“If there’s a problem, we’re going to fix it,” GE’s John Rice says of test scores at APS

By Maria Saporta

The reception Wednesday evening to welcome Bill McCargo, the new CEO for the Atlanta Education Fund, turned into a commitment ceremony that possible cheating on state test scores would not be tolerated.

“If we do find at any time evidence of any cheating, it will be dealt with swiftly,” Beverly Hall, superintendent for the Atlanta Public Schools, told those attending the reception at the 191 Club. “I’ve based my entire career on honesty.”

John Rice, chairman of the Atlanta Education Fund and a vice chairman of GE, said the group will launch an independent investigation and review of whether cheating occurred with statewide test scores. Some of the tests had a high percentage of erasures with corrected answers, which has raised doubts on the validity of the results.

The Atlanta Education Fund (AEF) is an independent group of business and civic leaders established to support Atlanta’s public schools.

“This investigation has not started,” Rice said, adding that the group is currently working to select a firm to do the investigation.

“We are going to focus on two things — what happened and what the data is telling us. Obviously, there are some statistical anomalies, which we will review and take whatever corrective action is needed,” Rice said. “The second thing is to make sure we have the best-in-class testing process starting in April.”

While addressing the group, Rice said he had been on the phone with Hall and others all weekend. They all agreed on what needed to be done.

“If there’s a problem, we’re going to fix it, and we’re going to move on,” Rice said. “That’s going to start with the April testing. We are going to let the facts determine what steps we take.”

Once Rice and Hall spoke about the testing scores, they finally got around to the purpose of the evening — to introduce McCargo as the new president and CEO of the organization.

“Bill, we never promised you a rose garden,” Rice told him.

McCargo had spent a 31-year career with Scientific Atlanta and its parent Cisco Systems before retiring last fall. McCargo succeeded AEF’s founding CEO, Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, who left last year for a job in New York.

“I thought I was supposed to have a honeymoon period,” said McCargo, who started in December. And then he too addressed the topic of the day. “We are going to figure this out and be sure that the kids have a pure test in April.”

Hall also said there are other checks and balances. There are the national tests, which have shown significant progress at Atlanta’s public schools.

In other news, Rice announced that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had agreed to join the AEF board and would be attending the organization’s next meeting.

In fact the reception Wednesday night had a special flare because both Reed and his predecessor, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, were there to express their support for Atlanta’s public schools.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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