To the editor:
On Feb. 10, 2010, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement reported that 58 of Atlanta’s elementary and middle schools had a total of 256,779 wrong-to-right erasures in the CRCT (state achievement tests) given to grades 1-8 in 2009. For grades 1 and 2, the tests are for language arts, math, and reading. For grades 3-8, the tests are for language arts, math, reading, science, and social studies.
Of the 58 Atlanta schools cited, 43 were classified as having a “severe number of erasures.”
The sheer magnitude of the erasures – 256,779 – clearly indicates to any reasonable person that what occurred was apparently organized cheating on a massive scale.
Over four months later, on June 8, a local news organization reported: “Employees from 12 Atlanta schools will be referred for possible testing violations, according to the chairman of a community panel overseeing an investigation into possible cheating on state tests last year.”
Employees from 12 Atlanta schools is a far cry from the 58 schools cited by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement!
Of the 256,779 wrong-to-right erasures, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement reports 15,323 wrong-to-right erasures in the 2009 test results for math grade 1 (6 year olds); 15,176 wrong-to-right erasures for math grade 2 (7 year olds); 17,123 wrong-to-right erasures for math grade 3 (8 year olds).
The proof of the apparent cheating is comparing the test results of 2009 with the test results of 2010.
At Gideons Elementary School, 92 percent of fifth graders passed the 2009 CRCT math test. This year, that number was 39 percent. At Dunbar Elementary School, 87 percent of fourth graders passed the 2009 CRCT math test. This year, that number was just 49 percent!
Atlanta has been in denial about the poor performance of its public school system for at least a decade. A complacent business and government elite stonewalled all questions about test performances, graduation rates and bloated administrative expenses at Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
EDUPAC, the Metro Atlanta Chamber-linked interest group, insisting that all was well, succeeded in protecting school board incumbents who toed the superintendent’s line. The board, perhaps more interested in placating the school administration than in delivering quality, cost-effective education, awarded the superintendent generous bonuses.
The sad reality is finally coming out about the true test results, thanks to the independent review by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. This review appears to expose a pervasive culture of test cheating.
Evidence that all was not well at APS dates back at least to 2001, when it was reported that 30 out of 68 Atlanta elementary schools had gains of 30 percent or more in the state CRCT achievement tests. At that time, one of the APS board members, Jean Dodd, a teacher over a period of 30 years, expressed doubts. Neither Atlanta Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall nor the APS Board investigated all the facts and not one principal or assistant principal was fired. Instead, Hall attributed these unrealistic gains to “impressive leaps on school reform and better classroom strategies.”
In 2005, a scandal concerning the misuse of federal funds for computer equipment was swept under the rug.
In 2009, what was the evidence that caused the argument between Hall and Governor Sonny Perdue? The same problem of apparent cheating in the 2008 CRCT tests. Here, again, neither Hall nor the APS board investigated all the facts and not one principal or assistant principal was fired. At that time, Hall said she did not believe that “cheating was pervasive in the system.” This comment drew a rebuke from Perdue.
In the best interests of the Atlanta taxpayers (52 percent of all of our property tax goes to APS) and the parents, Perdue should immediately authorize a state investigation into the apparent system-wide cheating in the 256,779 wrong-to-right erasures in the 2009 CRCT tests.
The taxpayers and parents demand full accountability.
John S. Sherman, president, Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation