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Friday, September 6, 2013

Atlanta Cheating Scandal: Tamara Cotman Found Not Guilty

First Trial Ends in Acquittal in School Scandal in Atlanta

Tamara Cotman
ATLANTA — The first Atlanta school administrator to face trial in the largest school cheating scandal in the country was found not guilty on Friday.
The case, heard by a Fulton County Superior Court jury, centered on whether Tamara Cotman, a former administrator, influenced a witness during the investigation of widespread cheating in the 52,000-student district.
That investigation resulted in 65 indictments against 35 teachers and administrators, among them Beverly Hall, the superintendent once highly regarded for her work turning around a district plagued by poor academic performance.
Ms. Cotman’s three-week trial was narrowly focused, and it was far from clear whether the acquittal could be counted as an indicator of how the broader case, scheduled to start next spring, would fare.
Prosecutors hope to prove that a group of educators conspired to falsely raise scores on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, then covered up the cheating and retaliated against people who tried to report it.
Bonuses, federal money and Dr. Hall’s national reputation were tied to higher test scores, and thus the motivation for cheating, the indictment alleges.
Prosecutors said Ms. Cotman, who oversaw 21 Atlanta schools, influenced witnesses and advised principals under investigation to essentially rebel against state investigators.
Benjamin Davis, her lawyer, said during the trial that the case was not about cheating and that his client never witnessed any criminal behavior and did not try to block the investigation.
Prosecutors tried to portray Ms. Cotman as an operator in an atmosphere of deceit that stemmed from immense pressure to protect jobs and produce high test scores at any cost.
“She did it on the backs of babies,” Fani Willis, an assistant district attorney, said during closing arguments.
As preparations for what will surely be a complex and logistically challenging racketeering trial of nearly three dozen educators continue, personal troubles are beginning to surface.
Dr. Hall has had a diagnosis of breast cancer, said Richard Deane, her lawyer, who added that the court had been advised of her medical condition.
In addition, Willie Davenport, 66, an elementary school principal named in the indictment, had breast cancer and died this week.

Atlanta Cheating Scandal

The Empire's Clothes

Susan D. Blum | Posted 08.26.2013 | College
Susan D. Blum
Somewhere, deep in the mists of the past, there may have once been a good reason for requiring testing. But that reason seems so far beside the point that it recedes invisibly.

Cheating Teachers Teach Cheats

Victor Dorff | Posted 08.03.2013 | Politics
Victor Dorff
Cases of teachers and principals changing their students' answers after the test, or filling in the correct answers that students left blank, have made headlines in recent months.

The Cheating Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Jason Stanford | Posted 07.23.2013 | Politics
Jason Stanford
A new General Accounting Office report demonstrates that cheating by school officials on standardized tests has become commonplace despite the use of security measures the report recommends.

From School Reform to Reform School

Patricia McGuire | Posted 07.07.2013 | DC
Patricia McGuire
Allocating one day out of 180 days of teaching to celebrate teachers when they are put down the rest of the year is just patronizing. If we really want to honor and celebrate teachers, let's show them some respect, support and encouragement.

Why Don't More Kids Cheat?

Posted 04.29.2013 | Politics
This opinion was republished with permission from TNTP Blog, a national nonprofit committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality. By T...

Ex-Atlanta School Chief Denies Alleged Role In Cheating Scandal

AP | Posted 06.22.2013 | Politics
ATLANTA — Lawyers for former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall say allegations that she participated in a scheme to inflate test score...

Desperate Kid Cheats Under Pressure -- What Else Is New?

Victor Dorff | Posted 06.16.2013 | College
Victor Dorff
"Pressure" is inevitable for students today. The question is, how do we teach our students to evaluate the reality of the pressure they feel and to deal with it appropriately?

Missing the Point on Cheating -- The Incentives Problem is far Bigger

Elaine Weiss | Posted 06.15.2013 | Politics
Elaine Weiss
Cheating is just one of many responses to heightened pressure in recent years to deliver the impossible: substantially increased test scores, in short order.

The Devil's Due

Adam Kirk Edgerton | Posted 06.14.2013 | Politics
Adam Kirk Edgerton
We have to start measuring our success in the happiness of our children, not in the height of our data plots, if we are to avoid more misguided leadership and foolhardy fads.
Joy Resmovits

Rhee Cheating Investigation Dregs Up Old Memos | Joy Resmovits | Posted 04.14.2013 | Politics
More than five years after Michelle Rhee took over Washington, D.C., public schools, and nearly three years after she left her position as chancellor,...

It's More Than Just Numbers

Andy Porter | Posted 06.04.2013 | Politics
Andy Porter
Jobs were on the line. Money and glory were in the offing. One need only look to Wall Street, Las Vegas, or professional sports to see that any time meaningful consequences are involved, some folks are going to try to con the system.

Who's Cheating Whom? Atlanta Scandal Makes Us Wonder What It's All About

Susan D. Blum | Posted 06.03.2013 | College
Susan D. Blum
When all that matters is test results, people will do everything they can to make them look good. High-stakes testing gives the message that the process doesn't matter -- not even for teachers. High-stakes testing puts the attention on the measurable: simple answers to simple questions.

Teachers Union Head Sounds Off On Cheating Scandal

The Huffington Post | William McGuinness | Posted 04.03.2013 | Politics
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, blamed "test-crazed" education policies in sharp comments released Tuesday regardi...

High-stakes Testing Makes Cheating Inevitable

Jason Stanford | Posted 06.02.2013 | Politics
Jason Stanford
The latest example came late on Good Friday when an Atlanta grand jury indicted 35 teachers, administrators and principals under laws meant to target the mafia.

School Cheating Suspects Ready To Surrender

AP | CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY | Posted 06.02.2013 | Politics
ATLANTA — When Beverly Hall first arrived in Atlanta as superintendent of the city's public school system, she cautioned she wouldn't be riding ...

Why Teachers Cheat

David Callahan | Posted 06.01.2013 | Politics
David Callahan
Perhaps the best way to think of these cheating scandals is that they are the result of a natural experiment: What happens when you change incentives so that low test numbers translate into pain and high test numbers translate into rewards?

Atlanta Cheating Suspects Expected To Surrender

AP | CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY | Posted 06.01.2013 | Crime
ATLANTA — The criminal prosecution of dozens of Atlanta Public Schools educators presents considerable challenges for both prosecutors and defen...

3 Dozen Indicted In Massive School Cheating Scandal

AP | KATE BRUMBACK | Posted 05.30.2013 | Politics
ATLANTA -- Juwanna Guffie was sitting in her fifth-grade classroom taking a standardized test when, authorities say, the teacher came around offering ...

Educator: Teacher Helped Students Cheat Because They Were 'Dumb As Hell'

Posted 08.30.2012 | Home
Atlanta math teacher Shayla Smith is accused of giving students answers to state exams because they were "dumb as hell." A tribunal hired to invest...

Virginia District Uncovers Teacher Cheating, Students Must Retake Exams

Posted 07.26.2012 | Home
Students at a Virginia school district had to retake standardized exams after five teachers were found to have given "inappropriate assistance" to stu...

Atlanta Schools Superintendent Urges Recovery From Cheating Scandal

Posted 08.29.2012 | Home
In a letter Atlanta residents, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis has pledged to move beyond the cheating scandal that rocked the stat...
Joy Resmovits

Cheating Found In 3 D.C. Schools | Joy Resmovits | Posted 06.22.2012 | Home
Three Washington, D.C., schools cheated on 2011 standardized tests, according to a forensic report the district will release today. Of the 38 Washi...

High Stakes Testing: Who's Cheating Whom?

Dennis Van Roekel | Posted 05.28.2012 | Home
Dennis Van Roekel
Let's get back to the core purpose of public education -- ensuring students have access to a great education that prepares them for lifelong learning and success -- and leave the pressure cooker for pot roasts.

Schools Nationwide Flagged For Possible Cheating, Some Question Analysis

AP/The Huffington Post | Posted 03.25.2012 | Home
ATLANTA — Hundreds of school systems nationwide exhibit suspicious test scores that point to the possibility of cheating, according to an investigat...
Joy Resmovits

How Sleuths Catch Cheater Teachers | Joy Resmovits | Posted 03.01.2012 | Home
The first time Bob Wilson, a former DeKalb County, Georgia, district attorney, interviewed educators suspected of cheating on exams in 56 Atlanta scho...