Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wow, what a busy month it's been

And thank goodness the AJC has been paying more attention than I have. I was pretty well convinced nothing of any consequence would happen over the summer. I could not have been more wrong.

One of the big stories, as you'll recall, was the ongoing investigation into widespread cheating (by administrators, not by students) on the CRCT. That's the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test: In addition to students being required to pass it in order to advance to the next level at key grades, it is also used to allocate resources for additional help for students and schools in need. It's no secret to anyone within Atlanta Public Schools that someone's reputation rides on being able to show consistent and impressive improvement from year to year -- whether the students actually are improving or not.

The other big story, which is actually unrelated to the CRCT scandal, is the fact that we have a contentious school board. They get along so poorly that AdvancED has placed Atlanta Public Schools' on probation, at risk of losing its accreditation. (This eventuality would cost APS grant money and make it harder for students to be accepted in colleges.)

So what's been going on?
Let's see, the chairman of the school board resigned. Initially he was to remain on the board, but he has since resigned completely. A new chair has been named.
The superintendent has retired, and the search for a successor continues.
We have an interim superintendent, God help him. Although this is actually a golden opportunity: An appointee with no ambition to keep the job permanently can afford to step on some political toes, which he'll almost certainly have to do to get APS in order.

A former APS official said she was ordered to destroy reports that would confirm "systematic" cheating. Her boss just resigned.

June 30: Investigators delivered a 800-page report to the Governor, which (after taking the weekend to read it and let certain key parties know what it would say) he released to the media on July 5. The report names names, and it's not pretty. "Interim Atlanta schools superintendent Erroll Davis said in a news conference later Tuesday that those responsible for the cheating will 'not be put in front of children again.' " (Good to hear, but most of them haven't been in front of children for years, discounting the occasional honors program. They're ensconced in administrative positions, safely separated from the little darlings. But see below.)

Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level: "Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible." If you really want to know how many people cheated school-by-school, it's here and here.

Retiring superintendent Beverly Hall still says she didn't know this was going on, but she nonetheless accepts ultimate responsibility. The report doesn't specifically say she did know, but it does say she should have known. It may cost Hall her 2009 Superintendent of the Year award. (Well, duh.) And parents in Dallas, TX are demanding that her ex-deputy superintendent lose her new job as superintendent of DeSoto Independent School District.

The search for a new permanent superintendent is on hold while the interim superintendent "began Thursday to dismantle former school chief Beverly Hall's administration". He has removed four deputy superintendents designated as "School Reform Team Executive Directors". (APS divides its elementary and middle schools geographically into School Reform Teams, referred to as SRTs. There is a fifth SRT director who oversees all of the city's high schools. So far, no high schools have been implicated in the CRCT investigations.)

Other than that, not much, what's new with you?