Atlanta Public Schools issued the follow statement and Q&A regarding the ongoing cheating scandal trial:
As the CRCT trial begins for 12 former Atlanta Public Schools employees, as many as 72 students and 100 employees could be called to testify. APS has put measures in place to ensure a smooth process and to prevent any disruption in teaching and learning for teachers and students.
"Although this is a very painful time for everyone involved, there is reason to be optimistic. We now have a new, student‐focused APS board and superintendent. We're on the right path and the future is bright," says Courtney English, chair of the Atlanta Board of Education.
While acknowledging the failures that have taken place in the past, English says that steps are being taken to do everything possible to make sure they never happen again while at the same time giving the students the best education possible.
For those students who may be called to testify, special care will be given to make up for any lost time in their studies. Counseling will be available for any student who may need assistance during these proceedings.
To that end, APS will take seriously any new information that may unfold during the course of the trial that impacts current teachers and employees. "If any misconduct is brought forth, there will be due process for those individuals and action will be taken decisively," says Glenn Brock, chief legal counsel for APS.
APS principals will be supportive to answer any questions or address concerns for all parents and family members of students.
The new APS Superintendent, Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, who officially began her duties July 7, 2014, is focused on the students and moving the school district forward.
Carstarphen noted that reforms and progress will not happen overnight, but they will happen and the students will always come first. "We will not only follow all ethical guidelines in everything we do, but we will also act with integrity and always strive to do the right thing. We will be transparent and open with parents, teachers, students, other employees and the public," says Carstarphen.
Questions and Answers Related to the CRCT Trial
1) How will Atlanta Public Schools move forward?
- APS will keep the focus on the students.
- The district has a new reform‐minded school board and superintendent who are working on a new vision, mission and goals for the district. Our principals and teachers are focused on delivering quality instruction inside and outside the classroom.
- We are all focused on what is strong in the district, and how we can inspire our children with hope. It's time to aspire to be a district where every school builds on each student's strengths and every teacher makes each student excited about the future.
2) How will the district restore parents' trust?
- Integrity, transparency, leadership and hard work will be key to ensuring that confidence and trust are restored to the district.
- We are building upon a new culture of ethics that was established under former Superintendent Erroll Davis. The new school administration is strengthening this culture with the addition of the Office of Accountability and other measures.
- The new superintendent has been meeting with parents, teachers, support staff, community leaders and the general public. They care about our schools and our students, and they understand how important providing a quality education is to the future of APS.
3) What remediation efforts have been made by the district – how many APS students have received tutoring services; quantify the success of the remediation?
- Following the Governor's Office of Student Achievement report, APS launched a comprehensive remediation program whereby students who needed assistance participated in Saturday School and enhanced after school tutorials.
- Structured remediation is a mandatory program in schools.
- Remediation is now school‐based or site specific, so that we can meet the specific needs of students who may be struggling, and the programs are ongoing.
4) What measures are in place to prevent cheating from occurring again?
- Superintendent Carstarphen has created the senior cabinet role of Chief Accountability Officer and created an Accountability Office whose duties include building systems and procedures to ensure data integrity.
- The new accountability group is working with the schools and academic teams to review the recommendations that have been made over the last few years, and to ensure that they are all still being implemented.
- The team is also looking at areas where the central administration can better support schools in relation to data quality and the use of data; examining how data can be analyzed to identify possible irregularities, and ensure that the comparative analysis recommendations are fully implemented (i.e., comparing results across years); and developing better controls and monitoring.
- An ethics program was launched in the 2011‐2012 school year. It continues under the new superintendent and includes ethics advocates at each school and a mandate for all employees as a condition of employment. In addition: installed automatic triggers for test scores that rise or decline sharply; created an anonymous hotline to report unethical behavior; instituted automatic investigations of schools with unusual gains in test scores; conducted annual ethics training as a condition of employment for all employees; created stronger safeguards related to the handling/storage of test materials; suspended the incentive or bonus program; and replaced 60 percent of the district's principals.
In 2013, APS was recognized by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (same organization that launched the investigation) for significantly improving auditing and security procedures for test security management.
5) How many employees are no longer with the district as a result of this investigation?
- The previous superintendent immediately removed approximately 200 employees, including 40 principals.
6) Has APS filled the vacancies left by employees no longer with the district as a result of this investigation?
- 22 principals were hired for this academic year thus filling all remaining principal vacancies.
- Vacant teaching positions also have been filled.
7) Will APS offer students support during trial?
- It is expected that as many as 100 APS employees and 72 students will be called to testify during the course of the trial. Every available action will be taken to ensure a smooth process and to prevent any disruption in the classrooms for teachers and students.
- Students needing to leave during the school day to attend trial proceedings will be marked as an excused absence.
- Students who need to make up work as a result of attending the proceedings will need to work with their teacher make up any work missed during the absence.
- Students are encouraged to use the APS Homework Hotline and/or school‐based support services to receive assistance with assignments or homework.
- Counseling is always available for any APS student and these services can be obtained by contacting the school principal.
8) How will APS manage teachers who may be absent from class in order to serve as a witness during the trial?
- Teachers and other staff who lead daily instructional delivery will coordinate with their supervisors to ensure that there is minimal interruption in the classroom.
9) Has APS made any academic achievements since the investigation?
- We know we can and must do better for children.
- Recently our students have earned prestigious national scholarships, such as Gates Millennium, Posse and Coca‐Cola. APS launched a groundbreaking partnership with Georgia Tech this school year (announced Aug. 7) to offer the APS Scholars@Georgia Tech program for all valedictorians and salutatorians.
- APS has increased the on‐time, four‐year graduation rate by 8 percentage points, from 51 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2013.
10) Are any of the defendants currently APS employees?
11) Why are there some APS employees who have been implicated in the CRCT investigation still employed with the district
- Atlanta Public Schools has a thorough investigation process and strictly adheres to the due process procedures pursuant to state law and the Fair Dismissal Act to investigate allegations of employee misconduct. Atlanta Public Schools employees are removed from their roles, pending the completion of this process. If an employee is cleared of any allegations of misconduct in the district's due process proceeding, they are reinstated to their position. If the Professional Standards Commission takes action against an employee, such as a suspension or decertification of an employee, Atlanta Public Schools will take the appropriate action.
- APS will take seriously any new information that may unfold during the course of the trial that impacts current teachers and other employees. If any misconduct is brought forth, there will be due process for those individuals and action will be taken decisively.