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Three Teach for America instructors in Atlanta confess to cheating

A local news channel in Atlanta reports that three Teach for America instructors confessed to participating in the district-wide cheating scandal that involved over forty schools and 178 teachers and principals. The news report also states more TFA teachers were implicated.

From WXIA-TV Atlanta:

“A handful of our teachers did confess to cheating and there are no excuses for that. It’s completely unacceptable,” said Metro Atlanta Teach For America Executive Director Kwame Griffith.

Teach For America’s ties to district leadership run deep, and some of its most ardent supporters fared the worst in the report.

Quotes from embattled Superintendent Beverly Hall, who brought Teach for America to the city, still adorn the program’s website.

Former Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine was a board member for the organization. The state’s report concluded Augustine, “knew or should have known cheating and other misconduct was occurring in schools in the APS system” and that Augustine made false statements about an investigation into cheating at Deerwood Academy.

Missy Ball-Rivner was a Teach For America participant in 2009 and is a University of Georgia graduate. Her classroom was flagged for having a high number of erasures in the state’s CRCT report, but she has never been implicated.

“I want to know why my classroom was flagged and who did those erasures and what happened,” Ball-Rivner, now pursuing a Ph.D., said. “My kids. I thought they did really well on the tests and I’m finding out that they didn’t do as well.”

Teach For America officials have no investigation into their teachers’ actions, have not offered them legal assistance and say that, so far, have no plans to change internal policy.

Atlanta, and Georgia state test scores in general, tend to identify a far greater number of students as proficient in math and reading than the national gold standard for student testing, National Assessment of Educational Progress. For fourth-grade math and reading, Atlanta’s results for the 2010 Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) showed 64 and 81 percent, respectively, met state expectations. The state organizes its achievement index by “Does Not Meet,” “Meets” and “Exceeds.”

According to NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), a snapshot of how 18 specific large cities perform on the national exam, the Georgia capital had 63 percent of its students at “Basic” or above for fourth-grade mathematics, but only 19 percent were proficient. NAEP scoring categories are organized from lowest to highest by Below Basic, Basic, Proficient and Advanced.

Reading scores show an even greater gulf between NAEP and CRCT scores for Atlanta fourth-graders. Fifty percent of students taking the national exam were “Below Basic,” and only 23 percent were at “Proficient” or above.

Atlanta’s performance is on par with the national average for large cities, though it lags behind the national average by 11 points in reading and 14 points in math among fourth-graders.

NAEP scores are published every two years. NAEP tests a student’s ability to recognize subject-specific concepts at the fourth-, eighth- and 12th-grade level.

A previous TAI article parsed NAEP and CRCT numbers for the whole state of Georgia.

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