ATLANTA — Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin called the state investigative report into widespread cheating on standardized
However, she said, former Atlanta School Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall deserves credit for her successes.
“I’m not here to defend Dr. Hall, and I’m not here to smear her,” said Franklin, during an interview Saturday. “I’m here to say this is where we are now. We need to take this opportunity and move forward with it.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal released a report Tuesday that Time magazine is calling “likely the largest cheating scandal in U.S. history to date.” It showed officials at nearly 80 percent of 56 Atlanta elementary and middle schools examined cheated on annual student-performance tests, called Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
Hall, who retired last month as head of the 48,000-student district, is accused of creating a culture of fear, pressuring faculty and administrators into accepting ever-increasing targets of achievement and turning a blind eye to the way those goals were achieved.
Hall, who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009, was already in charge of the school system when Franklin became Atlanta’s mayor in 2002. Franklin left office in January 2010 after serving two terms.
In June, Franklin wrote a controversial blog about Hall’s retirement, saying her “victories far outnumber the defeats.”
“I feel it’s important to put everything that happens in life in perspective,” Franklin said. “Ninety-five percent of the teachers and principals are not implicated in the report at all. There are 3,000 teachers and principals, and this report says about 5 percent were involved in this. It’s true it was spread out across 40-some schools, which is a concern, but it’s not as if it was in every school at every level with every teacher.”
Franklin said she called Hall after the report was released on Tuesday.
“I called to say I was thinking about her, and I hoped she could relax and reflect,” Franklin said. “She said she was intending to do that. This is a really tough report to internalize.”
Franklin said Hall did not offer an apology to her during that conversation.
“I didn’t ask for an apology, and my conversation was short,” Franklin said. “I think she has appropriately apologized to the teachers, students and to the general public.”
Franklin said public scrutiny is good, but she cautioned against villainizing teachers.
“I hold the teachers on a very high pedestal, and for that reason we need to be gentle,” she said. “No one else wants to do this work.”
When asked whether that means keeping teachers who cheated in the classroom, Franklin said, “I don’t know. I think someone else will have to decide that.”
“I don’t believe in throwing people away,” she said. “Maybe that’s the mother in me. Maybe it’s the daughter in me. Maybe it’s because I know I’m so imperfect.”
Franklin said she has not yet read the 800-page report and doesn’t plan to do so.
Franklin sent a letter to U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in August 2010 to ask for his advice about how to handle “continuing media assaults” and questions raised about APS by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
“The APS of 2010 is vastly improved since 2000, and this progress should not be jeopardized by reckless claims and competing political agendas,” she wrote.
Franklin said Duncan responded that he would follow the state’s investigation.
“I thought he should have been more engaged in what was going on, and he disagreed,” Franklin said on Saturday. “I backed off.”
Original Article: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-07-09-former-mayor-atlanta-school-cheating_n.htm