Perceptions of Paradox

Illusions of Professional Skepticism

Perceptions of Paradox:   Illusions of Professional Skepticism

When I saw Beverly Hall's picture, I was reminded of my favorite elementary school teacher, Mrs. Foreman. Hall was Jamaican- American and her smile, like Mrs. Foreman's,  seemed extraordinarily kind. She was the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools and named the national superintendent of the year in February 2009 by the American  Association of School Administrators. The honor had been earned by raising test scores,  including those on standardized tests that had been designed to hold teachers accountable as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

By October the test scores were under scrutiny after being deemed statistically improbable. The truth was, there was cheating going on. A lot of cheating, but this time it wasn't by students. Erasure patterns were discovered on answer sheets that made it appear as though educators had corrected student's answers immediately after the testing. Students that had learning disabilities suddenly became proficient in math and reading, and students who were considered gifted went from exceptional to perfect.

In the fall of 2010, fifty agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation started questioning teachers about the conspiracy to falsify test scores. They considered Hall to be the ringleader. An accusation she vehemently denied. She allegedly offered cash bonuses to teachers who could meet the minimum score targets. The culture in the schools became one of unrelenting pressure to raise scores, and the cheating had reportedly been an open secret for years.

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Social Immune Systems

The Hidden Psychology of High-Stakes Organizational Decisions



The hidden psychology of high stakes organizational decisions

          Some of the very best critical thinking research in the world has been done with flight crews and medical teams.  There is an almost endless number of fascinating cases to explore. There's one, though, that I've become more obsessed with than others.  It happened on Thursday, January 25th, 1990.  At 9:34 pm, after a long flight and multiple holding patterns, Avianca flight 52 was given clearance to land on runway 22L at JFK.  Wind shear was terrible that night and visibility was limited.  The crew found themselves descending quickly and only 200 feet off the ground more than a mile from the airport.  If you listen to the cockpit voice recorder, you hear the captain abruptly ask the first officer where the runway is, and the first officer answers “I don’t see it."  The ground proximity warning system gave them voice alerts to pull up, and they executed a missed approach.  Their go-around ended in disaster when they crashed 20 miles northeast of the airport in Cove Neck, killing 73 of the 158 people on board.  The crumpled fuselage looked a lot like a crushed soda can and came to rest only 20 feet from the back of John and Katy McEnroe's house, the parents of tennis legend John McEnroe.  What's so frustrating about the Avianca accident is it seems that the warning signs should have shone like neon beacons.  The fact is though, they didn't, they only became visible in hindsight.  I recognize these symptoms better now and after you hear the rest of the story, I bet you will too.

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