Atlanta Public Schools

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.   

Read more
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.”

Read more
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.  

Read more
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. 

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Education
6:00 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Closing Arguments Begin In Atlanta Cheating Trial

Judge Jerry Baxter has been presiding over the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For six months, attorneys have presented testimony and evidence in the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial. Monday, closing arguments begin. Twelve former teachers and administrators face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering and other charges.

The state has been trying to prove a conspiracy to cheat and boost test scores in an effort to get cash bonuses. That’s what Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Fani Willis argued when the trial began.

Read more
A Closer Look
2:54 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Councilwoman Mary Norwood On The Adair Park School Controversy

Adair Park neighbors want a developer to purchase the George Adair School property.
Credit Maria Saporta / special to WABE

Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood has never been shy of controversial topics. Now, she is taking on disagreements regarding the historic Adair Park community in southwest Atlanta.

Community members want a developer to purchase the George Adair School, that has been an empty eyesore in Adair Park for years. But Mayor Kasim Reed has refused to release the property deed to Atlanta Public Schools because of an ongoing dispute over BeltLine tax payments.

Today on "A Closer Look," Mary Norwood shared her view of the dispute.  

Read more
Atlanta Public Schools
6:23 am
Tue February 24, 2015

Empty Schools Could Become Future Public Parks

A banana plant grows near the Kirkwood Urban Forest. Council member Julian Bond says he wants the city of Atlanta to turn unused school properties into public parks like this.
Credit Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Council member Julian Bond says he wants the city of Atlanta to turn unused school properties – to which the city holds the deeds – into public parks.

He says the city is growing quickly, but doesn’t have enough green space, and it's not clear how much land is sitting empty, so he says the first step is to catalog it.

Read more
Education
7:56 am
Fri February 13, 2015

DeKalb Charter Cluster Proposal May Get Second Chance

The DeKalb County school board voted 5-4 against the charter cluster proposal over a year ago.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

A petition for a Druid Hills charter schools cluster may get a second chance for approval in DeKalb County.

The charter cluster petition would have given Druid Hills High School and its feeder schools more autonomy, loosening the grip of the school district. But the DeKalb school board narrowly rejected the proposal just over a year ago.

Recently, some petitioners considered annexing to Atlanta, which would make the schools a part of APS.

Read more
A Closer Look
3:34 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Ready To Fix 'Broken' System

Credit Jason Parker / WABE

Dr. Meria Carstarphen blogs, she tweets and she constantly promotes positive news about the Atlanta Public Schools system. She was hired as its superintendent last summer with a unanimous vote by the Atlanta Public Schools board.

When she arrived in Atlanta, APS Board Chairman Courtney English was quoted as saying, "This city could use some unity. She's the right leader at the right time."  

Read more
A Closer Look
3:10 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Sounds Off Again on APS Dispute

Reed talked with ''A Closer Look'' co-hosts Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer live in the WABE studio today about all of his recent achievements, his controversies and his ideas for the future.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

Last week Mayor Kasim Reed delivered a State of the City report that touted “the largest influx of jobs into Atlanta in more than 40 years.” He’s overseen the maiden voyage of the Atlanta Streetcar, managed the sale of Underground Atlanta, and secured the arrival of Google Fiber.

Read more
A Closer Look
12:28 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Adair Park Caught In Dispute Between Mayor Reed and Atlanta Public Schools

The Adair Park community was established in 1892.
Credit Maria Saporta / special to WABE

Last July, my son David bought a house in the transitional neighborhood of Adair Park. The beautiful community in southwest Atlanta is an enclave in the midst of some of the city's most depressed neighborhoods.

My son believed in the renaissance that was coming. Construction of the southwest leg of the Atlanta BeltLine was about to start — only two blocks away from his 1925 home. Yet three doors down from his house was the boarded up George Adair Elementary School — vacant since 1973 and a victim of demolition by neglect.

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages