Atlanta Public Schools

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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Education
8:10 am
Tue March 31, 2015

APS Cheating Trial Jury To Start Day 7 Of Deliberating

Testimony for the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial concluded in late February.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jurors are set to start their seventh day of deliberations in the trial of a dozen former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a conspiracy to cheat on standardized tests.

The jury meeting in Atlanta is scheduled to resume its closed-door discussions on Tuesday morning.

A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013. Many reached plea agreements with prosecutors.

Educators have said they faced pressure from supervisors to inflate standardized test scores to show gains in student achievement.

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Education
6:00 am
Mon March 30, 2015

Day 6 Of Jury Deliberations: Still No Verdict In APS Trial

In the Atlanta test cheating trial, Judge Jerry Baxter reads a question from the jury to attorneys as deliberations continue.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Day six of jury deliberations in the Atlanta test cheating trial begins today. Jurors have been reviewing more than 1,000 pieces of evidence and testimony from more than 160 witnesses.

Last week, Judge Jerry Baxter made a public observation about the jury.

“They look like they’ve been working hard,” Baxter told the court.  

Jurors have been deliberating for more than 30 hours so far. They’re reviewing six months' worth of testimony and evidence. Jurors have had some questions along the way, mostly relating to reviewing documents presented as evidence in the case.

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Education
2:43 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Gwinnett County Schools Aim To Hire Teachers, Boost Pay

Gwinnett County Schools in Atlanta's northeast suburbs plans to add 175 teacher and 15 school bus driver positions for the next school year.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

Georgia's largest school system plans to add teachers and hopes an increase in starting pay will help attract the new hires.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gwinnett County Schools in Atlanta's northeast suburbs plans to add 175 teacher positions for the next school year. School officials also hope to add 15 school bus drivers.

The newspaper reports that the system wants to increase starting salaries for teachers with bachelor's degrees to $41,028 ─ an increase of nearly $3,000.

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Local
12:05 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Atlanta Test Cheating Trial Jury Resumes Deliberations

Jurors will resume their deliberations Monday in the APS test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jurors will resume their deliberations in the trial of a dozen former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a conspiracy to cheat on standardized tests.

On Thursday, the jurors meeting in Atlanta heard an explanation of the law and began deciding the outcome of the case shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday. They are scheduled to resume their deliberations on Monday morning.

A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013. Many reached plea agreements with prosecutors.

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Education
8:15 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Judge Tells APS Jury To Read Indictment As Written, Despite Mistake

Judge Jerry Baxter instructed the jury to read the charges against Sharon Davis-Williams as they are written in the indictment.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jurors in the Atlanta test cheating trial hit a snag today soon after they began deliberating. They were confused by a mistake in the indictment. 

A count against former administrator Sharon Davis-Williams mixes up two different schools where she worked.

The jury asked Judge Jerry Baxter if it should treat the mistake as a clerical error. Prosecutors argued it should. Davis-Williams’ attorney, Teresa Mann, said Baxter should direct the jury to find her “not guilty” because of the state’s mistake.

After hearing from both sides, Baxter instructed the jury.

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Education
4:57 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Defense Attorneys Push Back During APS Closing Arguments

Attorney Scott Smith defends client Theresia Copeland, a former testing coordinator.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After hearing from prosecutors yesterday, the defense attorneys made their closing arguments today in the Atlanta test cheating trial. A dozen former teachers and administrators face up to 20 years in prison for charges including racketeering and making false statements.

Prosecuting attorneys argued Monday the former educators conspired to cheat to boost test scores and get bonuses. Tuesday, the defense attorneys fought back.

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A Closer Look
4:06 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Talks Infrastructure Bond, Falcons Stadium

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed talks about the infrastructure bond, the new Falcons stadium, and other city issues in the ''A Closer Look'' studio.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says "every mayor has their issue," and right now his is the city's crumbling streets.

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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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