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What We Should Learn From Atlanta

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 6 April 2013 at 05:59

What We Should Learn from Atlanta

Posted by E. Rat 

I meant to read the “CORE” districts’ waiver application this week, but I got distracted by the indictments coming out of Atlanta on Friday.  So I read the eight hundred pageinvestigative report instead.

In the press, I am seeing a lot of disappointment in America’s educators.  Recounts of Beverly Hall’s tenure note the incredible pressures her regime put on schools; they also make sure to describe her work personality as unapproachable, removed, and aggressive – you know, not very womanly.

About sixty pages in, I was surprised to see a paper on Parks Middle School – lauding its remarkable (and false) achievement gains.  I was given this case study in successcheating to read at least twice back before the investigation was released (although not before Parks’ results should have been worrying; by the time that fan note was released, the Atlanta Public Schools had already investigated – and found – cheating at Parks (also mistresses, misuse of public funds and public buildings, and sexual harrassment – but I digress).

I think the report should stand as a clear rebuke to education reformers.  Not only do the gains they want not come as easily as they claim, they refuse to take real evidence of cheating seriously.  The report includes two position papers by academics APS asked to take a look at the test results.  The statistician notes that the test scores are about as likely as an oviparous rabbit and that cheating is likely the reason.   This study was suppressed.

Douglas Reeves – noted in APS’s internal records as an education reform proponent- spends three days visiting the twelve schools with the most suspicious records.  In his whirlwind tour that allows about half an hour at each school, he notes that all of his favorite reform strategies – high expectations, public knowledge of test scores, test prep, “strong leadership”, etc. – are in place.  So he decides that the gains aren’t suspicious at all, because obviously if you have high enough expectations and a strong enough leader, proficiency will skyrocket from 0% to 88% in a year.

Moreover, those favored strategies?  Favored some really nasty results.  The principal at Parks was lauded for removing teachers who wouldn’t get with the program.  It ends up that these teachers weren’t sad, lazy veterans but teachers who reported cheating.  His leadership skills were also honored through cash awards, performance pay, and secret gifts from education reformers when he made noises about leaving.  These cash incentives encouraged more cheating.

And since Georgia’s teachers have few job safety measures – their own Professional Standards Commission admits that districts can easily retaliate against whistleblowers – and very limited tenure protections, teachers had the choice to cheat as required or be fired.

So what rank-and-yank, cash incentives, all that leadership, and high expectations got Atlanta public school children was test scores so gamed that the schools lost Title One  program improvement money, and children who needed special education services were disqualified from them because of their remarkable testing prowess.

When education reformers explain what they want, the word “Atlanta” should shut them up.

Retrieved from: http://elementaryrat.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-we-should-learn-from-atlanta.html?m=0

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  1. As an educator I understand the pressures faced by the school personnel and fellow educators for high achievement, performance and funding. I however, find it disheartening that these educators would compromise their integrity, act unethically in their careers for funding. There are other ethical methods that could have been taken to guarantee high achievement over time instead of cheating to produce results. In the end what did they achieve…..facing jail time, lost of funding, denial of services to special education students that are possibly eligible. It is said that it was allegedly done to help the students…..how did they help the children? ……by putting a stigma of cheating on their school system !!!!!!

    Simply Jyune

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