Eric Celeste Smacks Down Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How’s our old co-worker Eric Celeste doing in Atlanta? I’m glad you asked.

Awhile back, I pointed you to a study the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did on cheating on standardized tests across the country. The AJC found 196 districts — including DISD and more than a dozen other North Texas districts — with data that strongly suggested hanky-panky. Just hang on there, Eric says. In a 2,000-word post to his paper’s blog, he explains how the AJC blew it. Sample:

The paper knew [it was overstating how many districts were cheating and that the data used to arrive at its conclusions were] deeply flawed and decided to publish anyway, because it didn’t have the time, resources, or desire to dive deeper into these numbers. I say this based on conversations I’ve had with school administrators, detailed responses by the districts themselves, and an expert who advised the paper and told it specifically why these numbers were not only wrong, but irresponsible to publish. In fact, I’m more certain of my conclusions than you should be of the notion the AJC‘s report indicates widespread cheating on the level the story asserts.

Eric says that an expert hired to help the AJC parse the data was astonished that the paper prematurely published the story.

No more astonished than Jon Dahlander, the public information officer for the Dallas Independent School District. On Friday in the afternoon, he received a call from the AJC, alerting him that Dallas’ school system was flagged in the AJC report. He was not asked to respond, but was told the report was going up over the weekend, so he was asked for his cellphone number in case the paper wanted to follow up on Sunday. (I guess to, I dunno, ask “How did THAT nutkick feel?”) He did find an email address for a reporter at the paper so he could quickly give some sort of response. He says two hours later he received a call from NBC Nightly News, asking him to respond to the report.

“Respond?” he said. “I haven’t even seen it.”

How did NBC Nightly News see it? Because the paper had apparently hired a TV marketing firm, A-1 Broadcast, to pimp the project.

You know, reading all this carefully reported, well-written copy on an important topic, it almost makes me wish that I hadn’t fired Eric.

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