Another Miracle Worker Bites The Dust

Atlanta public schools’ superintendant Beverly Hall joins the ranks of disgraced educational miracle workers:

Dr. Beverly Hall and her medal

…Longtime Atlanta schools chief Beverly Hall has been lauded nationally as a top leader for turning around struggling urban districts, but she retires this week amid allegations of widespread cheating and accusations that she ordered a cover-up of test tampering.

It’s not quite the ending Hall’s supporters imagined for her nearly 12-year career as the superintendent of the 50,000-student district – where nearly three-fourths of students live at or below the poverty line.

The 64-year-old Jamaica native won the national Superintendent of the Year award in 2009 and landed on short lists for U.S. Department of Education jobs. Even her long tenure in Atlanta stands out nationally: few urban school superintendents stay in one district longer than four years.

But now Hall’s actions are among those being scrutinized as part of yearlong criminal investigation into the cheating allegations, which stem from a state report showing high numbers of erasures on standardized tests given to Atlanta students in 2009. And the district faces losing accreditation after school board squabbles over the scandal led to the system being put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools…

Hall’s tenure reminds me of that of Philadelphia schools’ superintendent Constance Clayton. Like Hall, the credulous local media declared her to be the one the city had been waiting for. She too was declared destined for higher office, in her case, mayor and U.S. Secretary of Education.

After a while, it became clear, even to many of those who had worshiped her, that the claims of skyrocketing test scores were another pipe dream, and she left with none of the fanfare that greeted her arrival as the first black woman schools’ chief.

Hall’s case is also similar to former D.C. schools’ head Michelle Rhee. There teachers and principals were accused of test tampering, but for some reason the media have not gone after Rhee, probably because they have invested so much of their own credibility in her “achievements.”

This ought to be cause for skepticism when it comes to educational miracle workers, but I suspect the naive media will fall for the next one just as hard as they did for the last ones.

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