to a view promoted by Atlanta’s superintendent, Beverly Hall, that all children, even those from the poorest homes, are “educable.”

Now, emerging evidence of widespread cheating suggests some Atlanta educators either were determined to prove Hall right or were convinced that, without cheating, they couldn’t.
These are the people into whose hands you put your children's future. "All children are educable." The tyranny of low expectations. Perhaps we ought to put that phrase somewhere in the Pledge of Allegiance.
12 Atlanta principals reassigned, among 108 employees to face state review in test scandal | ajc.com

The schools include Gideons, Usher, Peyton Forest, Perkerson, Venetian Hills, Scott, Connally, Dunbar, F.L. Stanton and Capitol View elementary schools as well as Parks Middle. Bromery could not identify the 12th school, which is affected because its principal previously led a now-defunct school, Blalock Elementary, listed in the report as having had a serious problem.
Well, so long as you don't actually say his name.
All the principals reassigned Friday led the 12 schools which appeared to have widespread problems. They will be moved temporarily to jobs in the system's central office, Bromery said.
Where they can't possibly do any harm -- which is to say, speak to any reporters or parents. APS really needs to avoid the temptation to conclude that dealing with the principal = dealing with the problem. Some principals, like administrators and middle-managers in any industry, have less influence over their subordinates than they think.

It's worth noting that the interim principals were actually put in place a week or two ago, before the specifics of The Investigation were made public, so this isn't quite as last-minute as it appears.

See also Throwing them under the bus or cleaning house? | ajc.com

For this, I actually bought a copy of the Sunday AJC. It did my heart good to see the story on the front page, and the two-page spread to which it continued, the newspaper equivalent of "twenty-seven eight by ten colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence." Local news will save newspapers, of that I am sure.

Well, that and comic strips printed large enough to read.

Friday, August 06, 2010

"Guiding our efforts is a single premise: We have nothing to hide."

If I'm going to yammer on when I think they're wrong, fairness compels me to say so when they're right.

I have to praise APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall for making so much of the report and its supporting documentation freely available on the APS website.

Atlanta Public Schools | State Erasure Report

I'm delighted to observe that everyone concerned seems to agree that there is a "there" there, and we're a long way from having heard the last word.

“How long and how far do you look for every last person who potentially may have done something wrong?”

Atlanta test-cheating probe fails to satisfy | ajc.com

Investigators chosen by Atlanta’s school system gave only cursory attention to evidence suggesting extensive cheating on standardized tests in more than half the 58 schools they examined.

Seventeen schools suspected of some of the most widespread cheating were barely investigated and, consequently, avoided recommendations for sanctions. Another 14 schools where state officials voiced a moderate concern about cheating received similar treatment. The investigators disregarded testing irregularities in hundreds of Atlanta classrooms.

...Commission members defend their work. They say they focused mostly on schools highlighted in a statistical analysis performed by a consulting firm they hired.

But a review of the commission’s report and interviews with education officials and testing experts suggest that the investigation fell far short of unearthing the scope of a cheating scandal that calls into doubt a decade of higher test scores and other academic progress by Atlanta students.
This article is by AJC reporters Alan Judd and Heather Vogell
 instead of Kristina Torres, whose byline I've seen on most of this thread. Good article; keep it alive!
At Deerwood Academy, for instance, the state flagged almost half of 90 classrooms. The Atlanta commission’s investigators noted unusual numbers of erasures and 100 percent pass rates on two tests given by one teacher. But the investigators interviewed just four people at Deerwood, cleared the entire staff and submitted a report that omitted the fact that an earlier investigation found strong evidence of cheating on a CRCT retest there in the summer of 2008.

At other schools, investigators spoke to as few as two staff members. In the case of one recently closed school, they spoke to none.
Just because the school is closed doesn't mean the teachers and administrators vanished. Smart money says they're still employed by APS.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Atlanta says "we don't accept this report"; Georgia says "That's OK, we do"

State reviewing CRCT cheating report | ajc.com

The state began its review Tuesday of a long-awaited investigative report into alleged cheating in Atlanta Public Schools, even as top education officials wondered how far they can go with what remains an unofficial document.

A day after the Atlanta school board declined to approve the document...
Very clever, these red-handed Atlanta educationists. They can't possibly have had time to actually read it, how can any reasonable person expect them to approve a document they haven't read?

Say, why does the Atlanta school board have approval power over the results of an investigation of themselves ordered by the State of Georgia?
Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall posted a statement on the system’s website saying she accepts the report and pledging support for children affected by the scandal as “job one.”
Weeelll, what did we expect her to say?
It was unclear whether the report, transmitted to the state without the city board’s stamp of approval, met that deadline. Dissenting Atlanta board members said they need more time to study the report, leaving open the possibility that it will be approved at a future meeting.
Unless the APS board is made up of utter dunces, they knew that Monday was a state-set deadline for this report. They also knew that they wouldn't have the report themselves until Monday. (The investigative panel doubtless worked toward the State's Aug 2 deadline, not having been specifically instructed by "it'll be ready when it's ready" APS to build any reading and evaluation time into the schedule.)
“We have already begun to review the report. We will work as expeditiously as we can,” said Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. “But we are doing so with the understanding that this may not be the final report.”
These people really know how to bury a document. Keep after them, reporter Kristina Torres, this fiasco isn't over by a long shot.

Monday, August 02, 2010

109 educators "face further scrutiny"?

You mean the investigation isn't over yet? This was just a pre-investigation investigation?
109 Atlanta educators suspected of test cheating | ajc.com

An investigative panel has recommended that 109 principals, assistant principals, school-based testing coordinators and teachers face further scrutiny or sanctions after it found evidence of suspected cheating at 58 Atlanta Public Schools.

Jolted into action by an audit that suggested irregularities on state standardized tests, the panel released its final report Monday after an exhaustive [really?] five-month inquiry. Among key findings:

  • 78 of those city school employees worked at just 12 schools, emblematic of "schoolwide institutional issues" that warrant wholesale changes of those campuses, according to panel chairman Gary Price.
  • 25 employees at another 13 schools appear to have acted individually.
  • So did six employees at the remaining 33 schools investigated by the panel.

...[Superintendent Beverly] Hall was expected to comment on the findings at a press conference later Monday afternoon, when the names of the schools will also be made public.

For legal reasons, because individual investigations are active and ongoing, the panel is not publicly identifying the 109 employees it believes may have cheated.
It's a good thing classes haven't begun yet in Atlanta Public Schools, because it might demoralize the students to see teachers and administrators run screaming down the hallways.

At least it's a start, and about damn time.

I've heard it said that this can't possibly be a systemic flaw because we're only talking about 12 schools. However, although they haven't released a complete list, what they have released points overwhelmingly to one geographical zone within APS known as School Reform Team Two (SRT-2).

And I laugh at the suggestion that Superintendent Beverly Hall didn't know what was going on.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Is this the final-final deadline or just the final deadline?

Report due Monday on testing violations at Atlanta Public Schools | ajc.com

Almost five months to the day it started, an oft-delayed investigation of Atlanta Public Schools ends Monday with the release of a report expected to detail testing violations by as many as 100 educators.

With the report, an independent panel formed to investigate irregularities on state standardized tests at city schools has promised to draw a clear picture of what happened and how, from the inadvertent breaking of test security rules to the changing of students' scores. According to discussions and interviews over the past several months, they will:

  • Name schools, including where scores may have been falsified.
  • Make recommendations to halt problems and move forward.
  • Identify individuals -- although, for legal reasons, not likely make them public -- who violated policy or ethics.

Testing violations may result in state sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a loss of teaching license.
The question here is not "what happened" -- I doubt there's a single employee at any of the affected schools who doesn't know exactly what happened and "who done it" -- but what, exactly, will the report SAY.

As always, props to reporter Kristina Torres and the AJC for keeping this story alive.

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Decatur students in trailers; administrators in school | ajc.com

Dozens of Decatur students will return to classes Monday in trailers while their administrators work from inside a half-empty school.

City Schools of Decatur officials say the trailers are temporary for one year while they finish building a new school.

But parents don’t understand why the 40 administrators who work out of the former Westchester Elementary School don’t spend the year in trailers instead.
Looks like a public relations disaster no matter what Decatur Schools does.

The problem is that the former Westchester and its cheery, colorful sign are right there on Scott Boulevard, THE primary eastside artery from Atlanta to Stone Mountain and points beyond. I don't want to guess how many thousands of drivers see the place twice a day and are reminded that there are no students in there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Atlanta Schools' Job Lottery drags on

Panel readies Atlanta test cheating probe for release next Monday | ajc.com

With a week to go before it releases a report to the public, a panel overseeing an investigation into possible cheating at 58 Atlanta public schools on state tests spent nearly three hours behind closed doors Monday to talk about personnel issues related to the probe.

Members spent little time in public discussion.
That is to say, with a week to go before they are forced to release some kind of findings, the panel is doing its best Punxatawney Phil impression. If the committee sees its shadow, there may be six more weeks of closed deliberations.

Related story in the AJC:

Search Georgia CRCT Cheating Investigation Classroom Results -- Find out if your kid's class was flagged for investigation. No teachers or administrators are named.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What do children learn from this?

DeKalb probes sale of books | ajc.com

When DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson wrote a book about himself in 2007, he didn’t look far for a ready-made market to sell it.

He sold more than $12,560 worth of copies of the book — titled “From Remedial To Remarkable” — to five schools in the school district where he works, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. Two of the schools were under his direct supervision.

In the 70-page paperback, printed in large font generally reserved for children’s books, Simpson writes about his evolution from a high school student in remedial classes to an assistant superintendent with a doctorate degree.
Atlanta Public School may have DeKalb beat for dollar volume of corruption, but there's nothing in APS that beats this for sheer gall.

With school starting earlier, is summer lost?  | ajc.com

With school starting earlier, is summer lost? | ajc.com

“As an unreconstructed Yankee, I hate the Georgia school schedule,” said Chris Murphy of southeast Atlanta, whose two daughters go back to school Aug. 9. “It’s hot outside! I’m just glad I’m not a teacher.”

A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Murphy spent his childhood summers canoeing and fishing. School didn’t start until after Labor Day.

Many schools in the Northeast and West Coast still hew to that calendar, which makes it “unfathomable” to Murphy that so many Georgians spend one of the hottest months inside the classroom.
Spend it outdoors, dude. You'll figure it out. It's no coincidence that the term "air conditioning" was coined by a man from North Carolina (no, really), even though the process itself was invented in New York. (Thank you, Mr. Carrier.)
“This [shorter summer] is an educational fad,” said Vivian Jackson, of Marietta, co-founder of Georgians Need Summers.

Today’s shorter summers are often thoroughly programmed, giving children less time to be bored, and, eventually, inventive. Summer ennui is important, said Tina Bruno, executive director of the San Antonio-based Coalition for a Traditional School Calendar. “You don’t appreciate the structure of school until you are bored at home.”
It's not enough that they go to school, they have to "appreciate the structure"?

Sounds like parents need summer more than the kids do. They're pining for an idyllic pause in the year that no longer exists. (And the original reason for school to be out of session for the summer--so the kids would be home to help Mom and Dad with the crops--went out with the Industrial Revolution.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This should be entertaining

Atlanta test cheating panel to meet Monday | ajc.com

A panel overseeing an investigation of 58 Atlanta public schools for possible cheating on state tests will meet at 2 p.m. Monday, starting a week-long countdown to when they are expected to release their report on Aug. 2.

The panel formed in March to look into irregularities after the state flagged the city schools among 191 statewide that showed unusual patterns of erasures on 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
Just in case you forgot why there's a "test cheating panel" in the first place. Have to give the AJC props for trying to keep this issue current. It is of vital importance, of course, but I don't doubt there's tremendous pressure to bury it.

If APS runs true to form, I would not expect this panel to return any result until it's too late to do anything about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wheel reinvented: Educators puzzled

Atlanta to help students at schools under scrutiny | ajc.com

Students affected by an investigation of 58 Atlanta schools for possible cheating on state standardized tests will get extra academic attention when they head back to school Aug. 9.

Help will include an intensive tutoring program, frequent monitoring of their academic progress and a deliberate effort by school leaders to talk with parents and each other about what works.
Well, dogies. Hey, Ethel! They're gonna do some of the stuff they said they were doing all along! Imagine that.

I like how the educationists aren't actually promising to talk to each other, only make a deliberate effort to do so. But that's better than making a deliberate effort to avoid it, which is what they appear to have been doing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Spivey Hall hosts shape-note singing school | Clayton News Daily

Just over a dozen “students,” some of whom are choir singers, and others, music teachers, spent Friday participating in a class on how to do Sacred Harp/shape-note singing, at Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall. Class instructor, Richard DeLong, the executive secretary of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, which produces a book of shape-note songs, said the singing style is one of the oldest in the United States.

“The Southern people have been preserving this way of singing since the early 1800’s,” said DeLong. “Families have passed it down to their children, who in turn, passed it down to their children, and it’s lived on through the generations that way.”
I'm not sure why the scare-quotes around "students", unless it's to emphasize that some of these students are significantly older than the average Clayton State freshman. Oreta is quoted late in the article.

what is the true cosmic origin of the universe?

We are God talking to himself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

We'll sing in the sunshine or we'll be on our way

Renovated Georgia Dome could feature retractable roof, would bathe modern gladiators in glorious sunlight | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta

Georgia World Congress Center officials have a dilemma on their hands: How do they both host concerts and indoor events — which prefer to be protected from the elements — and satisfy the Atlanta Falcons, the cash cow football team that wants to stay downtown but play outdoors? Easy! You slap a retractable roof on the 18-year-old Georgia Dome, which by NFL standards is the same age as the Colosseum, and you watch the ameros roll in.
You know, they built the dome in the first place because the Falcons wanted a dome.

So where would the Falcons play while they're renovating the dome? Turner Field?

NOTE: It seems weird to me that the stodgy old Journal-Constitution has a "Share This" button on every story for easy blogging / tweeting / facebooking but the too-cool-to-care Creative Loafing does not.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In other news, Foxes Inc. wins the henhouse-guarding contract

Atlanta schools cheating probe faces scrutiny | ajc.com

The head of Atlanta Public Schools promised an impartial inquiry into reports of cheating on state achievement tests. Recusing herself, Superintendent Beverly Hall declared the investigation would be conducted by “a respected outside organization.”

Five months later, the investigation remains incomplete, and questions have emerged that challenge its independence.

The “blue-ribbon” commission appointed to oversee the investigation is populated with business executives and others who have done business with the school district or who have other civic or social ties to the district or to Hall.

One of the firms chosen to run the inquiry also is a school district vendor, having collected $1.7 million for other work performed as recently as 2008.

And, raising perhaps the most serious doubts, the district has been far more involved in investigating itself than originally suggested. Administrators from the district’s central office took part in questioning lower-level educators at all but a dozen of the 58 Atlanta schools under scrutiny. High-ranking district officials — described by a spokeswoman as “director-level” employees — took charge of conducting interviews at two dozen of the schools.

The district’s role in the investigation represents “a major conflict of interest,” said Barbara Payne, executive director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation. “APS should not be involved in any of these reviews. APS should not be involved at all.”
I'm beginning to wonder if APS should be involved in education at all.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Deadline? What deadline?

Atlanta schools face sanctions if misses new report deadline | ajc.com

The state Board of Education turned impatient with Atlanta Public Schools, informing the district on Thursday it has an irrevocable Aug. 2 deadline to deliver its findings of possible cheating on last year's standardized testing or face sanctions.

If the Atlanta school system fails to comply, penalties could involve the loss of Adequate Yearly Progress status for 2009 and 2010, which tarnishes the district's academic reputation. Equally damaging if not more, federal funding could be withheld.
Ooooo-kay, now we're hitting them where they live. Surely now all this nonsense will finally be dealt with.

You don't know APS very well, do you?
"When we made the decision to go with an independent investigation, we lost that control because it's in the hands of a third party," said Keith Bromery, Atlanta school spokesman. "We didn't impose any deadlines, just that we wanted them to do it thoroughly and immediately -- and that's what they've been doing."
Oh, I know what you've been doing. We all know.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Suddenly education has become a hot beat

Having found itself deprived of any real means of punishing disruptive students, APS had adopted a procedure consisting of physical restraints and "seclusion" (call it solitary confinement). Not any more.
Georgia schools ban seclusion rooms -- AJC
The State Board of Education voted Thursday to ban the use of solitary confinement and limit the use of restraints against unruly students.
...The state board worked for about two years developing the policy, which was supported by the parents of Jonathan King, a 13-year-old Hall County boy who hanged himself in 2004.
Well, ok, I understand it wasn't working out. Educators aren't trained to be jailers, and it isn't fair to anyone to expect them to have to respond like jailers. I'm with you on that one. But what CAN they do? What SHOULD they do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Running out the clock

CRCT scores analyzed after new cheating tips | ajc.com
Investigators reviewing 58 Atlanta schools for possible cheating on state tests said Tuesday they continue to pursue tips and information that are important to their inquiry. That work, coupled with ongoing analysis of students’ most recent test scores, is the reason a special investigative panel delayed completion of its probe.
Am I wrong to suggest, as I did last week, that now that they've had an opportunity to see how much graft there is in APS, they are waiting to see how large their check will be?
...That lack of specifics angered John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, who said he has collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition seeking Hall’s resignation if the investigation confirms teachers cheated.
As someone opined a day or so ago, these "investigators" are trained in statistical analysis, not chain of evidence. There will be no such unambiguous conclusion--even though "everyone" knows what happened.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's bigger than you think

100 Atlanta school employees implicated in test cheating scandal | ajc.com
An investigation of suspected cheating at Atlanta Public Schools has concluded that as many as 100 employees at 12 schools violated testing protocols, the chairman of a special investigative committee told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday.

Gary Price, chairman of the independent panel that was formed to investigate irregularities on state standardized tests at city schools, did not detail the violations, which could range from inadvertently violating test security rules to outright cheating. Price’s committee will release the key findings and recommendations from its exhaustive three-month inquiry on Tuesday.
Atlanta test cheating report delayed again | ajc.com
The special panel investigating Atlanta Public Schools called off Tuesday's release of its much-anticipated findings -- the second such delay -- and the committee's chairman said Monday it could be several more weeks before the investigation is complete.

Gary Price, chairman of the independent panel formed to look into irregularities on state standardized tests at city schools, said last week the committee would release major findings and recommendations Tuesday, although he said then that the full report would not be complete by today. But on Monday, a statement from Price indicated that even the summary isn't ready.

He did not offer a specific timeline for release of the investigation's results but said the group's investigators need more time to complete their work.

"We do not wish to sacrifice accuracy for speed by adhering to an arbitrary, self-imposed release date," said Price.
You know, if Mr Price has learned (as so many reformers before him have done) that there's plenty of under-the-table money to be collected from Atlanta Public Schools, this is exactly what I would expect him to say.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The dog ate my investigation

Atlanta test cheating report delayed by a week | ajc.com
A panel overseeing an investigation of 58 Atlanta schools for possible cheating on state tests announced it will delay by a week the release of its report. The decision came as investigators requested more time to finish their analysis.

A final report, expected Wednesday, will now be released June 22.
However, the investigators may be able to write a second report for extra credit.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Low-income youth"

Camp supplies needed to help low-income youth | ajc.com
The Community Action Center needs a variety of items for children in its summer camp program.

CAC, which serves the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody area, will send more than 100 youth from low-income families to summer camps and also provide supplies and transportation as needed. Funding is also needed to support the camp project, said Kristen Ristino, CAC spokeswoman.
I guess there must be some low-income families in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, but I have to say it isn't the first place I'd look.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nonetheless, water is still wet

CRCT failures rise at schools suspected of cheating | ajc.com
State test scores at metro schools suspected of the most widespread cheating last year dropped markedly this year, falling further in Atlanta than in other districts, preliminary data shows.

Steep declines in the number of Atlanta students who passed key subject tests threatened to reverse the upward climb that has helped bring longtime Superintendent Beverly Hall national acclaim.

...School districts should view stark score drops at severe schools as potential evidence of tampering, said Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

“Generally, in schools where there proves to be a dramatic drop, we have concerns about what would cause that drop,” she said. “If it happens to be a school that had a high number of answers changed last year from wrong to right, that could be an indication that there had been intentional wrongdoing.”

...At Gideons Elementary, for instance, 92 percent of fifth-graders passed math in 2009. This year, just 39 percent did.

And at Dunbar Elementary, about 87 percent of fourth-graders passed math last year. But, this year, that number was 49 percent.
The article isn't quite clear on this point: They're comparing 2009's fourth-graders to 2010's fifth-graders. That is, this is the same group of kids that "improved" so dramatically last year, and can't seem to add 2+2 this year.

This could be the smoking gun.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On the other hand, black is white and we have always been at war with Eurasia

State CRCT results improved this year | ajc.com
Georgia students improved in almost all areas of the CRCT this year, with middle school students showing some of the biggest gains, according to statewide results released Wednesday by state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox.

For Cox, who soon heads to Washington to run a new national education nonprofit, the report offered a chance to leave on a high note.The scores represent the second consecutive year of solid gains for the state's elementary and middle-schoolers. Cox was quick to credit educators across the state, who beginning in 2004 faced a rolling implementation of a new, tougher state curriculum that in some cases caused scores to plummet.
"Just keep a lid on it until I'm out of town," Cox was heard to say as she ducked out of her office, ignoring all questions.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

But there is still a chance water could be less wet than expected

Atlanta testing investigation in last stages | ajc.com
Investigators reviewing 58 Atlanta schools for possible cheating last year on state tests plan to incorporate this year's results into their analysis, potentially providing a blueprint about which students may need additional remediation because teachers changed their scores.

A final report will be released June 16, although work won't stop then.

The chairman of a community panel overseeing that work announced Monday that the ongoing investigation will likely result in the referral of employees from 12 Atlanta schools for possible testing violations. On Tuesday, chairman Gary Price said more than a dozen employees were involved, although he said "the numbers are changing as we speak."
Not unlike those on the test papers?

Monday, June 07, 2010

In other news, sky still blue, water still wet

Panel chairman: Atlanta school employees are likely to be referred for testing violations | ajc.com
Employees from 12 Atlanta schools will be referred for possible testing violations, according to the chairman of a community panel overseeing an investigation into possible cheating on state tests last year.

The announcement came as investigators wrap up their work, which included a review of 58 city schools. A final report will be issued next week, said Gary Price, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the panel's chairman, as he updated Atlanta school board members about the process.

Despite questions from board members seeking more details, Price declined -- because of the ongoing investigation -- to give an exact number of employees, the nature or severity of what they may have done or the schools where they worked. However, John Fremer, president of Caveon Test Security, one of two firms the panel hired to conduct the investigation, said there was a close correlation between the 12 schools where the employees worked and schools the state raised the most concerns about.
A close correlation. This is don't-blame-me-ese for "They're guilty as sin, it's obvious, and you should have seen it yourselves."

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Getting down to bid-ness

Atlanta schools defy bid rules on wireless contracts | ajc.com
Atlanta’s public school district continues to violate federal rules aimed at preventing waste and abuse in technology projects, undeterred by a scandal that cost it millions of dollars and sent two former employees to prison.

Questions about favoritism surround two contracts for which the district is seeking reimbursement from the federal E-rate program, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. The irregularities put Atlanta at risk of losing more than $30 million in E-rate requests and could invite other penalties from federal regulators.
A casual glance at APS' history with high-tech purchasing and operations implies the existence of dozens, if not hundreds, of laughing salesmen. They were more than happy to take the money and run, leaving APS with either the flat-out wrong stuff, or (best case) inadequate quantities of the right stuff. Penny wise and pound foolish, my dad used to call it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Welcome to the planet Earth. We have much to teach you here.

Laid-off educators offered state help in finding new careers | ajc.com
Revonda McKnight will finish a degree in early childhood education next year and had looked forward to teaching.

She likes working with children, school hours and "having the summers off." But she's been thinking of going in a new direction since she was laid off from her job as a paraprofessional at Powder Springs Elementary School.

"I'm thinking I might want to do something else at this point," said McKnight, 42.
Well, yeah, being laid off from one job could be seen as a hint to look for something else.

So they're attending classes at Chattahoochee Tech. Well, that'll help keep THOSE teachers employed...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It takes a strong hit from the money machine

Georgia again files bid for feds' education cash | ajc.com
Georgia officials offered no dramatic changes Tuesday in their second attempt to qualify for the Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top schools fund.

It's an effort that could bring $400 million to Georgia.

In meeting a federal reapplication deadline for the fund, which rewards states that embrace education reform, state officials instead fleshed out ideas federal reviewers previously found vague.
[But control of local schools is in the hands of local authorities. Right.]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

She failed the final

Atlanta honors student misses graduation as she awaits test waiver | ajc.com
Atlanta high school senior Brittany Hemphill worked 13 years for what turned out to be one of the lousiest days of her life.

With a waiver pending but still not approved Thursday evening that would have allowed her to participate, Hemphill could only watch as her classmates donned caps and gowns to collect their diplomas. It made her sad, she said. And angry.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

News: Teachers say money good, budget cuts bad.

Q&A: Teachers discuss budget hardships | ajc.com
It’s been an especially challenging year for metro area teachers juggling the educational needs of their students with furlough days and other cuts. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked three teachers and the head of the Georgia Association of Educators to share their views on the changing landscape for teachers and other school personnel.
[APS / inner city schools are not represented. All of the teachers are from relatively prosperous suburban schools.]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We pay administrators how much?

AJC Special: School central offices costly | ajc.com
More than 1,000 public school administrators in metro Atlanta earn more than $100,000 a year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of school salary data shows.
The review shows that Atlanta Public Schools, the smallest of the major school districts in the metro area, has the highest administrative costs. Cobb County, while having the second-largest student population in the state, has one of the smallest central-office staffs and some of the lowest costs. DeKalb schools have more people making $100,000-plus a year than any district.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rulemaking Matters! Video Contest | US EPA

Almost every aspect of our lives is touched by federal regulations. Even before you leave the house in the morning, government regulations help set the price of the coffee you drink, the voltage of electricity your alarm clock uses, and the types of programming allowed on the morning news. But many Americans don't understand how rules are made or how they can get involved in the process.

We know how rules are made: At random.
And we know how to get involved in the process: Either (a) Get elected, or (b) Be important enough to someone ELSE's election that they'll reward you with a nice cushy appointment to some lucrative regulatory agency.

Did I leave anything out?

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Monday, April 12, 2010

TV Anchor Falls off Chair - CBS Cares

Wherever a television presenter overbalances and falls off her chair, the Internet is there.

P.S. If you've ever wondered if those people who appear to be in the room behind the anchor are real, wonder no more.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jessie’s Little Moment of Win

I just got off of a midnight flight home from a hectic weekend. When I opened my suitcase to unpack it, there was the little note saying that TSA had opened my luggage to inspect it. There was also a bite-size 3 Musketeers bar. IMMD.

If they did that every time, nobody would mind.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Official "Leave the Damn Clock Alone" Day

A Moment In Time
Originally uploaded by rainbow11
Who benefits from Daylight Saving Time?
Quad-City Times | Get groggy when the clock changes? So do cows
"When you move it back, those cows are holding that milk for an extra hour, so you can run into some health problems," he said.

... Michael Downing, who detailed the history of daylight-saving time in a 2005 book [Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time], says the U.S. government has misled Americans on the economic benefits of the time switch. The biggest beneficiaries of the spring clock change aren’t consumers but retailers. People shop more when there’s more light at night.
Tonight's the night...

(Yes, this post is a rerun. And I'll keep saying it until we drop all this nonsense and Leave the Damn Clock Alone.))

Friday, March 12, 2010

It’s Not Her Spellcheck That’s Broken

Oh, please, have mercy... I'm laughing, I'm crying, I can't breathe, I'm dying here. "BOARD! Like I don't have anything to do." Bwah ha hah!

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mo'Nique is 5th black woman to win acting Oscar - AP

Congratulations 'n' all, but when do we stop counting?

(I'm guessing sometime after the 2nd black woman to win the non-supporting category.)

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aw, c'mon, you know "that guy"

I'll go out on a limb here and guess that most of the guys on this page didn't turn down a lot of roles.   They're not making $10 Million per film; these guys had to work to get paid.

You know, the actors you've seen a hundred times? The ones that sometimes show up on every channel at the same time -- but you can't remember their names? You can look 'em up here.

(Now, where is the "that girl" page, or whatever courtesy and feminism requires us to call it, the page for female "character" actors?)

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do you know who's watching your webcam?

School Accused Of Spying On Kids In Their Homes With Spyware That Secretly Activated Webcams

from the horrifying dept

A whole bunch of you are sending in this absolutely horrifying story of a school district outside of Philadelphia that apparently gave its students laptops that included hidden software that allowed district officials to secretly turn on the laptops' webcams and monitor student activities, no matter where they were. This all came to light when a student was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" with the evidence being a photo of the kid from his laptop webcam. The district is now being sued for this. It's rather stunning that anyone thought this was a good idea.

I have a webcam built-in to my laptop. I can't remove it. Maybe I need a piece of tape, or a band-aid, or something.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Potential Disney Heroines

As Sam Nielson alludes, The Hunchback of Notre Dame as written is not exactly fertile ground for growing Disney princesses (Esmeralda dies, Quasimodo kills Frollo, then starves to death at Esmeralda's graveside). (A strong second place for inappropriate cartoonification is Don Bluth's Anastasia.)

But if that worked... Perhaps the world is ready for Disney's Romeo and Juliet. Or Wuthering Heights. Or Frankenstein...

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laugh track - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charley Douglass’s famous invention was properly tested in 1965 when producers were trying to launch Hogan's Heroes. CBS screened two versions of the same episode to measure audience reactions; one contained the laugh track, the other was silent. As Hogan's Heroes required cerebral viewing, the audience watching the silent version were left confused, and the episode failed miserably. The version with the canned laughter succeeded and CBS gave the show a green light. After this incident, no sitcom went on the air without a touch-up from Charley Douglass’s laff box.[2]

Wait. "As Hogan's Heroes required cerebral viewing..."? Say what?

How remarkable that this incident should be the "proper test" that has cursed nearly every comedy since with a canned audience. I'll certainly accept that the premise of Hogan's Heroes was such that, without the laughter, the audience might not understand the show was intended as a light comedy, which knowledge would certainly affect the reception the show received. But it doesn't seem a fair test of the need for "laffs".

Douglass captured many of his recorded "laffs" from the live audience of the Red Skelton Show during Red's weekly pantomime skit. How odd that a feature called the "Silent Spot" should contribute to the lack of silence on television for the following forty-five (and counting) years.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

We dilapidated purple things must stick together

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

9th Annual No Pants Metro Ride in Washington

It was started by Improv Everywhere in New York, but this gala 9th pantsless year was celebrated (if that's the word) in 43 cities in 16 countries. Among those cities was Atlanta, although you wouldn't know it by the media's reaction. I'm guessing the folks who braved the weather on Sunday morning probably had the MARTA car to themselves.

I considered it, but allowed myself to be frightened off by the temperatures. Maybe next year.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master