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Leading education group comments on Atlanta cheating scandal, stays quiet on past praise of city

The American Association of School Administrators released a statement today on the Atlanta Public Schools teaching scandal:

At its regularly scheduled quarterly meeting yesterday, the Executive Committee of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) considered the recently released report of the Georgia governor’s investigative team concerned with the allegations of misconduct in the reporting of standardized test scores in the Atlanta Public Schools. We respect the breadth of the investigation and are gravely concerned by its findings. AASA does not condone any type of cheating or unethical behavior.

In recent days there have been calls to AASA to rescind the honor we bestowed on Dr. Beverly Hall as the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year. The AASA Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the organization, is determined to protect the integrity of the association and to uphold the principles it espouses, including honesty and transparency in school management.

AASA has no jurisdiction over the Governor’s commission nor over any further proceedings that may emanate from the commission’s findings. AASA wishes to respect the integrity of the investigative and legal systems of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia as it runs its course.

Upon bestowing Dr. Hall with the honor in 2009, AASA executive director Dan Domenech described her as “an outstanding superintendent whose leadership has turned Atlanta into a model of urban school reform.” The statement goes on:

Throughout her long and successful tenure in Atlanta, Hall has accomplished significant gains in student achievement. She has demonstrated a commitment to setting high standards for students and school personnel, working collaboratively with the school board, and meeting the needs of the local community. AASA is proud to bestow this national honor on Hall.

According to Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Hall’s tenure spanned a period of dubious spending and recordkeeping in Atlanta, and the state as a whole, that included matters other than cheating:

In a joint 2003 investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/WSB Channel 2 Action News found that Gwinnett underreported its student discipline data to the state Department of Education by at least 85 percent. When the AJC questioned the incomplete and inaccurate discipline reports, DOE said that it only collected the data; it not review and verify it. I am not sure why the state collects data and then says it can’t vouch for it.

In 2004, the AJC did another major APS investigation, this one on the system’s blatant waste of technology dollars. The AJC series documented that Atlanta Public Schools misspent or mismanaged nearly $73 million from a national program intended to give poor children access to the Internet. At the time, Hall defended her lack of attention to technology, saying she was spending all her time focusing on classroom academics.

Earlier this month, 44 of the just over 100 schools in the Atlanta school district were implicated in a cheating scandal that calls into question years of high gains on the state’s annual Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). The investigation ordered by a former governor of Georgia was triggered in part due to a set of reports published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The American Independent has reported on comparisons between the state’s high scores on the CRCT to the much more dour results on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), putting the spotlight on how federal education policy compels schools to cook their statistics to demonstrate adequate yearly gains.

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