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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.