APS Cheating Scandal

A Closer Look
5:29 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Former Chief Justice Sears On APS Cheating Trial

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears says she thinks the jury will take its time deliberating and will probably dismiss the charges that there was a pattern of organized criminal activity.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The jury will continue to deliberate in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial on Monday.  

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears says she thinks the jury will take its time deliberating and will probably dismiss the charges that there was a pattern of organized criminal activity, under a federal statute called RICO.

Sears spoke to Denis O’Hayer and Rose Scott on "A Closer Look" on Friday. 

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APS
8:01 am
Tue March 17, 2015

Memorial Planned Tuesday For Former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall

A memorial service is scheduled for former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall.
Credit Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

A memorial service is scheduled for former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall.

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta says Hall's memorial is being held 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip.

Hall's memorial comes as closing arguments are held in the trial of 12 Atlanta educators who were among the 35 to be indicted in a standardized test cheating conspiracy.

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APS Trial
11:58 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Atlanta Test Cheating Trial Attorneys Begin Closing Arguments

Attorneys began closing arguments Monday morning in the Atlanta test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Attorneys began closing arguments Monday morning in the Atlanta test cheating trial.

Twelve former APS educators face up to 20 years in prison for charges including racketeering and making false statements. Jurors have listened to six months of testimony, and now state attorneys are trying to convince them former educators conspired to cheat.

Fulton County prosecutor Clint Rucker argued cheating was systemic. He said teachers who changed students’ tests answers on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test corrupted students’ minds and spirits.

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Atlanta Public Schools
3:01 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall Dies

In this file photo, former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall stands as her attorney presents a motion at the Fulton County Superior Court hearing for several dozen Atlanta Public Schools educators facing charges alleging a conspiracy of cheating on the CRCT standardized tests in Atlanta on May 3, 2013.
Credit David Tulis / Associated Press

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall died today from complications related to stage four breast cancer according to her defense team. Hall had been at the center of the APS cheating scandal. 

In March 2013, she was indicted along with 34 other former school officials on charges of racketeering, theft by taking, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. Those charges stemmed from an alleged systematic process of changing students’ answers on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). 

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APS Cheating Trial
12:38 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Prosecution Rests In Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Trial

Prosecutor Fani Willis, seen here earlier in the trial, has rested the state's case in the APS cheating trial.
Credit Kent D. Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution Pool

The prosecution in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial rested its case Wednesday morning, but it's not over yet.

Since September of 2014, the state has been calling witnesses and presenting evidence. But now the defense gets to make its case. There are 12 defendants, so it could take a while.

First up: Dana Evans. She’s the former principal of Dobbs Elementary School. Evans is accused of making false statements as well as racketeering. Her former colleague, Mario Watkins, testified on her behalf. He was asked to describe what kind of principal she was.  

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Education
5:44 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Can The State Get RICO Convictions In APS Case? A Conversation With Attorney David Hungeling

Attorneys for the state are trying to get RICO convictions for the 12 defendants in the APS cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The cheating trial of 12 former Atlanta educators has been going on since last September. 

All of the defendants face charges related to racketeering, under a statute known as RICO.

WABE’s Martha Dalton spoke with RICO attorney David Hungeling to talk about the chances of getting such a conviction. The conversation starts with a definition of RICO. 

In the extended version of this conversation Martha Dalton and David Hungeling go deeper into examining RICO cases and evaluate the potential impact of this case if the state does get a RICO conviction.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu February 5, 2015

A Closer Look At The APS Cheating Scandal's Racketeering Charge

Is a RICO conviction for former APS educators realistic?
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial are charged with racketeering, under a statute called RICO. The law was enacted to catch mobsters and serious criminals. So, can the state convince a jury that former educators deserve a RICO conviction?

RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

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Education
10:27 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Ex-APS Official: District Ordered Documents Destroyed

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, right, waits for motions at a Fulton County Superior Court hearing for several dozen Atlanta Public Schools educators facing charges alleging a conspiracy of cheating on the CRCT standardized tests in Atlanta on May 3, 2013.
Credit David Tulis / Associated Press

The former Atlanta Public Schools human resources chief says the district's former superintendent ordered drafts of a report on the investigation into standardized test cheating allegations to be destroyed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday that Millicent Few said she was told it was legal to destroy the drafts because they weren't final.

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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.

Transportation

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

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Local
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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Local
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

kids.

But all students take the yearly standardized exam.

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Local
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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Local
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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Local
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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Education
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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Education
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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Local
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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Local
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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Local
4:56 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Former APS Chief Will Not Stand Trial in August

Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Former Atlanta Public School Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall will not stand trial next month when testimony gets underway in the massive test cheating case. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter made the decision Friday based on Hall’s current battle with stage four breast cancer.

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Local
8:54 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Attorney: Former Atlanta School Chief Battles Cancer, Unable for Upcoming Trial

In this file photo, Dr. Beverly Hall, along side attorney Richard Deane, appears for a motion regarding the upcoming trial.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:

Friday, August 11th, 2014:

Judge Jerry Baxter rules trial will go on without Dr. Beverly Hall...for now.

The trial for the twelve remaining educators will begin as scheduled next month.

Attorneys for Dr. Beverly Hall say the chemotherapy treatment for the former Atlanta schools superintendent is extreme and she is incapable of remaining alert for a trial.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports, that’s what will be presented during a hearing .

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Local
4:00 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Judge, Attorneys: APS Trial Could Take Months

Deputy District Attorneys Linda Dunikoski, left, and Fani Willis discuss issues surrounding juror selection for the APS Cheating Trial Friday in Fulton County Superior Court. The trial is scheduled to start Aug. 11.
Credit Michell Eloy / WABE News

The trial of the 13 remaining Atlanta Public Schools defendants charged in the cheating scandal could take months, according to lawyers on both sides of the case.

During a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court Friday, presiding Judge Jerry Baxter and case lawyers agreed more than 1,000 potential jurors would have to be questioned during the jury selection process.

They said from the start of jury selection to verdict, the trial could take between four and six months.

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Local
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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Local
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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Developing
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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BREAKING
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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