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Atlanta Schools Chief Plans 2011 Departure Amid Testing Investigation

By guest blogger Christina A. Samuels:

A year ago, Beverly L. Hall was chosen as the national superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators. Her 11-year tenure in Atlanta was considered to be "a model of urban school reform," AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech said at the time.

Atlanta Schools Superintendent Beverly HallOver the weekend, Hall announced that she does not plan to seek an extension of her current contract, which is up in June, with the 48,000-student district. The move came as investigators planned to look into allegations that test scores at some Atlanta schools were improperly boosted.

Hall now joins Ron Huberman in Chicago, Michelle Rhee in Washington, and Joel I. Klein in New York as the latest leader of a large district to resign in recent weeks.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Hall's decision to leave the district was expected, amid concerns about inflated test results that spilled over into school board dysfunction.

The newspaper's articles into what appeared to be higher-than-expected gains on statewide tests at some city schools prompted an investigation from the district, but Gov. Sonny Perdue said that the district's investigation was not thorough enough and appointed his own independent investigator.

There has been no evidence that Hall was directly involved with the alleged tampering. But the testing irregularities soured her reputation at home, even as her star was rising nationwide. She chairs Harvard University's Urban Superintendents Program Advisory Board, and in June 2009, she was elected for a one-year term as secretary-treasurer of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 67 of the nation's largest urban public school systems. President Barack Obama also nominated Hall in June to serve on the National Board for Education Sciences but the U.S. Senate has not yet acted on that appointment.

UPDATE: I've received some responses to the news of Hall's departure from education figures who worked with her.

Domenech, the executive director of the AASA, the group that presented Hall with the superintendent of the year award, said he believes her plans to step down predated the concerns over testing. "I'm pretty sure her intent to retire was probably there," he said, and it's unfortunate that the timing makes it look as if the events were linked.

"I think she's a hero; she's one of our best superintendents," Domenech added. "She's entitled to a break and retirement for the work she did."

Gene Bottoms, the senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, an organization that works to improve education in 16 states, said that Hall has been a leader in the region.

"I think she's been good for the city," he said. "I suspect she got tired, and she'll be missed."

Photo credit: Christopher Powers/Education Week

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