APS Cheating Scandal

Newsroom Roundup
1:02 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Ebola, Housing Among Top Issues To Watch This Year

As 2015 gets going, we’re checking in with WABE reporters on some of the stories and trends they’ll be watching.


The state legislature will have to wrestle with transportation issues this year. Michelle Wirth says a funding problem is looming.

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6:11 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

Cheating Trial Judge Changes Stance On News Report Ban

Credit Kent Johnson / AJC

The judge in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial apologized today after stopping a television news report from being broadcast.

Judge Jerry Baxter signed an emergency motion Friday on behalf of the prosecution.

He lifted that order this morning.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports the reason behind all the drama.

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5:52 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

In Cheating Trial, Atlanta Parent: "Don’t make my baby out to be a monster"

Keylina Clark cries as she answers questions about her son.
Credit BOB ANDRES: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Tuesday was  intense in the Atlanta cheating trial.

A parent breaks down on the stand while testifying about her special needs son.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports why the parent became upset.

In 2008, Keylina Clark’s son was struggling at Blalock Elementary.

He was a special needs student and was placed in what’s called an

Individualized Education Program  or I-E-P which is used to identify specific resources for special needs


But all students take the yearly standardized exam.

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6:38 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

In Atlanta Cheating Trial Prosecutors Focusing on Former Executive

In this file photo, Tamara Cotman listens to testimony during the Atlanta cheating trial.
Credit Kent D. Johnson, Multimedia Photojournalist, Atlanta Journal Constitution

In week three of the Atlanta Schools cheating trial, prosecutors are turning their focus to a former executive director.

Tamara Cotman has already been acquitted of influencing a witness.

That was last year and it too was related to the cheating scandal.

But as WABE’s Rose Scott reports, the state is now trying to link Cotman to the district’s widespread cheating and the attempt to cover it up.

For a long time, students at Harper Archer Middle School struggled in math.

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7:12 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Former Atlanta Teacher: "We Changed the Answers."

Retired APS math teacher Oliver Banks during his testimony Wednesday morning.
Credit Kent Johnson / AJC

 A longtime teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools says he and others were doing what they were told when they changed answers on the state’s 2009 standardized exam.


For the first time in the trial, the jury heard how some educators physically changed answers and it was from 76-year-old Oliver Banks.

He resigned in 2010 after 49 years as a teacher at Gideons Elementary.

“I felt bad about what I had done. It was just a pain. It was a pain, I could not stand it, you know, just stay there and face those people every day knowing that I done what I did.”

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12:02 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Atlanta Cheating Trial Judge: What's the Importance of Race?

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter is presiding over the Atlanta schools cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Are race and poverty relevant to the Atlanta cheating trial case? The presiding judge told the prosecution it wasn’t.

In the middle of questioning a school administrator, Fulton County District attorney Fani Willis kept asking about the race and economic status of students in specific APS schools.

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6:40 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

State Witness Recalls 2006 Cheating Probe at Parks Middle School

Fulton County prosecutor Clint Rucker questions state witness Reginald Dukes. Dukes investigated cheating at Parks Middle School in 2006.
Credit Kent D. Johnson, Multimedia Photojournalist/AJC

A private investigator hired by the Atlanta Public Schools says his 2006 probe found cheating at Parks Middle School. That was the testimony heard today as week two of the cheating trial continues. Prosecutors focused on evidence alleging district officials purposely ignored that report.

In 2006, Reginald Dukes, an outside investigator was asked to look into allegations of cheating and corruption at Parks. It came after anonymous letters cited misconduct under Principal Christopher Waller. Duke’s findings were revealed in his report about cheating on an 8th grade writing test.

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5:03 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Test Expert Takes the Stand in Atlanta Cheating Trial

Gregory Cizek is a psychometrics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He testified as a testing expert for the state.
Kent Johnson The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A testing expert took the stand Wednesday in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial. Some defense attorneys questioned the state’s investigation. That was triggered after an analysis found an unusual number of erasures on state tests at several APS schools.

Gregory Cizek has written books about preventing and detecting cheating. Defense Attorney Benjamin Davis, who represents a former key administrator, questioned Cizek about the use of data.

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5:16 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Student Testifies Teacher Gave Answers On Standardized Exam

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter presides over the trial Tuesday morning.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Prosecutors began calling their witnesses in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial.

These were the first in what’s expected to be a long list of witnesses alleging widespread cheating within APS and an attempt to cover it up.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports the state focused on a particular student.

That student is now 17-years old.

A few years ago, while a student at Cascade Elementary in Southwest Atlanta, she struggled academically, especially in reading.

But when it came time to take the yearly CRCT, Georgia’s standardized test, the student excelled.

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Atlanta Public Schools
1:43 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

APS Cheating Trial Day 2: Live Tweets, Part 1

Fulton Senior Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker questions witness Justina Collins during testimony Tuesday.
Kent Johnson Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Rose Scott is covering the trial of the 12 former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of a conspiracy to raise school scores by changing the answers on student tests.  The trial enters its second day of testimony today.

Here are Rose's tweets from the morning of Tuesday, September 30.  They are arranged in chronological order.

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6:23 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Prosecutors Say Atlanta Cheating Was Cleverly Disguised

Prosecutor Fani Willis addressing the jurors during the prosecution's opening statements
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cheating within several Atlanta Public Schools was cleverly disguised.

That’s what prosecutors told the jury as opening statements in the trial of 12 APS educators got underway.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports on the first day of the long awaited trial.

The defendants sat alongside their attorneys and listened as assistant district attorney Fani Willis told the jury what evidence would prove the cheating conspiracy.

It included, giving students answers, hiding in a closet to change answers and threatening to fire teachers if their classes didn’t make high scores.

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APS Cheating Scandal
1:30 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Trial Underway in Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Case

Prosecutor Fani Willis (seen here during the jury selection process last August) made opening statements during the first day of the trial.
Credit Kent D. Johnson / The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Prosecutors say 12 former Atlanta Public Schools educators and administrators cheated, lied and stole as part of a widespread but cleverly disguised conspiracy that affected thousands of students.

  In opening statements, prosecutor Fani Willis told jurors in Fulton County Superior Court that they would hear from current and former APS students, teachers, parents and administrators in the coming weeks. The trial is expected to last months. Opening statements for the defendants' attorneys will begin Monday afternoon.

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Atlanta Public Schools
4:51 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Cheating Trial Underway with Jury Selection Process

Prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare for pre-trial arguments.
Kent D. Johnson/The Atlanta Journal Constitution

The first group of prospective jurors for the upcoming Atlanta schools cheating trial arrived at Fulton County Superior Court today.

The final twelve jurors and eleven alternates will come from over a thousand initially summoned.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports, the trial of the twelve former APS educators could be lengthy and expensive.

In courtroom 1C, which is called a ceremonial courtroom, the first set of potential jurors was given a questionnaire.

And they were also given a procedural speech by Judge Jerry Baxter which included instructions to be on time.

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6:00 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Judge Hears Arguments On APS Judge's Possible Recusal

A Fulton County judge Monday heard arguments on whether the presiding judge in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial should recuse himself from the case.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua is now weighing the arguments concerning Judge Jerry Baxter.

Attorneys for the 13 remaining APS defendants argue Baxter wrongly contacted the Court of Appeals in order to sway the outcome of a motion filed by defendant Tamara Cotman. They also allege Baxter wrongly defended his actions to the media after the calls were made known to the defense. 

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Atlanta Public Schools
6:10 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Judge Denies Motion in APS Cheating Case

Fulton County prosecutors used this an example of how scanners of standardized tests can detect erasure marks. Defense attorneys wanted items like this thrown out as evidence.
Credit Rose Scott / WABE News

There’s analysis of erasures on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test that’s tied to the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

Should that analysis be part of the evidence in the court trial against defendants including former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall?

Defense lawyers today argued no. But, the Fulton County Superior Court Judge in the case denied the defense motion.

For Friday’s 5:44 segment with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, WABE’s Rose Scott talked about arguments in court and the judge’s ruling.

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6:01 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Judge Delays Dr. Beverly Hall's Trial

Dr. Laura Weakland, Dr. Hall's oncologist, testified Monday in Fulton County Superior Court.
Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Fulton County Superior Court judge Monday granted a 4 month delay in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial against former superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall. That means the trial will start in August instead of this month. Attorneys for Hall called for a delay due to Hall’s medical condition. She has Stage IV breast cancer.

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4:23 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Judge Postpones Beverly Hall's Trial Until August Due To Health Concerns

Dr. Beverly Hall
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

TWEETS FROM THE COURTROOM: After a hearing where he heard competing views of Dr. Beverly Hall's health, Judge Jerry Baxter ruled that he will delay the trial of Dr. Hall until August because of her health.

Dr. Hall's oncologist, Dr. Laura Weakland of Georgia Cancer Specialists, testified about Dr. Hall's health at the request of Judge Baxter.  Dr. Hall has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and her lawyers had requested a delay of her trial.

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Atlanta Public Schools
5:15 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Lawyer for Beverly Hall Reiterates Request for Trial Delay

Richard Deane, attorney for Beverly Hall, discussing the case with reporters this afternoon.
Josh Pate

Web Exclusive:

Today, reporters talked to one of the attorneys representing former Atlanta Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall.

Hall is arguably the highest profile defendant in the Atlanta schools cheating court case.

In a motion filed yesterday, Hall’s attorneys had asked the trial be delayed by 6-8 months because of Hall’s treatment for Stage IV breast cancer.

Attorney Richard Deane talked about that motion today in a press conference.

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6:13 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Attorneys In Atlanta Test Cheating Case Seek Delay

WABE's Denis O'Hayer (left) talks with WABE's Rose Scott about breaking news in the Atlanta schools cheating trial
Credit Charles Edwards / WABE News

Attorneys for former Atlanta Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall have asked a Fulton County Superior Court Judge to move the Atlanta schools test cheating trial.

Jury selection has always been scheduled for April 28th. But today, Hall’s attorneys asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Judge Jerry Baxter to delay the trial until after the conclusion of Hall’s current medical regimen.

In an affidavit, an oncologist for Dr. Hall said the former Superintendent has stage 4 breast cancer. The oncologist also said that cancer is not curable but treatable.

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Atlanta Public Schools
5:49 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Likely New Atlanta Superintendent Talks Atlanta Cheating Scandal

If approved by the school board, Dr. Meria Carstarphen assumes a number of challenges including the most notable one, the cheating scandal.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

The lone finalist to become the next Atlanta Public Schools superintendent met with Governor Nathan Deal and then with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday.

If approved by the school board, Dr. Meria Carstarphen assumes a number of challenges including the most notable one.

That means rebounding from one of the darkest moments for APS.

Dr. Carstarphen was asked to reflect on what was called the nation’s largest cheating scandal.

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Atlanta Public Schools
6:30 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Amid Preparations For APS Trial, Dr. Hall's Lawyer Reveals She Has Cancer

In this file photo from earlier this year, Dr. Beverly Hall attends a hearing with attorney Richard
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

The presiding judge in the case against Atlanta educators in the cheating scandal wants everyone to be ready when the trial begins.

Fulton County Superior Court judge Jerry Baxter made it clear today during a status hearing where some of the remaining defendants were in attendance.

Former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall was not in court today.  

WABE’s Rose Scott reports on the news revealed about the former school chief.

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11:39 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Dr. Beverly Hall Battling Stage IV Cancer

Dr. Beverly Hall
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

BREAKING -- WABE's Rose Scott has learned from a lawyer for Dr. Beverly Hall that his client is suffering from Stage IV cancer and is "gravely ill."

[Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Dr. Hall's lawyer had made this statement in court.  WABE regrets the error.]

Stage IV cancer is described by the National Cancer Institute as meaning that "the cancer has spread to distant tissues or organs."

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A Report from WABE's Rose Scott
7:44 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Former APS Principal Pleads Guilty, Apologizes in Cheating Case

Former Parks Middle School principal Christopher Waller reads his apology in Fulton County Superior Court on February 21, 2014.
Credit Rose Scott/WABE News

  Friday, February 21, 2014 was the deadline day for 15 remaining Atlanta educators indicted in the cheating scandal, to enter negotiated pleas.  But only two agreed to deals.  Both had worked at Parks Middle School.  Former principal Christopher Waller and former testing coordinator Sandra Ward are expected to testify for the prosecution.  Of the two, Waller faced more serious charges.  He followed his plea with an emotional apology in open court.  WABE's Rose Scott was there, and she talked about the day's events with WABE's Denis O'Hayer.

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6:50 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Two Atlanta Educators Agree to Negotiated Plea Deals

Christopher Waller read his letter of apology to the court.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

Today was the final deadline for the fifteen remaining indicted Atlanta educators to enter negotiated pleas.

Christopher Waller and Sandra Ward agreed to a deal and will now testify for the state.

Both worked at Parks Middle School.

WABE’s Rose Scott and Michelle report on the plea deals.

Parks Middle School located in southwest Atlanta had been a low-performing school.

Nearly 90 percent of its students were on the free lunch program and many were living at or below the poverty line.

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The 5:44 with Denis O'Hayer
7:59 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

A Look at Pre-Trial Moves in the APS Cheating Case, with Former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, now a partner in the Atlanta office of Schiff Hardin
Credit Schiff Hardin

  Friday, February 21, 2014 is the deadline for defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal case to decide whether they want to make plea deals with the prosecution, or go to trial.  Days before, prosecutors reached a deal with former human resources chief Millicent Few, one of the top-ranking officials under indictment.  Few is expected to testify that she witnessed criminal acts by then-superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall.  Hall's attorneys strongly deny she did anything wrong, and say she expects to clear her name at trial.

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Atlanta Public Schools
9:18 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Former Atlanta Schools Executive Enters Plea, Will Testify For State

The district attorney's office says Few will testify against her former boss, APS superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall.
Credit WABE

On Monday, Millicent Few, the former human resources director of the Atlanta Public Schools, agreed to a plea deal with the Fulton County District attorney’s office.

"I  just want to sincerely apologize to the citizens of Atlanta and specifically the students and their parents for my role in this matter. It’s taken a toll on my family, my support network and myself. I just want to apologize to them and I look forward to hopefully moving on with my life.”  

Few has agreed to testify on behalf of the state in its case against former APS superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall.

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Atlanta Public Schools
6:02 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Former Educators Enter Into Plea Agreements, Will Testify For State

Starlette Mitchell with attorney Ruth McMullin.
WABE 90.1 FM/Scott

Today five former Atlanta Public Schools educators and one former secretary entered into a plea agreement with the state.

They were part of the original thirty-five indicted on charges related to test cheating in APS.

We have two reports on today’s court proceedings from WABE’s Michelle Wirth and Rose Scott.

62-year old Clarietta Davis is the former principal of Venetian Hills Elementary School.

During the state ordered investigation, some teachers at the school confessed to cheating, but Davis initially refused to answer any questions.

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"The 5:44" with Denis O'Hayer
7:55 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

APS Cheating Case Defendant Rejects Plea Deal Offer: A Talk with Her Defense Attorney, Page Pate

Page Pate, attorney for Atlanta Public Schools cheating case defendant Sandra Ward.
Credit The Pate Law Firm

  With time running short before a trial begins, some of the 35 defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case are negotiating with Fulton County prosecutors on possible plea deals.  One defendant, Lisa Terry, has admitted to making false statements; she received 12 months' probation.  But on Thursday, December 12, 2013, another defendant rejected a plea offer.  Sandra Ward is the former testing coordinator at Parks Middle School.  Her attorney, Page Pate, spoke with WABE's Denis O'Hayer.

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Atlanta Public Schools
6:26 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Attorney For Indicted Educator: Trying All at Once "Unconstitutional"

Earlier this year, Brian Steel argued on behalf of all the defendants to have the indictment thrown out.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

If all thirty-four defendants facing racketeering charges related to the Atlanta cheating scandal are tried at once, it will be history making and unconstitutional.

That’s according to an attorney representing one of the educators.

The remaining defendants include Dr. Luscious Brown, the former principal of Kennedy Middle School.

He’s charged with racketeering, making false statements and making false writings.

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6:40 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Atlanta Educators To Be Tried All at Once

Another location other than the Fulton County Courthouse would be needed in order to try all 34 defendants at once.
Credit Fulton County Superior Court

The trial for the 34 remaining indicted Atlanta Educators isn't scheduled to begin until next spring, but the judge has told the defendants all will be tried at once.

WABE’s Rose Scott has more. 

Earlier this year during pre-trial hearings for the case, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter joked the trial might be held in a grocery story due to the large number of defendants.

This week Baxter made it clear all would be tried at once.

And he suggested taking plea deals for those not wanting to be tried with the others.

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