Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Truth-O-Meter gets education on education

Interim APS Superintendent Erroll Davis speaks to the press about the district's cheating scandal. Last week, the Truth-O-Meter checked three claims about the controversy.
Interim APS Superintendent Erroll Davis speaks to the press about the district's cheating scandal. Last week, the Truth-O-Meter checked three claims about the controversy.

A state investigation that confirmed reports of widespread cheating at Atlanta Public Schools sent politicians into full spin mode. Last week, PolitiFact Georgia found some of those pols were well worth a fact check -- or two.

The Truth-O-Meter first put former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to the test. She said ex- Superintendent Beverly Hall, who was implicated in the scandal, left APS better than she found it. Franklin earned another check when she said that only a small percentage of district educators were involved in cheating.   

Midweek, PolitiFact Georgia took a break from education matters to see whether Gov. Nathan Deal fulfilled a promise on zero-based budgeting. Then we aimed the Truth-O-Meter at state Rep. Ralph Long, who laid some of the blame for APS cheating at the feet of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

How did politicians fare? Read shortened versions of these fact checks below.

To comment on our findings, hit the "like" button on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Ex-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin: Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall left the school district "significantly better than she found it."

As Hall’s term as APS superintendent came to a close, Franklin gave her this positive review in a post on her website Blogging While Blue.

Wait a second. What about that test-tampering scandal? Investigators recently determined that the test-score success that rocketed Hall to national acclaim was the result of widespread cheating by educators.

We looked into data Franklin used to demonstrate Hall improved the APS. At least two numbers are clouded by the APS’ integrity crisis, and two are unconfirmed. School construction was the only clear-cut accomplishment of the Hall administration that Franklin mentioned, and it does not outweigh the trouble the district now faces.  

After Hall’s term, the district’s academic reputation, culture and integrity are in shambles. How can it possibly be better off?  

Franklin earns a Pants On Fire.

Deal-O-Meter
Promise: Use zero-based budgeting


Last year, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal proposed during his successful campaign that the state use this rigorous approach to determine whether state agencies need each dollar they want.

With the state embarking on a new budget year that began July 1, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide an update on how Deal is doing with this pledge.

Five Republican lawmakers from Georgia’s House of Representatives proposed House Bill 33 earlier this year to implement zero-based budgeting. The measure did not pass.

It may succeed next year, but for now, we rate this campaign promise as Stalled.

State Rep. Ralph Long "The [Georgia] General Assembly took away the Atlanta Board of Education’s oversight of the superintendent."

An alarming state report released last week blamed teachers, administrators and former Superintendent Beverly Hall for a widespread test-tampering scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools system.

Long, a Democrat  from southwest Atlanta, added another group to the culpability list: the Georgia General Assembly.

Long was referring to Senate Bill 204, which passed in 2003, six years before he joined the General Assembly. The bill gave the superintendent the power to hire the school district’s general counsel and chief financial officer. It also imposed ethics guidelines for school administrators and the board.

The bill’s chief sponsor: then-Sen. Kasim Reed, who is now Atlanta’s mayor.

SB 204 gave more authority to the superintendent but still gave the board the oversight. The board also had consent power over hiring and firing a CFO or general counsel.

We rate his claim Barely True.

Ex- Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin: "95 percent of teachers and principals are not implicated in the [Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal] report at all."

Franklin won’t let a cheating scandal of historic proportions darken her sunny assessment of Atlanta’s public schools.

Franklin told WXIA 11 Alive that critics need to put the controversy in perspective. A state investigation into the scandal implicated only a small percentage of the district’s educators, she said in the above claim.

The arithmetic behind the number Franklin used in her claim is accurate. But the impression she gave ignores crucial context. More than half the district’s middle and elementary school principals were implicated, and cheating took place at nearly two-thirds of APS schools.

These percentages may be lower than the true number of cheaters.

Franklin earns a Half True.