Monday, July 18, 2011

Cracking a System in Which Test Scores Were for Changing

This from the NY Times:

There had long been suspicions that cheating on state tests was widespread in the

Atlanta public schools, but the superintendent, Beverly L. Hall, was feared by teachers and principals, and few dared speak out. Last summer a supposedly Blue Ribbon Commission, headed by a businessman volunteering his time, produced yet another flimsy report, urging further investigation.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said he was fed up and determined to conduct a thorough investigation. For this, he called on three men who had spent a good part of their careers putting people in prison: Michael J. Bowers, a former state attorney general; Robert E. Wilson, a former county district attorney; and Richard L. Hyde, who could well be the most dogged investigator in Georgia.

It took them 10 months to uncover the biggest cheating scandal ever in a public school district.

They started with one school, as Mr. Wilson said, “to see if we could crack the egg.” From a list of schools with large numbers of erasures on answer sheets, Mr. Hyde chose Venetian Hills Elementary, in a neighborhood he had patrolled as a young police officer.

“You start by walking around the school, giving everyone your card,” he said. “Stir the pot.” The first time he made the rounds, nobody cracked. But then, a religious woman with a lot to get off her chest came forward. One cracked egg led to the next, and within two weeks, five teachers plus the testing coordinator, Milagros Moner, had confessed that they had changed answers to raise the school’s scores.

Mr. Hyde then outfitted Ms. Moner with a wire and videotaped her meeting with the principal, Clarietta Davis, at a McDonald’s.

Ms. Davis had been so worried about leaving fingerprints while doctoring answering sheets, Mr. Hyde recalled, that she wore gloves.

The taking of Venetian Hills became the prototype for an investigation that found cheating at nearly half the Atlanta schools...

No comments: