Atlanta Public Schools

A Closer Look
3:15 pm
Wed August 12, 2015

Atlanta Businesses Partner To Seek Public School Solutions

Teacher Stephanee Stephens shows her eighth grade students at Autrey Mill Middle School in Johns Creek, Georgia, how to use tablets. The Education Innovation Network wants to explore new education models to help find solutions to the challenges public schools in metro Atlanta face.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press

A unique partnership involving an architecture firm and a social venture incubator have teamed up to tackle education issues in metro Atlanta.

Beginning this month, the Education Innovation Network will bring together social entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers in quarterly workshops to explore and grow what they believe are possible business solutions to Atlanta’s public education challenges.

The Atlanta architecture firm of Perkins+Will and the Center for Civic Innovation are behind the effort.

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Atlanta Public Schools
10:53 am
Tue August 11, 2015

Parents Want APS Board To Take Stand, Oppose Governor’s Plan

Audience members at Monday night's Atlanta Public Schools board meeting hold signs challenging board members to publicly oppose Gov. Nathan Deal's ''Opportunity School District'' plan. That proposal, which appears on the November 2016 ballot, would allow the state to take control of certain underperforming schools.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools' board members got an earful Monday night from parents and others angry over the board's silence on what they say is an essential issue.

They’re opposed to “Opportunity School District,” the name of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to allow the state to take control of underperforming schools.

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A Closer Look
12:45 pm
Thu August 6, 2015

GSU Professor Offers Tips To Help Keep Students Motivated

Students engage in an activity with a teacher at school. Kids are eager to learn in school with the right motivation from both parents and teachers.
Credit US Department of Education / flickr.com/departmentofed

It’s back-to-school season for many Atlanta Public Schools and Georgia students. However, young children and teens may not be motivated enough to stay on the right track, psychologically, during the school season.

Dr. Ciara Smalls-Glover, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, discussed one of the ways parents can motivate their children during the school year on “A Closer Look,” with hosts Denis O’Hayer and Rose Scott. 

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Education
11:40 am
Thu August 6, 2015

A New School Year Could Mean A Fresh Start For APS

Justin Gillette, known to Atlanta Public Schools kids as ''Chef Justin,'' runs the district's food program and serves kids at the recent Back to School Bash.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

Wednesday was the first day of class for students in the Atlanta Public Schools. The district is trying to make a fresh start and move on from the recent cheating scandal. As APS tries to rebuild, some obstacles still lie ahead. 

A New Start

To get ready for the new year, APS recently held its first “Back to School Bash.”

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Education
1:34 pm
Mon August 3, 2015

APS To Start New Grade-Changing Regulations After Investigation

The former principal at South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice was let go after officials said she changed hundreds of students' grades inappropriately.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools said it will strengthen its rules on changing students’ grades. This comes after a districtwide investigation, which was triggered when APS officials found administrators at some high schools inappropriately changing students' failing grades to passing ones. 

The district issued a report, which says the investigation didn’t uncover any additional instances of "serious" grade-changing.

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Education
2:46 pm
Thu July 23, 2015

APS To Tag Young Bus Riders, Require Escorts At Bus Stops

Atlanta Public Schools will tag young students this fall as part of a new school bus drop-off policy before they get on the bus to go home.
Credit Bruno Girin / flickr.com/brunogirin

Starting this fall, Atlanta Public Schools will tag young students who take the bus to go home. 

It's part of a new school bus drop-off policy where someone has to be waiting at the bus stop. 

Using zip ties, teachers will attach STAR (Student Transportation Access Registry) cards to the backpacks of pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students. The cards will have their name, school phone number and bus information. 

Students will be required to have an approved escort waiting for them at the bus stop. Otherwise the driver has to take the student back to school. 

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A Closer Look
3:49 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

APS Superintendent Looks Back At Her 'Tough' First Year

The new Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen is focused on cleaning up the district and hiring the right principals in the wake of the historic cheating scandal.
Credit PBA30

It's been a full academic school year since Dr. Meria Carstarphen took over as Atlanta Public Schools superintendent, during the fallout from the historic cheating scandal.

Carstarphen has been charged with cleaning up the district, even as another investigation involving grade changing allegations unfolded on her watch.

After a year at the helm of one of the nation’s largest public school systems, Carstarphen still stands by her initial evaluation of the district as a “hot mess.”

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Education
12:21 pm
Wed July 8, 2015

Superintendent: APS Culture Shift Needed To Eliminate Cheating

To help eliminate cheating, Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen wants the district to make it easier for whistleblowers to speak up.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM/Dan Raby

When a jury convicted 11 former Atlanta educators of a test-cheating conspiracy two months ago, some thought it was the end of a long, ugly chapter. However, recent allegations of grade-changing at some Atlanta high schools may indicate the district’s troubles aren’t over.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said Tuesday attitudes in the district need to shift if it wants to stamp out cheating.

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Education
12:26 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

APS Officials Determined To Prevent Another Cheating Scandal

Officials with the Atlanta Public Schools say they've launched a grade-changing investigation and will take swift action if necessary.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

It’s been two months since 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators were convicted of conspiring to cheat on state tests. Now, the district has launched an investigation into grade-changing. But officials say they are determined not to let history repeat itself.

When the state investigated allegations of test cheating in APS in 2010, some employees said a culture of fear and intimidation kept them from reporting any wrongdoing. New APS chief accountability officer Bill Caritj said that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

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A Closer Look
5:46 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Mayor Kasim Reed Defends Record, Fights Back Against Critics

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is busy with a number of city projects, including a massive new infrastructure overhaul of potholed roads and crumbling bridges.
Credit Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed defended his recent record and went after his critics during an extensive and in-depth interview on “A Closer Look” Tuesday afternoon. 

The conversation comes as the city and its government are busy with enterprise ventures, programs and problems. There are big infrastructure projects planned – including road and bridge repair. A new Falcons stadium is underway, and the future of Turner Field when the Braves leave is turning into a thorny and contentious issue with some community groups.

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Achieve Atlanta
6:00 am
Mon June 22, 2015

Achieve Atlanta Seeks To Boost City’s Graduation Rate

Credit John Amis / Associated Press

  A new program called Achieve Atlanta aims to improve the college graduation rate for Atlanta Public Schools students.

Maria Saporta of the Saporta Report gives an overview of $20 million initiative to WABE's Amy Kiley.

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A Closer Look
11:49 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Atlanta School Board Chair Talks Costly Decisions

The Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0 in its last meeting to continue with APS' charter school structure.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

The state deadline for school systems in Georgia to choose an operating and models flexibility option, which determines how the schools will operate, is coming up. But the Atlanta Public Schools leadership has already resolved to "push decisions down to the schoolhouse level," Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Courtney English says. 

The Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0 in its last meeting to continue with APS' charter school structure, which gives the district freedom from most state-level education rules and guidelines via a contract between the state and the district.

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Education
11:08 am
Fri June 12, 2015

APS: Communication, Training Key To Preventing Further Cheating

Atlanta Public Schools has restructured the office that handles complaints.
Credit Judy Baxter / flickr.com/judybaxter

More cheating allegations are popping up in the Atlanta Public Schools, just months after almost a dozen former APS educators were convicted in court for conspiring to cheat.

The district is looking into allegations that students in an online learning program at Crim High School used the Internet to find test answers. Additionally, the principal at the South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice reportedly changed students’ failing grades to passing ones. She no longer works for APS.  

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Education
4:33 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

Superintendent Carstarphen: APS Is Not Getting Rid Of Arts

Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district is not scrapping its fine arts program.
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

The Atlanta Public Schools will cut 18 band and orchestra positions next year. But, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says APS is still committed to the arts.

“It’s true that we’ve had a rough budget year,” she says. “It’s true that we’ve had to rethink our model.”

Carstarphen says the cuts were mostly in elementary schools and for programs that had low enrollment. Even though one-third of all music positions were cut, Carstarphen says APS is not ditching the fine arts.

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Parks
6:25 am
Wed May 6, 2015

National Park Trust Program Connects Atlanta Kids To Nature

Third grader Leticia Cotton plays on the bank of Sweetwater Creek.
Credit Collin Knauss / National Park Trust

Kids who live in town often don’t get out into the natural areas around Atlanta. At the same time, parks are struggling to attract younger and more diverse visitors. But there are efforts to address both of those gaps.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Three Atlanta Cheating Trial Defendants To Be Resentenced

Judge Jerry Baxter will resentence three defendants Thursday.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Three former Atlanta Public Schools educators will be resentenced at 2 p.m. Thursday. 

Former testing coordinators Sharon Davis-Williams, Michael Pitts and Tamara Cotman received 20-year prison terms after a jury found them guilty of conspiring to cheat on state tests. They were sentenced to serve seven years of the 20-year term. 

Judge Jerry Baxter will give them new sentences.

WABE legal analyst Page Pate says there could be a couple of reasons for that.

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APS Trial
9:03 am
Mon April 27, 2015

Atlanta Test Cheating Case Lawyer Previews New Support Group

Former Atlanta Public Schools educator Angela Williamson is one of the teachers featured on freeourteachersnow.com.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An attorney for one of the former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted in a test-cheating trial says a new group supporting them launches this week.

Gerald Griggs offered few details beyond a website named "FreeOurTeachersNow.com" at a church on Sunday according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He says the organization will focus on changing "the minds and the hearts" of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter and District Attorney Paul Howard.

Baxter plans to resentence three of the former educators who got the stiffest sentences on Thursday.

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Education
4:27 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Confusion Over State Laws May Be Reason For APS Resentencing

Judge Jerry Baxter may have handed down the wrong sentences to three defendants in the APS test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Confusion over state laws could be behind a move to reconsider the prison terms of three convicted former educators in the Atlanta cheating trial.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had sentenced the three to 20 years in prison – to serve seven years in jail and 13 years probation. But that may have been a mistake. WABE legal analyst Page Pate says 20 years is the maximum sentence for violating the state's racketeering law. The defendants were tried under Georgia's conspiracy law.

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Education
6:00 am
Wed April 15, 2015

As Atlanta Cheating Trial Concludes, Officials Focus On Kids

Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., will serve on the board of the new academy.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former educators were sentenced Tuesday, as the Atlanta test cheating trial came to a close. But as the community tries to heal, some are now turning their attention to the children affected by the scandal.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the idea of the Atlanta Redemption Academy. It would provide tutoring for students who are behind because their teachers cheated. Colleen Burns’ daughter is one of those students.

She was held back because she didn’t learn academically at an APS school like she should have,” Burns said.

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Education
6:00 am
Tue April 14, 2015

APS Trial Defendants Offered Last Minute Plea Deals

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter told 10 APS defendants they have a choice: either admit guilt or face a stiff sentence.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The sentencing hearing will continue Tuesday for 10 of the 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted for their roles in the test cheating trial, with the defendants poised to make a decision that will determine the next few years of their lives.

The ex-educators, who are charged with racketeering, are due back in court at 10 a.m. to tell the judge whether they choose to take a lighter sentence negotiated by the district attorney’s office in exchange for waiving their right to appeal and an apology.   

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Education
6:15 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

APS Judge Tells Defendants: Admit Guilt Or Serve Jail Time

Former APS testing coordinator Donald Bullock spoke on his own behalf. He denied cheating.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former teachers and administrators convicted of racketeering will be sentenced Tuesday instead of Monday. After hearing last-minute witness testimony, Judge Jerry Baxter pushed the sentencing back.

Character witnesses – friends, family members, and co-workers – all lined up and vouched for the defendants and plead for light sentences. Some defendants, like former testing coordinator Donald Bullock, spoke on their own behalf.

“My livelihood is gone,” Bullock said. “My license is gone, all because I told the truth.”

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Education
6:30 am
Mon April 13, 2015

Former APS Educators To Be Sentenced Monday

Judge Jerry Baxter will decide on sentences for 11 former APS educators who have been convicted of racketeering.
Credit Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool / Associated Press

Eleven former Atlanta educators will be sentenced Monday, after a jury found them guilty of racketeering and other charges. The ex-teachers and administrators were accused of conspiring to cheat on state tests to earn raises and bonuses.

When the verdict came down, Judge Jerry Baxter acted swiftly. He had 10 of the 11 handcuffed and taken to jail immediately. The defendants and their lawyers seemed stunned. One defense attorney argued there was no "compelling reason" to jail them.  

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A Closer Look
3:00 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Educator Dessa Curb Discusses APS Trial, Not Guilty Verdict

Former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb was the lone teacher out of 12 defendants acquitted in the last round of trials in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A lone Atlanta teacher was the only defendant out of 12 to receive a not guilty verdict in the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating scandal trial.

Former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb told Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer on WABE’s “A Closer Look” that she always “believed she was going to be found innocent.”

Curb says she was shocked when she heard the first verdict read in court on Wednesday.

“All I could think of was I was going to be OK because God had promised good to me,” she said. 

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A Closer Look
6:00 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

APS Cheating Scandal: How Investigators Developed The Case

Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers talks to Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer during an earlier appearance on ''A Closer Look.''
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools educators were found guilty of racketeering – some also were found guilty of lesser charges – in the APS test cheating trial.  The verdicts marked the end of an investigation that began in late 2008, when reporters for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noticed some suspiciously-high test scores in five area schools.

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A Closer Look
4:33 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Looking Beyond The Guilty Verdict: The Implications For APS

Former Dobbs Elementary principal Dana Evans, center right, hugs her defense attorney Robert Rubin after a jury found her guilty.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Maureen Downey has been covering the Atlanta Public Schools since long before the cheating scandal was brought to light.  In her blog yesterday, Downey asked, rhetorically, whether the APS trial jury made the "right decision" in convicting 11 out of 12 educators of racketeering.

On "A Closer Look," Downey talked with Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer about the harm that was done to APS students by educators who changed answers to assure high scores on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT.  

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A Closer Look
3:50 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

What The Cheating Trial Verdict Means For School Board Members

Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools' educators are in jail after being convicted in the APS cheating trial.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

Six years ago, the Atlanta Board of Education won the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban School Boards of Education's 2009 Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

That was before the big fallout over the APS cheating scandal.

Now, 11 former Atlanta Public Schools' educators are in jail after being convicted in the APS cheating trial.  

What's the message to school boards?

As the cheating scandal was revealed, members of the Atlanta Board of Education publicly squabbled with each other.

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A Closer Look
2:57 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

APS Trial Verdict Surprises Former Georgia Chief Justice

APS cheating trial verdict finds eleven former educators guilty of RICO charges.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools educators were found guilty on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges Wednesday, after months of testimony.

It was the longest jury trial in Georgia’s history.

Former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears talked about the significance of the verdicts and expressed her surprise at the RICO convictions on "A Closer Look" with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer.

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A Closer Look
2:49 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Before APS Cheating Scandal, One Agency Sounded Alarm

Kathleen Mathers, the former executive director of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, continues her third day of testimony in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014.
Credit Kent Johnson / Associated Press

While the news of the verdicts in the APS cheating trial are making headlines, "A Closer Look" turned back to the state agency that sounded the alarm on cheating in Atlanta Schools system.

In 2009, Kathleen Mathers was the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. During the trial she showed the court specific schools that showed significant changes on the Criterion Reference Competency Test, or CRCT. Mathers testified that, after the school board's Blue Ribbon Commission failed to meet the state’s standard, the state began its own investigation.

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Atlanta Public Schools
5:00 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

Atlanta Mayor, Education Officials React To School Cheating Verdict

Former Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty.
Kent D. Johnson Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After six months of testimony and nearly eight days of deliberations, the verdicts from the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial are in. Eleven out of 12 educators have been convicted of racketeering.

The lone person acquitted of all charges was former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb. Former school superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall was going to stand trial separately. She died last month.

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Breaking
2:19 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

11 Atlanta Educators Convicted In Test Cheating Scandal

Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a test cheating conspiracy that drew nationwide attention have been convicted of racketeering charges.
Credit Michell Eloy / WABE

Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a test cheating conspiracy that drew nationwide attention have been convicted of racketeering charges.

The verdicts in the case were announced Wednesday in a Georgia courtroom. Only one of the 12 educators on trial was acquitted of the racketeering charge.

After reading the verdicts, Judge Jerry Baxter told the jurors he'd miss them.

Despite defense attorney's objections, Baxter ordered the defendants into custody immediately, with the exception of one, who's pregnant.

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