Thursday, July 7, 2011

The 9 most depressing details in the APS cheating report

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 1:26 PM

click to enlarge NW LENS/FLICKR

Now that we've had some time to sift through the state's investigation into the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, here are nine highlights that'll piss you off, make you scratch your head and really just get you depressed about the whole situation. Note: No charges have been filed against any of the educators named in the state's report.

1. Threats of public humiliation and of physical violence to teachers
State investigators says principals used public humiliation tactics or threats of physical harm to persuade teachers to change answers or keep quiet.

At Fain Elementary, investigators say, the principal forced one teacher to sit under a table during a faculty meeting because the teacher's students' test scores were low.

At Cook Elementary, the principal "publicly humiliated and demeaned teachers in faculty meetings if their students performed poorly."

According to the report, one Cook Elementary teacher said:

"[The principal] ridiculed teachers whose students did not perform well on the CRCT. When CRCT scores came out, [the principal] publicly singled out teachers in a meeting and told them they did not need to be at Cook if their students did not perform better."

At Dunbar Elementary, investigators say, teachers reported being threatened with physical harm by a testing coordinator if they divulged any information about cheating to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Said a teacher from the school:

"[the educator] threatened the teachers that if they told investigators what happened she would place a lien on their house or 'get them at their car.' She said, 'If any bitch mentions my name...," implying that she would do something violent to anyone who implicated her."

More examples after the jump.

2. Pressure to white-wash

Business leaders like Renay Blumenthal, Senior Vice President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, urged that the school system's so-called "blue ribbon commission" report should be "finessed" past the governor.

"Image was more important than the truth," concludes the report.

(CL's email to the chamber for comment was not immediately returned.)

3. A widespread culture of fear and the dreaded PDP

Many of the teachers who confessed to changing students' answers on the CRCT said they did so out of fear.

A third grade teacher at Venetian Hills Elementary expressed fear of repercussions if she did not change her students' incorrect answers, according to the report:

"The culture at APS is that if you are not a 'team player,' there are ways that APS can get back at you. [The teacher] was afraid of retaliation if she did not go along with cheating. 'APS is run like a mob.'"

According to the report, many Usher/Collier Heights Elementary teachers were afraid of losing their jobs:

"There was tremendous pressure on the teachers to meet targets. Teachers said they feared their jobs if their students failed to meet targets."

Another avenue of "persuasion" employed by various principals was the threat of placing teachers on a Professional Development Plan, or PDP, if their students failed to preform adequately. A PDP is a plan "developed and implemented to correct perceived deficiencies in performance of teachers..." If a teacher fails to meet the plan requirements, the teacher would lose their job.

Investigators say the principal Dobbs Elementary Principal "informed teachers at a staff meeting that if she were placed on a PDP for low test scores, she would place every teacher on a PDP for low test scores as well."

The report found that the East Lake Elementary principal "threatened teachers with PDPs if CRCT scores did not improve. Teachers at East Lake did not voice concerns over testing irregularities and cheating for fear of reprisal against them..."

If that failed to deter loose-lipped teachers, the report says, the East Lake principal summed up her threats by vowing to "sue them out the ass."

4. Children were also allegedly threatened

According to the report, a fourth grade teacher at Dobbs Elementary "threatened students by telling them they would have to repeat the fourth grade if they ever told of the cheating."

As evident from the report, some children were not oblivious as to what was going on around them.

A special education teacher at Peyton Forest, said that "she heard children talking to each other about how they had the answers to the test."

And one observant kiddo at East Lake Elementary noticed something different about his test booklet:

"During the administration of the CRCT, a student complained to his teacher that his answer sheet was placed in his test booklet in a different spot than where he left it the previous day. The teacher examined the answer sheet and saw it contained heavy erasures. As she examined the answer sheet, [the principal] entered her classroom and instructed the teacher to put the answer sheet down."

Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that the teacher was transferred to teach kindergarten the next day, according to the report.

5. Turning unethical behavior into a par-tay

A group of teachers at Gideon Elementary decided to turn their cheating work into a weekend-long hoopla. The report says:

"One group of teachers took their students' answer sheets to the home of a teacher and held a 'changing party' over the weekend in Douglas County, Georgia."

Perversely, the job of altering test answers was something of an honor at Gideon that came with seniority:

"Veteran teachers understood that changing students' CRCT answer sheets was expected at Gideons. They changed the answer sheets of the students taught by newer teachers until the new teacher was trusted to be brought into the cheating scheme. When they decided a new teacher was ready, veteran teachers instructed them 'to go see [educator] and check your tests.'"

6. One teacher's explanation for why...

A fourth grade Dobbs Elementary teacher allegedly explained to another teacher why she gave answers to students, saying:

"I had to give them the answers, those kids were dumb as hell."

7. If you don't want to get caught red-handed, wear gloves!

In a futile attempt to not get caught, the principal of Venetian Hills Elementary reportedly "erased answer sheets in her office wearing gloves so that she did not leave fingerprints on the test documents."

8. Strategies for targeting "those kids"

At Usher/Collier Heights Elementary, the principal devised a method for targeting potential low-scoring kids:

"Prior to the CRCT, [the principal] required the teachers to make a list of their students and indicate whether the teacher expected that the student would score high, middle or low. The teachers provided this list to [the [principal] prior to the CRCT."

Teachers and administrators at Peyton Forest Elementary took the strategy a step further. The report says:

"After completion, the tests were scanned and scored at the school. [A teacher] would watch the tests as they were scored. If the scores were not high enough, the teachers would review the tests with the students. Then, the students with low scores were sent to [another] classroom to retake the test."

9. Papering the windows

What do you do when you don't want wandering eyes to stumble across unethical behavior? You paper the windows! After all, no one will notice, right?

At Scott Elementary, "several witnesses reported that the window in [one teacher]'s door was covered with black paper during the 2009 CRCT."

Administrators at Deerwood Academy also employed the same secretive tactic, investigators say:

"The window on the conference room door was covered with paper while [educators] changed answer sheets in the conference room adjoining the principal's office."

NOTE: This post has been altered to correct an error about a Metro Chamber of Commerce official email discussing the blue-ribbon commission report.

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