April 08, 2013
Guilty Bystanders

To refresh your memory, here’s the Cliff Notes version of the Atlanta test-rigging scandal:

In the two and a half years since, the state’s investigation reached from Ms. Parks’s third-grade classroom all the way to the district superintendent at the time, Beverly L. Hall, who was one of 35 Atlanta educators indicted Friday by a Fulton County grand jury.

Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for her; she could face up to 45 years in prison.

Sadly for Dr. Hall she is not — unlike Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Paulson, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, et cetera and ad nauseam — too big to jail. As are also the massed forces of the Republican Party working so effectively to destroy our public school system. Dr. Hall and her teachers were just caught up in the process. Jay Bookman explains:

After all, Hall and other education leaders operate within a structure of reward and punishment every bit as real as that within APS. And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets have reported, similar cheating problems have popped up in school districts around the country. Most have occurred in poverty-stricken districts where the educational challenges can be overwhelming, the pressure to improve is immense and the needle is very hard to move.

Hall did not enact the federal No Child Left Behind policy mandating a strict regimen of testing, including a menu of rewards for success and harsh punishment for failure. She did not wave hundreds of millions of dollars in private foundation money in front of school districts to encourage them to hire, fire, promote and pay almost exclusively on the basis of standardized testing. Hall didn’t treat academic progress as an economic development tool too useful to Atlanta’s “brand” to be questioned, as some in the business community did. Like her APS underlings, Hall merely responded, somewhat rationally, to a system that was designed by others and that demanded results too good to be true too quickly.

That is an underappreciated aspect of this tragedy. By other standards, including untainted National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Atlanta public schools did make measurable, sustained progress during the Hall era. But in an environment that demands a scale of improvement that only charlatans can deliver, it wasn’t enough.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 08, 2013 11:52 AM
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Apparently one group of charlatans attracts another. Not long ago, I was working with a group that "coaches" people working on their doctoral dissertations. One of their clients had gotten shot down on his original PhD proposal. The "coaching" group tried to come up with an alternative topic for him. They eventually settled on a thesis that depended entirely on Atlanta school system grades and graduation rates for its research data.

The "coaching" group and their client decided this was really the way to go, and no amount of providing proof that the data was fraudulent and thus useless could dissuade them. I quit working for them at that point.

It's a shame that nobody recognized the likely unintended consequences of NCLB as it was signed into law. The fraud in Atlanta is just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: Derelict on April 8, 2013 3:34 PM

Welcome to the United States of Corruptocracy. For the sake of protecting the rich and powerful, please check your morals at the door.

Very Crankily Yours,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on April 8, 2013 4:21 PM

Why is it that some of this technology out reminds me that teachers are going to end up being turned into coaches.


Interesting subject for debate. Well, anyway, I hope those Brits can tamp the dirt down well enough.

Posted by: Buck on April 9, 2013 8:42 AM
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