Holding your nose and closing your eyes. (via Fred Klonsky’s blog)

More NEA RA redux…….

Holding your nose and closing your eyes. The big votes at the NEA were today. Tomorrow is just an endless stream of New Business Items that are notorious time sucks. A good amount of RA time today was spent on a proposal on accountability and teacher evaluation. It was a terrible proposal that was a feeble attempt by the NEA to respond to the current wave of reformy legislation. IEA President Ken Swanson went to the microphone and gave a screeching speech that left delegates in their se … Read More

via Fred Klonsky's blog


Daily Kos: Putting the NEA endorsement of Obama in context #NEAsupportIStepid

Daily Kos: Putting the NEA endorsement of Obama in context


Putting the NEA endorsement of Obama in context 

by teacherken


it will be portrayed by some as “overwhelming” when it in fact was quite underwhelming.

Let’s provide some historical context for elections since 1988.

1988  Dukakis got 86%

1992 Clinton got 88%

1996 Clinton got 91%

2000 Gore got 86.5%

2004 Kerry got 86.5%

2008 Obama got 79.8%

2011, Obama got 72%.

Unlike Clinton, in his endorsement for reelection Obama dropped 7.8%, while Clinton went up 3%.

And Obama’s percentage in 2008 was already the lowest in the past 5 elections.

This is far from “overwhelming” support by historical standards.

But there is more to consider –


The NEA Representative Assembly also adopted with almost no opposition and with only minor amendments a resolution very critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The text of that resolution as adopted is as follows:

New Business Item C


The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of:

1. Weighing in on local hiring decisions of school and school district personnel.

2. Supporting local decisions to fire all school staff indiscriminately, such as his comments regarding the planned firings in Central Falls, RI.

3. Supporting inappropriate use of high-stakes standardized test scores for both student achievement and teacher evaluation, all while acknowledging that the currently available tests are not good.

4. Failing to recognize the shortcomings of offering to support struggling schools or states, but only in exchange for unsustainable state ‘reform’ policy.

5. Focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind—particularly those in poor neighborhoods, rural areas, and struggling schools—instead of foundational formula funding designed to help all the students who need the most support.

6. Not adequately addressing the unrealistic Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements that brand thriving or improving schools as failures.

7. Forcing local school districts to choose from a pre-determined menu of school improvement models that are unproven and have been shown to be ineffective and bear little resemblance to the actual needs of the school that is struggling.

8. Focusing so heavily on charter schools that viable and proven innovative school models (such as magnet schools) have been overlooked, and simultaneously failing to highlight with the same enthusiasm the innovation in our non-charter public schools.

9. Failing to recognize both the danger inherent in overreliance on a single measurement and the need for multiple indicators when addressing and analyzing student achievement and educators’ evaluations.

10. Failing to recognize the need for systemic change that helps ALL students and relies on shared responsibility by all stakeholders, rather than competitive grant programs that spur bad, inappropriate, and short-sighted state policy.

11. Failing to recognize the complexities of school districts that do not have the resources to compete for funding, particularly in rural America, and failing to provide targeted and effective support for those schools and school districts.

12. Failing to respect and honor the professionalism of educators across this country, including but not limited to holding public education roundtables and meetings without inviting state and local representatives of the teachers, education support professionals, and faculty and staff; promoting programs that lower the standards for entry into the profession; focusing so singularly on teachers in the schools that the other critical staff members and higher education faculty and staff have been overlooked in the plans for improving student learning throughout their educational careers.

13. Perpetuating the myth that there are proven, top-down prescribed ‘silver bullet’ solutions and models that actually will address the real problems that face public education today, rather than recognizing that what schools need is a visionary Secretary of Education that sets broad goals and tasks states, local schools districts, schools, educators, and communities with meeting those goals.

Further, the NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA Executive Committee to develop and implement an aggressive action plan in collaboration with state and local leaders that will address the issues above.

Starting November 2011, the NEA President will provide regular updates to the delegates on the progress of this plan throughout the year.

I am a building rep for the NEA.  I actually spoke personally with about 2/3 of my unionized teachers when the early endorsement – the first such in NEA history – was proposed.  Out of the more than 80 teachers with whom I spoke only one supported the early endorsement.  Many did not like giving up what little leverage the union had with the administration.

Of greater importance –  the endorsement implies that the NEA believes there is a difference between Duncan and Obama on educational policy.  I am sorry to say that I do not believe there to be any substantial difference between the two men.  Obama explicitly agreed with Duncan’s support of the firing of all the teachers at Central Falls, to cite just one example.  

Unfortunately, the administration is likely to ignore the strong criticism of its policies contained in the resolution on Duncan and the press will go along with portraying the endorsement as “overwhelming” or “strong” support when in fact the historical record shows it to be very weak.

Such a long long LONG way from 2009….. #BevHall #Superintendentoftheyear #CheatingScandal

American Association of School Administrators – Publications – Conference Daily – Beverly Hall’s Jamaican Roots Sprout Gloriously in Atlanta


The Conference Daily

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beverly Hall’s Jamaican Roots Sprout Gloriously in Atlanta

By Jay P. Goldman


 Beverly Hall

 Beverly Hall

A Jamaican immigrant who’s as comfortable hob-nobbing with the corporate elite in her city as she is visiting with families at their kitchen table in the low-income housing projects has been named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year.

Beverly L. Hall, 60, received the distinguished honor Feb. 20 in San Francisco at the American Association of School Administrators’ 141st National Conference on Education. The award is co-sponsored annually by ARAMARK Education, ING and AASA. Hall is the 22nd recipient.

In 10 years of leading the Atlanta Public Schools toward becoming arguably the nation’s model system of urban schooling today, Hall seems to have covered all the important corners. She’s cajoled executives from General Electric, Panasonic and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, among others, to funnel more than $156 million into the initiatives she’s devised to turn around the city’s schools that serve 49,100 students. But she’s stayed grounded throughout.

A lifelong educator who was reluctant in her early career to accept a series of rapid promotions (she admits crying each time) in Brooklyn, N.Y., because it would mean breaking relationships with children she loved, Hall also tends to the grassroots. She created what her staff in Atlanta call “living room chats” to listen informally to concerns of families in their own homes in all quadrants of the city. And still the superintendent considers her most rewarding time to be spent with students.

Having served as a state-appointed superintendent in Newark, N.J., for four years and deputy chancellor in New York City Public Schools for a year before moving south, Hall is personally driven by the notion that every child, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, deserves the first-rate education she proudly relates about her own upbringing. That took shape in Jamaica in the West Indies, her place of birth, where she attended a private, all-girls school serving mostly students of color through high school graduation.

Calling it “the single most influential factor in my professional career,” Hall says she and her peers were held by their teachers to high expectations for achievement. In her senior year, with her father long deceased and her mother already emigrated to Brooklyn, she completed advanced coursework in botany, chemistry and zoology and passed exit exams administered by Oxford University in London, England.

“No one felt this was unusual and when I migrated to the U.S., I was exempt from all science requirements in my freshman year of college,” says Hall, who holds a doctorate from Fordham University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brooklyn College. “That experience convinced me that all students, when they are taught well and where there are very high standards, will achieve at high levels.”

A Transformational Leader

Recent interviews with more than a dozen fellow educators, her school board president and civic leaders suggest Hall is well on her way to closing achievement gaps that may be unprecedented in an urban school system of Atlanta’s size. Her transformation plan for the district started at the primary grades; by last summer, every elementary school made adequate yearly performance under No Child Left Behind.

With all-deliberate-speed, the district now is tackling secondary schools. A model project, at Carver High School, which had been the cellar dweller of Atlanta’s secondary schools, was subdivided into four smaller theme-based schools leading to tighter student-staff relationships. Carver’s graduation rate was 23 percent in 2003, but is expected to clear 80 percent this spring. BusinessWeek magazine in January named another the best low-income high school in the state.

“Children in the housing projects are performing just as well as those living in homes worth 500,000 to millions of dollars,” says LaChandra Butler Burks, who chairs the Atlanta Board of Education, referring particularly to major strides in elementary education.

Hall has benefitted from a largely controversy-free relationship with her nine-member board, but even that has been driven by her special skills at engaging external forces to stand on the front line with her. She persuaded several outside groups, notably the Broad and Panasonic foundations, to fund high-calibre governance training in Atlanta. This has helped to attract to board service civic-minded types who fully appreciate the difference between policy development and day-to-day practices – though only one member has remained on the board throughout Hall’s 10 years.

The stability of a supportive board and community has given Hall the breathing space she needs, leading to the distinction of the longest-running tenure of an urban school superintendent in the country. (She’s tied with John Mackiel, superintendent in Omaha, Neb., who’s also about to finish his 10th year.)

Corporate donors have jockeyed for spots in the superintendent’s “kitchen cabinet,” buoyed by the chance to invest princely sums in systemwide reforms they believe will pay off handsomely because of Hall’s strategic devices and long-term commitment to the city.

“She speaks our language,” says John G. Rice, vice chairman of General Electric, which recently committed $22 million to accelerate progress in math and science, the biggest single gift ever received by the Atlanta Public Schools. “She understands investors have choices. She wants to deliver a return, in our language, and help us to understand the language of public education. … There’s not a corporate leader who doesn’t sing Bev’s praises.”

A Savvy Networker

Right from the start of her tenure, Hall smartly fashioned a working relationship with civic leaders in Atlanta, a city known for the strength of its networking connections, according to Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has allocated $6.7 million for college readiness programs for Atlanta students in the last four years. “Connecting with the corporate community here is significantly important for a superintendent,” McPhee says. “If you’re with us, you can succeed. If you’re not, it’s an uphill climb.”

McPhee says she’s impressed by the way Hall adorns the walls of her conference room. They’re covered side to side with color-coded charts and graphs, documenting performance in five subject areas at every school, which Hall uses to monitor academics in real time rather than waiting until the end of a school year to make adjustments. She’s used the data on academic standing to change 89 percent of the city’s 93 principalships and closed 19 buildings since her arrival.

Business leaders like her authenticity, while Hall contends she’s not threatened by the heavy corporate hand in school district affairs. “When I came to Atlanta, someone said to me that the influential CEOs were, quote, tired of being lied to. … I was glad to tell the truth, so long as it wasn’t used to beat up the school system.”

Prior to Hall’s arrival, Atlanta had exhausted a series of five superintendents in 10 years. Ironically, one of those who held short appointments was J. Jerome Harris, who happened to be the centerpiece of Hall’s doctoral dissertation at Fordham. Her 175-page study, completed in 1990, was titled “Leadership, the Black Urban Superintendency, and School Reform in New York City.”

Harris was a respected superintendent in the 1980s of New York City’s admired Community School District 13, one of the first predominantly minority inner-city districts with above-average norms in student reading. In her case study, Hall wrote that Harris acted on the belief all children could learn and that as a black superintendent he inspired trust and served as a role model.

In the dissertation, she wrote: “Harris was neither controlled nor intimidated by external constituents. His relationship with his district staff and principals was demanding but, at the same time, collaborative and supportive. With parents, Harris maintained a cooperative relationship.”     

When she was read that excerpt from two decades ago, Hall conceded the depiction probably could apply now to her, as well.

Quipped Harris, who had promoted Hall in quick succession through several school-based supervisory jobs early in her career in Brooklyn: “She may have learned from me what not to do. She’s a very different personality.”

Someday, a perceptive doctoral student in educational leadership will decide Hall’s masterful touch as Atlanta’s superintendent for a decade (or more) is worthy of formal study. When that happens, Hall almost surely will dwell on her own student experiences as an exemplar for what all students should receive.

Favorite Moments

Today, in spite of all the fund-raising successes and goodwill she racks up in corporate boardrooms, she contends her favorite moments are spent with the high-flying Atlanta students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who now are attending some of the nation’s most selective New England colleges, including Bowdoin, Middlebury and Amherst. (They are the first products of the 21st Century Atlanta Scholars Program that she started in 2005-06 to provide academic and social support.)

“They are driven by what I refer to as an ‘in-spite-of’ spirit to succeed above all else,” says Hall, who has two years left on her current contract.

That doctoral study that awaits in the offing might just want to make the same claim about her.

More coverage:

AASA press release on 2009 National Superintendent of the Year announcement

What Beverly Hall’s colleagues say about her  

Mini-Sketch: Beverly Hall

Currently: superintendent, Atlanta, Ga.

Previously: superintendent, Newark, N.J.

Age: 60

Greatest influence on career: Being educated in Jamaica in the West Indies through high school. There were very high expectations for my peers and me to achieve at very high levels.  I attended an all-girls’ high school where the majority of students were of color, and by my senior year, I was taking botany, chemistry and zoology at an advanced level.  My high school exit exams were administered by Oxford University in London, England.  No one felt that this was unusual and when I migrated to the U.S., I was exempt from all science requirements in my freshman year of college. That experience convinced me that all students, when they are taught well and where there are very high standards, will achieve at high levels.

Best professional day: My best professional day was when the first graduation class of the Satellite West Junior High School program in Brooklyn, NY crossed the stage with 88 out of 100 graduates having passed qualifying exams for some of New York City’s most prestigious high schools.  That was my first administrative assignment, as an assistant principal in charge to develop the program from the ground up and the students were predominately minority students who, again, exceeded all expectations.

Books at bedside: Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama and The Mistress’s Daughter by A.M. Homes.

Biggest blooper: When one member of my staff planned a team building exercise at our annual retreat for senior team members to engage in a game of miniature golf at the end of the work day, only to find out that it was actually 18 holes of regular night golf.  Most of the team members were not golfers, I certainly wasn’t, and some had not reached their physical fitness goals.  Needless to say, they were not very happy with this development.   Luckily, the golf pro came to our rescue by providing carts, as well as “Golf Tutorial 101” for holes 3 through 18.  To this day, the team has never let me forget it!

Why I’m an AASA member: I am an AASA member so that I can remain connected to other school administrators from across the country and receive information and research on promising educational programs policies and current issues.


State Investigation Reveals Widespread Cheating in Atlanta Schools – District Dossier – Education Week

State Investigation Reveals Widespread Cheating in Atlanta Schools – District Dossier – Education Week

State Investigation Reveals Widespread Cheating in Atlanta Schools

Beverly L. Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta schools, knew about cheating allegations on state standardized tests and either ignored or tried to hide them, the Associated Press reported after obtaining a copy of an 800-page state investigation report.

Earlier today, Gov. Nathan Deal’s office released a synopsis of the report’s findings, which noted that investigators found evidence of cheating at close to 80 percent of the Atlanta schools where they examined the 2009 administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, or CRCT. Teachers and principals at more than four dozen schools are accused of helping students, or changing the answers once students handed in their test sheet.

The synopsis left open the question of how much Hall might have known about the cheating. According to the AP’s examination of the entire report, several educators reported cheating in their schools, and Hall and other administrators ignored those reports and sometimes retaliated against the whistleblowers.

The result was inflated test scores that led to thousands of children being denied the remedial education they were entitled to, state officials said Tuesday. More than 80 educators have so far confessed to misconduct, and investigators say the cheating dated back years, to at least 2001.

Hall’s attorney, Richard Deane, told the Associated Press in a written statement that “Dr. Hall steadfastly denies that she, her staff, or the vast majority of APS teaching and administrative professionals knew or should have known of any allegedly widespread cheating,” He also wrote that Hall “further denies any other allegations of knowing and deliberate wrongdoing on her part or on the part of her senior staff, whether during the course of the investigation or before the investigation began.”

The 48,000-student Atlanta district has been under a cloud for the past two years, ever since an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found improbably high results on the CRCT, which Georgia uses to determine whether schools have made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Gov. Nathan DealBased in part on what appeared to be Atlanta’s strong results on standardized tests, Hall was hailed as a model for urban superintendents. In 2009, she was honored by the American Association of School Administrators as superintendent of the year. But amid the investigations and instability on the school board, she announced that she would not be seeking a contract extension, and left the district this June after 12 years.

Under Hall, the district investigated the allegations and said there was no evidence of cheating. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue called the district’s own investigation “woefully inadequate” and appointed an independent investigator. About a month before she stepped down, Hall acknowledged in a videotaped farewell that the results of the report would be “alarming.”

The report synopsis states that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools System were involved in cheating. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct.

Six principals refused to answer questions under the ground that they might incriminate themselves, which, “under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing,” the report states. “These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that, there was test cheating in their schools.” In all, the investigators reported finding cheating in 44 of the 56 schools they examined.

In addition, the report synopsis states:

  • Cheating occurred as early as 2001.
  • There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored.
  • Cheating was caused by a number of factors, but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment.
  • There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT.
  • A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct.
  • In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, there were several other instances of misconduct, including several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction.

At a press conference earlier today, Gov. Nathan Deal said “there will be consequences” for the teachers and principals who falsified test results, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

During a somber briefing this afternoon, School Board Chairman Brenda J. Muhammad and interim Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. told reporters today that the teachers and principals who falsified test sheets will face sanctions from the district.

“These people are not going to be put in front of children again,” Mr. Davis said. “I don’t know what makes people cheat, but it is not pressure to perform that does that.” The district expects that its employees will operate within ethical boundaries, he said.

Muhammad stressed that only a fraction of the district’s employees have been accused of participating in attempts to boost test scores.

“I want to speak to the teachers who have done the right thing. We want to thank you. It’s just a few out of 6,000 or more who have committed this grave, grave sin,” Muhammad said. She also deflected questions about former Superintendent Hall. “We want to address the present and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Biden speaks to the NEA…should they listen?


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