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Posted at 3:16 PM ET, 11/20/2010

Testing scandal claims Atlanta schools superintendent

By Valerie Strauss

Atlanta Schools Supt. Beverly Hall today bowed to calls for her to step down following a standardized-testing scandal, saying she would not return next school year.

A statement from her office said that Hall, who has been superintendent for 11 years, had notified school board members that she won't seek another contract when her current contract expires June 30.

Calls for her resignation had been growing louder because of a scandal reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the latest scores on the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The newspaper reported that many increases in state scores reported in districts across the state seemed “statistically improbable.”

According to the newspaper, 33 of 35 local school systems resolved questions regarding alleged 2009 CRCT test tampering, and they referred 72 employees to the state for possible disciplinary action.

The two systems still be investigated are Atlanta Public Schools and the Dougherty County School System in South Georgia.

State officials announced in February that suspicious erasure marks had been found on thousands of tests from 119 schools in the 35 school systems, including 58 schools in Atlanta, the highest in any district.

On Tuesday, Hall called the investigation “a painful chapter in our history” and talked about steps the system would take to respond to the alleged cheating. Calls for her resignation were heard.

"The buck stops here," she said.

That didn't stop calls for her to resign. The editorial board of the newspaper even urged her to step down voluntarily or be fired after it was revealed that she did not “release a report she commissioned validating the newspaper’s data-driven investigation of improbable test score gains.”

The Journal-Constitution noted that this was the second time in two years that results on these states tests have been questioned. But Georgia is not the only place where cheating on standardized tests has been reported; in fact, test tampering has became a fact of life in many schools in the No Child Left Behind era. Just this year, there have been investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and other states that suggested cheating by educators.

This is all predictable. As long as the country pursues an education policy that makes standardized testing the be-all and end-all of assessment -- of schools, students and now, as advocated by the Obama administration, teachers -- such incidents are only likely to increase.

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By Valerie Strauss  | November 20, 2010; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  atlanta, atlanta superintendent, atlanta superintendentn resigns, atlanta tests, crct, criterion referenced competency tests, georgia scandal, georgia testing scandal, hall, hall resigns, standardized tests, testing scandal  
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Comments

Don't forget DC either, which had very suspect patterns of erasures at schools with high gains. However, the report was buried by the DC State folks and DCPS, both of whom had a great deal of incentive to hide anything that was wrong.

Test security is a joke in DC, and I am stunned more schools don't cheat. The administrators whose jobs are on the line based on the test scores are alone with the test for weeks. If you must use standardized tests, you should at least go to the trouble of securing them properly.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | November 20, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

It may well be soon true that test cheating becomes the norm. The Internet will rapidly spread questions and answers when they are needed.

Posted by: Martial | November 20, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget NYC! If you make tests systematically easier as each year passes of course students are going to falsely appear to make gains. Harvard University recently addressed this issue and a lot of supposedly "proficient" NYC public school students suddenly were "failing". Gee... doesn't this tell us something about the current trend of "data demagoguery"???

Posted by: teachermd | November 20, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Goodness, what in the world did anyone expect?? You sort of HAVE to cheat to pass in this system...How else could you reach the totally outrageous expectations and demands???

I know it sounds weird but I feel like these people are scapegoats; they were set up by an awful, awful set of laws.

Posted by: realannie | November 20, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why people are so surprised at this. Such tests to "value" student knowledge and evaluate teachers and schools are bound to bring about cheating. After all, students and educators have great role models: bankers, elected representatives,professional athletes, etc. If the well connected can cheat, why can't anyone else.

Posted by: diamond2 | November 20, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Before I retired in 2007, I saw all kinds of outright cheating and "gaming" the system. Low-performing districts almost have to do this in order to satisfy the NCLB provisions. There are many forms of "gaming" but here's an example of how it was done at my school:

The only subgroup to "fail" at our school were the English language learners so all the teachers went to a school that was "successful" with this group to find out what they were doing. Although we saw some very good instruction, we couldn't figure out what they were doing that we weren't. Then we met with the principal. She asked, "Who is giving the test?"

"We've trained our instructional aides to do it" replied our principal.

"Oh no" she said, giving us all a knowing look, "You have to have a TEACHER do the testing."

"I see" responded our principal and we all understood.

Back at school, the principal chose a grandmotherly teacher who "helped" the children take tests. She would frequently announce to all of us that "I can't stand to watch them choose the wrong answer when I know they know the material." That year, everyone "passed."

Here are some other methods:

The teachers are encouraged to "familiarize yourself" with the test a week before it's given;

Teachers give the test without supervision and "help" the children;

Tests are delivered to the office where the principal "looks them over" in private;

Principals retain almost all first graders so children will be a grade older when they take the test;

Children who score close to passing are given lots of special help. Really low kids are ignored;

Low-performing students were taken out of the classroom and tested separately;

The tests of low-scoring students were invalidated at every opportunity;

Answers are erased and changed by teachers or administrators (rare, I hope).

All of the above demonstrates the desperation of school people because as a group, they are usually very honest.

Desperate people do desperate things.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 20, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

=======
=======

HAHAAH!

Again, a scandal arising from the irrational, emotional insistence that on average, black kids are just as smart as Asian and white kids.

They tried blaming it on racism, but that doesn't fly anymore because there's no one in the school system to credibly accuse of being racist.

But the bush cabal said "by golly, we're going to PUNISH schools who can't tell us what we want to hear!"

So A WHOLE SCHOOL in Rhode Island was fired because no matter WHAT they tried, the black kids still tested as stupid.

Can you really blame school admins for faking data under these conditions?

You may ask "Why do the black kids score so much lower than the white kids no matter WHAT we do?"

HEY:
► Don't ask a question unless you want to know the answer.

See, scientists FOUND that answer less than a decade ago, but it's such a hot potato that they don't talk about except in serious academic journals.

You won't like it.

what I'm about to tell you is now uncontroversial and hasn't been disputed by ANY scientist for years:

Ready?

According to about two dozen recent studies published in many respected, objective, serious, peer-reviewed, medical and scholarly journals; MRI analyses using standard volumetric medical software have proven conclusively that blacks average 5% smaller brains than whites, and 6% smaller than Asians.

No, it's not the environment. The deficit is seen in embryos just weeks old.

It's seen in all countries e, and is independent of what the mother eats/drinks/does.

Nor is it body size: Asians (even ones in Indochina who've been half-starved all their lives) have the largest brains and the smallest bodies.

Nutrition? The average deficit in cerebral volume exists in well-fed subjects.

The results have been duplicated many times all over the world at MANY universities measuring thousands of different brains of (well-nourished) people and verified three completely different ways (like brain weight at autopsy).

Scientists who wanted to be the hero who disproves it tried over 100 environmental explanations, but always, when you exclude people from that environment, the difference is still there. Environmental "believers" won't acknowledge that the size gap is genetic, but they've run out of environmental variables to examine.

Say, do you think this might explain their average IQ of 80 (in the U.S., 70 in Africa, 60 in Ethiopia)?

Is all this from the KKK? No, the journal of that Liberal bastion, the American Psychological Association:
http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/PPPL1.pdf

► But YOU WON'T READ IT.

See, even my fellow Liberals (the COWARDLY ones with NO INTEGRITY) won't look through Galileo's telescope!

But you STILL have no explanation for why blacks are so stupid!

Every year, as your increasingly desperate explanations are disproved, you get more worried and this gets funnier!

HAHAHAH! I laugh at you!

--faye kane, homeless idiot-savant
More of my smartmouth at http://tinyurl.com/fayescave

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | November 21, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Valarie,

Something that should not increase in the era of spell and grammar check is the typos your op-ed is riddled with...

Also, if this happen on Ms. Hall's watch, then she should step down.

Posted by: rasheeedj | November 21, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

You let a typo slip through there, rasheeedj.

Posted by: mport84 | November 21, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

So when is Blarney Duncan going to talk about this?

Posted by: educationlover54 | November 21, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

It's bureaucratic calamities like this that work to the detriment of inner-city kids, and black boys in particular. What a shame it came to this...
http://www.theroot.com/views/black-boys-and-education

Posted by: AScottWalton | November 21, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

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