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A2 AUGUST 10-16, 2011


Amid scandal, Atlanta students head back to school

by Dorie Turner Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP)—Students return to At-

lanta’s schools this week for what’s likely to be a tough year amid a cheating scandal that has forced thousands of students to get remedial tutoring because they were promoted based on forged test scores and left the district with a shortfall of up to $10 million. The new superintendent, Erroll Davis,

has vowed to clean up the mess. More than 100 teachers were removed from class- rooms less than a month before classes started, accused of spending nights hud- dled in back rooms changing the answers on students’ tests in a scathing state inves- tigation released in early July. But teachers and parents hope stu-

“It’s a colossal breach of the public trust, a catastrophic breach of public trust. I don’t know if it can ever be regained. But as a parent who loves living in Atlanta, in spite of the terri- ble circumstances that hap- pened, we have a responsibility to still work to make our com- munity schools better.”


dents—many of whom live in the city’s poorest neighborhoods—will be focused on one thing come Monday: learning. “We have to just move forward. We can’t

give up on our public schools,” parent Alice Jonsson said as she cut paper Thursday to create a bulletin board for faculty members at Toomer Elementary. Her son Jake starts first grade this week. Jonsson and other parents spent last

week helping teachers get ready for the school year by decorating classrooms and hallways. At Toomer, one of 44 schools in the report, investigators said teachers ei- ther prompted students to choose the cor- rect answer or looked at test booklets in advance to be sure students were ready for the questions. At least one teacher ar- ranged desks so that lower-performing stu- dents got easier questions, investigators said. Principal Nicole Evans Jones, who took

over in November 2009 after the alleged cheating occurred, said the educators named in the report have been replaced or left Toomer on their own. Her focus now is on making sure students and parents are confident in the school. That won’t be easy, though: Jonsson said

she worries the cheating scandal is a “can- cer that does damage for many years.” “Now my biggest concern is when the

kids do well, they’re going to be perceived as cheaters. That’s heart-breaking,” she said. Thousands of students—mostly in the

city’s poorest neighborhoods—will need extra tutoring and after-school help this year because they were promoted based on inflated test scores. Meanwhile, enrollment


MOVING FORWARD—New teacher Sarah Welch, left, receives classroom materials from veteran teacher Michele Alford at Toomer Ele- mentary School in Atlanta Aug. 4. (AP Photo/Dorie Turner)

in the district is projected to be up by about 2,000 children this year—from about 47,000 to about 49,000—which means some classes will have to be slightly larger than in the past. Criminal investigations are ongoing in

three counties. The federal Department of Education is looking into the cheating alle- gations. The report named 178 educators, 82 of

whom confessed. The testing problems first came to light after The Atlanta Journal- Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable. The state re- leased audits of test results after the news- paper published its analysis. The district has placed more than 130 of

the educators named in the state’s report on paid leave pending hearings, while an- other 40 or so have either quit or retired, district officials said. The district faces a budget shortfall of up to $10 million be- cause of the hefty price tag that comes with keeping the implicated educators who haven’t resigned or retired on payroll. They can’t be fired until they’re given due pro- cess. On top of that, some schools also could

owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding they received for good test performance. Parent James Palmer moved his kinder-

gartener, Leo, to a different school than where he’s zoned because he worried about the culture at Benteen Elementary, one of the schools in the cheating report. Palmer said the final straw for him was when alle- gations emerged that whistleblowers at Benteen were punished or retaliated against. Investigators said they found a culture of fear and retaliation where many teachers felt pressured to improve test scores by any means possible. He said he and a handful of other parents

in his southwest Atlanta neighborhood have found other schools for their children. Others, he said, are trying to sell their houses so they can move to areas of town with better school. “I felt a lot better about pur-

Elaine Effort

Pittsburgh Profiles with KQV’s Elaine Effort sponsored in part by the New Pittsburgh Courier

Elaine Effort heard exclusively on Pittsburgh’s all news radio station for 30 years

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Saturday, August 13 at 6:30 A.M. and 5:30 P.M. and

Sunday, August 14 at 5:30 P.M. Pittsburgh Profiles with

suing other options for my child,” Palmer said about the details in the state’s report. “It’s a colossal breach of the public trust, a catastrophic breach of public trust. I don’t know if it can ever be re- gained. But as a parent who loves living in Atlanta, in spite of the terrible circum- stances that happened, we have a responsibility to still work to make our community schools better.”




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For the Week of August 13-19 August 13 1881—The first African-American nursing school opens at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. 1892—The Afro-American newspaper is founded. The first edition is published in Baltimore, Md., by John H. Murphy Sr. At its height, the news- paper chain would publish papers in Baltimore, Wash- ington, D.C., Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia and Newark, N.J. It continues to publish today in Balti- more and Washington, D.C. 1906—The “Brownsville Affair” takes place. Angry Black soldiers, who had been subjected to in- tense racial discrimination and insults, are accused of sneaking into Brownsville, Texas, and killing a local White bartender and wounding a police officer. Al- though the evidence was weak, President Theodore Roosevelt sided with Brownsville Whites and ordered 167 of the Black soldiers dishonorably discharged for a “conspiracy of silence” be- cause they either denied involvement in the shootings or refused to say who was in- volved. However, 66 years later (as a result of the findings of a book) the Army opened a new investigation which cleared the accused soldiers and reversed the 1906 dishon- orably discharges. August 14 1862—President Abraham Lincoln (for the first time) meets with a group of promi- nent Blacks to discuss the Civil War and pub- lic policy. But before the meeting was over, he would anger those gathered. Although an out- spoken opponent of the expansion of slavery, Lincoln suggested that it would be best for America and Blacks if African-Americans were to emigrate to Africa or Central America. Never- theless, a little over a month later on Sept. 22 he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation technically freeing all slaves in the rebellious Southern states. 1883—Ernest E. Just is born in Charleston,


S.C. Just would become one of the nation’s most prominent biologists conducting pioneering re- search in cell division. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth University in 1907

and would go on to establish the Zoology Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Just would die in 1941. 1959—Modern basketball legend Earvin “Magic”

Johnson is born on this day in Lansing, Mich. August 15 1975—In another of those highly publicized “trials of century,” which frequently grip national attention, 20- year-old Joann Little is found not guilty of murder after she stabbed a White jailer who had entered her cell in Beaufort County, N.C., to sexually assault her. The trial had been moved to Raleigh because of widespread racial prejudice in the Eastern North Car- olina area where the incident actually took place. 1979—President Jimmy Carter forces the resigna-

tion of United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young after he angered Jewish groups by meeting with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organiza- tion. The resignation created stormy relations between Blacks and the generally un- compromising pro-Israel lobby in the United States. August 16 1922—Author and investigative reporter Louis E. Lomax is born in Valdosta, Ga. Little is known today but in the 1960s Lomax was one of the most prominent Black journalists in America. He was renowned for his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement and his investigative reporting. He died mysteriously in an automobile accident near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, on July 30, 1970. One urban legend is that his car was forced off the road by persons working for the FBI because he was com- pleting a book which would show that the assassination of


civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of a government plot. This urban legend is often repeated but there has been little concrete evidence offered to support it. Lomax’ best known books are “Negro Revolt” and “To Kill a Black Man.” August 17 1887—Black separatist and Pan-Africanist Mar-

cus Garvey is born on this day in St. Ann’s Bay, Ja- maica. Garvey advocated Black pride and the build- ing of Black institutions. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 and with amazingly rapid speed built it into the largest inde- pendent Black organization in history with 1,100 branches in over 40 countries. He came to the U.S. in 1916 and the FBI began keeping a file on him in 1919. By 1923 he was indicted on what many considered trumped up mail fraud charges and eventually deported from his U.S. base in 1927. Garvey would die in England on June 10, 1940. But years before his death, he predicted his return, writing, “Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions…to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life.” August 18 1963—The first Black person admitted to the Univer-


sity of Mississippi, James Meredith, graduates on this day in 1963. His graduation was unmarred by the protests and violence which marked his federally forced entry into the once segregated institution. 1964—White-ruled South Africa is officially banned from competing in the Olympics because of its system of racial oppression known as Apartheid. The country’s Black majority would not achieve democratic rule, how- ever, until May 1994

when the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress won over two-thirds of the vote in the country’s first free elections. August 19 1791—Benjamin Banneker writes a letter to Sec-

retary of State (later president) Thomas Jefferson de- nouncing slavery. In his letter, Banneker declared, “I freely and cheerfully acknowledge that I am of the African race” and then precedes to label America’s re- cently achieved freedom from England a “hypocrisy” as long as Blacks continued to suffer under “groaning captivity and cruel oppression.” Ban- neker was a Black activist against slav- ery even though he is generally recognized for his mathematical achievements, designing one of the first clocks made in America and laying out the nation’s capital after Pierre L’Enfant abandoned the job. 1954—African-American diplomat Ralph Bunch is named Undersecretary of the United Nations. Bunch had already received the Nobel Peace Prize (1950) for his work as a UN negotiator during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949. Bunch would later become UN Sec- retary General. He was born in Detroit but raised in Los Angeles. (This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. Sub-


scribe to his free bi-weekly “Black History Journal.” Include $3 to help defray postage costs to Robert N. Taylor, P.O. Box 58097, Wash- ington, D.C. 20037.)

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