APS disciplined 2 school leaders over testing violation

Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy. (Photo from Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy’s Facebook page)
Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy. (Photo from Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy’s Facebook page)

Two Atlanta elementary school administrators received suspensions after a district investigation found testing irregularities that a principal failed to document and report “in a timely manner.”

In September, the Atlanta Public Schools’ Office of Internal Compliance began looking into an anonymous complaint made on the district’s ethics hotline. It alleged Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy assistant principal Kiya Crandall copied a district “benchmark” test and shared it with teachers a week before the test was administered to students in early 2017.

The school’s principal, Lincoln Woods, allegedly did not inform district officials about the incident, which the internal review determined violated the district’s testing security plan.

Crandall will serve a three-day, unpaid suspension next month, and Woods was suspended for one unpaid day in December, according to letters sent Nov. 17 by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Crandall disputed that she copied and shared an entire test. She told the investigators she included “four or five” questions in a presentation for teachers because she wanted “to generate discussions around how to implement strategies in the classroom to ensure the teaching curriculum was in alignment with the source materials tested,” according to district documents first obtained by WSB-TV and then The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Crandall said she canceled remaining teacher meetings after Woods, who acknowledged a second-grade teacher told him about the incident, instructed her not to share the information, the report stated.

Woods told investigators that once he learned about it he discussed the “inappropriateness” of Crandall’s actions with her.

The actions violated the educators ethics code and academic integrity policy, according to district documents.

The review determined that “at a minimum, the principal should have documented and communicated the irregularity to the system test coordinator.”

Woods could be reached for comment. Crandall declined to comment.

“Atlanta Public Schools takes any allegation of testing irregularity very seriously. The district is focused on building a culture of trust and collaboration where every student will graduate ready for college and career,” said a statement issued Friday by district spokesman Ian Smith.

APS developed the benchmark test to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses as well as adjust curriculum and instruction. It doesn’t affect a student’s grade.

The school district contends the Tuskegee test incident "is completely different" than previous widespread cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. That test was at the center of the major conspiracy in which Atlanta teachers corrected students' answers. The scandal led to the 2015 criminal convictions of 11 APS teachers and administrators.

The benchmark test is not that kind of high-stakes test, according to APS.

“This test is only used for instructional purposes and not for any hiring/firing decisions. There are no bonuses/awards based upon these results. In the previous CRCT manipulation, teachers testified that they were scared for their jobs and felt compelled to change answers to hit targets associated with both incentives and to avoid penalties,” Smith said, in an email.

APS did not notify parents of the investigative findings or the discipline at Tuskegee. Smith stated that was because it was not a high-stakes test and because the situation was treated “as a personnel matter.”

The compliance office also reviewed another complaint to the ethics hotline about Tuskegee at the same time in September as the testing allegation. That investigation determined the school did not follow procedure for volunteers working in the school.

The academy was created a couple of years ago by merging Connally and Venetian Hills Elementary schools as part of the district's strategy to turnaround struggling schools.

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