Former principal of Parks Middle: “Children were not cheated, even though cheating did take place.”

The worst cheating in Atlanta Public Schools occurred at Parks Middle School, which was led by charismatic principal Christopher Waller. While Waller admitted to orchestrating cheating, he took a plea deal to avoid prison and is now a pastor at an Atlanta church.

He is also now an author, publishing his own account of the APS cheating scandals in “Cheating but Not Cheated.

The book depicts a more positive view of Parks and Waller’s leadership. Waller maintains that while cheating occurred on tests, teachers and staff worked hard on behalf of the students in the school.

Waller took the stand at the recent APS trial. Here is a brief AJC account of his court appearance:

Waller freely admitted orchestrating cheating on standardized tests over a four-year period when he served as principal at Parks Middle. He also told jurors that when questions about cheating surfaced, the message from his direct supervisor was loud and clear: keep your mouth shut.

With a touch of nostalgia, if not irony, Waller took the stand wearing a black sweater vest with the Parks Middle School emblem over his heart that included the slogan “Eliminating The Achievement Gap.”

Before a wrong-to-right erasure analysis flagged more classrooms at Parks for suspiciously high test scores than any other school in the state, Parks was celebrated by then-Superintendent Beverly Hall as a model for student achievement.

“It’s no secret I was the poster child” for student achievement, Waller testified. “Dr. Hall promoted me, she lauded me. She held me up as a banner, a flag. … Consequently, I also became the poster child for the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal.”

Waller was among 35 defendants indicted in the test-cheating scandal, charged with racketeering and four other felonies. In February, he pleaded guilty to a single felony count — false statements and writings. He was sentenced to five years on probation, ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service and required to pay $50,000 in court costs, fines and restitution. He also agreed to testify for the prosecution.

Here is an excerpt of Waller’s book:

wallerI want to clarify the difference between cheating and cheating children. One of the major media frenzies out of this scandal was that children were cheated. After working at the school for more than five years and seeing the means of the students and the families in the Parks Middle School community, I highly took offense to that, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on why I know children at Parks Middle School were not cheated. Cheating did take place at Parks Middle School, but our children were not cheated.

Students lived in a very rough community; they also had very low socioeconomic bases. Some of these students were growing up in a single-parent environment; others were living with grandparents; some were raising siblings. We tried to put things in place to make sure the kids came to school every single day and they recognized the school as a sanctuary. We did not use the ‘pull the cat out of the hat’ approach to academic learning. We taught standards. We taught to the tests. We tutored. We used differentiated instruction. We did all of the stuff that are best practices that needed to take place for instruction. I’m willing to bet that is what occurred at most, if not all, of the Atlanta Public Schools.

The initial onset of cheating was not to get kids to meet the standard. Cheating started because of the targets that had been handed down from APS administration. You were constantly in competition against yourself to meet the targets. Even though the kids who performed at one level moved on to another grade level; they set the standard for the grade level behind them. It became increasingly more difficult to meet that target of kids exceeding the standard from year to year. Once you get up beyond the 84th or 85th percentile in a Title I school, it’s more difficult to get to the 90th percentile or above.

Kids at my school were exposed to a lot of opportunities. Teachers provided both morning and afternoon tutorials. We started contracts with private companies to assist the teachers.  Educators would take kids out of class to hold additional tutorial groups during the day to catch students up, as well as Saturday tutorials. We held lock-ins at the school to prepare kids for the writing test. Several teachers stayed after work and were not paid extra to prepare. How many people would do that in their professions?

Our kids were sent to places that their peers in other schools never had a chance to go. We wanted the kids to realize that the world was much larger than the community in which they resided. Our kids had opportunities to go on trips to Canada, Washington, D.C., and the rain forests of Puerto Rico.  We found a way that no child was left out that deserved to go.

All of our children had opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, whether they could afford it or not. If the parents could not pay for uniforms, supplies, camps, or other needs, we found a way to make it happen. We ensured every kid could be included. Any activity that was done at any other school in APS, the kids at Parks had, if not the same activity or better activity, they had a similar activity. They were never left behind.

Nobody wants to talk about the success of the students at Parks Middle School. We didn’t follow the kids to high school. ..Students increased their self-esteem; they started seeing things differently. They saw a way out. So one of the major things that I want to really make sure that we put on the record, and as a part of what we do and say, is that there was cheating, but the children at Parks Middle School were not cheated. I would argue that you would not get a child from Parks that would really tell you directly that they missed out on something academically or socially because of the erasures that took place at school.

There are many students from Parks who have finished high school, finished college, some in graduate school, law school or medical school. They’re making a difference in our local and global community. Children were not cheated, even though cheating did take place.

 

Reader Comments 0

26 comments
Parksiann
Parksiann

In other words, convicted felon Christopher Waller shares the same contempt this newspaper column does—for testing and accountability.

BCW1
BCW1

What? Excuses...excuses...excuses!! Cheating is cheating plain and simple.

PJ25
PJ25

Absolutely no accountability in APS.  No wonder the judge is po'd. 

anothercomment
anothercomment

Waller = the definition of a Sociopath. just as the other 8 that still would not take the sentencing plea deals and Big Bev, who wanted to get away with only taking an ALford plea. They are all Sociopaths. They will go down believing they are write. They do not give a damn about anyone else.

Perhaps every school district should have every prospective teacher and administer take the little 300 or so multiple choice question physcatric profile test, that workers comp companies like to give to see if you are a malingerer or someone prone to committing fraud or lying about your case, even if you've had multiple surgeries.

redweather
redweather

Having spent the last few minutes reading excerpts from this book all I can say is, "Yikes!"


There ought to be a law against publishing something that poorly written.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather


"There ought to be a law against publishing something that poorly written."


And this guy was a principal. God only knows how semi literate his staff was.

Starik
Starik

''There are many students from Parks who have finished high school, finished college, some in graduate school, law school or medical school.''  

Fact check?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Starik He didn't say they were at the school when the cheating was happening, did he?  It could have been from 30 years ago.

MD3
MD3

Since when would teaching to the test (which he admitted they did) be considered best practice? I'd hope and expect that the teachers in charge of my son's education would be giving him a much more well-rounded and complete educational experience, rather than just teaching to the test...

NATIVE_ATL
NATIVE_ATL

I hear everyone state how bad the cheating was.  And it was but Popacorn along with Astropig never have one ioda of what should be done to make sure all kids have an opportunity.  I'm sure your solution would be to send them to Charter schools.   And how do you think they should be transported????  I know you would say these parents shouldn't have the kids in the first place - you might be right - but they are here now.   I will be volunteering at the new academy - I'm waiting for them to have me.   You see I'm willing to help clean up a mess - Never mind I didn't create it.  I'm here to help.

Astropig
Astropig

@NATIVE_ATL


When have I EVER said that these parents shouldn't have these kids? EVER? I have not. I have three kids of my own and kids are a gift and a blessing and a challenge and the greatest thing in the world.


This is why I no longer respond to hateful,ignorant trolls. Go wallow in your bile with someone else.

popacorn
popacorn

Wow, no shame whatsoever. Hopefully, this fraud is not representative of too many educators...

Astropig
Astropig

Can't wait 'til he comes on TV! He has all the makings of a snake oil selling,refried jeezus wheezing, phony baloney televangelist.Then he can expand the scope of his swindling to millions, instead of  just the Atlanta metro area.


I hope his congregation has a good honest church bookkeeper. They're going to need one.

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

In the fourth paragraph of the excerpt, Waller wrote: "Educators would take kids out of class to hold additional tutorial groups during the day to catch students up".


Waller is wrong.  Much research has proven that pulling students out of class and putting them in remediation in another room does NOT actually help those students catch up!


living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I don't even know where to start here.  I can't even read the entire post. So this guy is trying to profit from this scandal with a book???   Is he donating all of the proceeds to charity?   SERIOUSLY?   The guy took a plea deal and should have kept his mouth SHUT.  Now he's showing his true colors - in denial just like nearly all of the defendants who stood trial. 


No one is saying that these children didn't learn, or that some did.  But the school's brand has been tarnished.  Kids now have a big fat Scarlet A on their foreheads because the educators decided to cheat and lead the students to believing they were making greater gains than they really were.  


I'm sorry, but this guy was wrong to try and profit from this scandal.   There are other ways to clear your name.

LarrySchall
LarrySchall

Oh boy. I wish former Principal Waller had left this alone. One of my issues with the jail sentences handed down to those  who opted to go to trial is that certain defendants who made a deal and got no jail time were more culpable than those going to jail. There's something wrong with that even if those who pled guilty were forced to apologize. Those apologies helped not one student.  I won't argue with the fact that the teachers and principals who cheated tried in other ways to help their students. I am sure they did. But that certainly doesn't mean that they didn't do wrong by the students by altering answers. Of course they did. To try to suggest otherwise is inexcusable in my book.

PJ25
PJ25

 While Waller admitted to orchestrating cheating, he took a plea deal to avoid prison and is now a pastor at an Atlanta church.

From one crooked career to another!  Classic!  At least there's a fair amount of cash to skim at church.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Just another self-published book, with no information about publisher on the link provided but how to use PayPal. He's paid to have this self-serving justification printed, and now he's hoping to use this blog to recoup his costs.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf


Quite reprehensible for a criminal to profit from their crime,don't you agree?