APS TEACHER PLEADS GUILTY IN HISTORIC ‘CHEATING’ CASE

Tuesday, November 20, 2013

APS TEACHER PLEADS GUILTY IN HISTORIC ‘CHEATING’ CASE

Defendant Admits to Cheating on CRCT for Bonus Money, System Prestige

Atlanta– One of nearly three dozen educators, including the former Superintendent of the Atlanta Public School system, indicted in connection with an unprecedented cheating scandal has pleaded guilty. During plea proceedings late Wednesday before presiding Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter, Lisa Terry entered a guilty plea to a single misdemeanor count of obstruction. Terry was indicted in March along with 34 other educators (one of whom is now deceased) on charges of False Statements and Writings, Theft by Taking and Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act for her role in an alleged conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores within the Atlanta Public School system.

The charges against Terry, a veteran teacher of nineteen years, date back to 2009 when she was a teacher at Humphries Elementary School in Atlanta. Though she vehemently denied the claims initially, Ms. Terry now admits that she verbally provided CRCT answers to her 4th grade students during their examination. Terry says she cheated because of pressure from her principal and executive level administrators who threatened her with the loss of her job if she did not meet specific academic targets. Those targets were tied to bonuses and other incentives for the school district. Defendant Terry herself was rewarded with a $500.00 bonus for her students’ “achievement” on the standardized test.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, Terry was sentenced to 12 months on probation, ordered to perform 250 hours of community service and pay $500.00 in restitution for the bonus money she received. Terry also wrote a letter of apology (attached) to the community—most importantly the victims whose education she compromised with her fraudulent actions. Though Terry will receive no jail time, District Attorney Howard is pleased with the former educator’s conviction by guilty plea.

“The truth is finally out. There was in fact “cheating going on” in the Atlanta Public School system. Because of Ms. Terry’s willingness to stand up and accept responsibility for her conduct, the truth behind the Atlanta cheating scandal has been unveiled for all to see,” says Mr. HowardHe continues, “We believe this guilty plea is a critical step towards healing for our children and our community. We applaud Ms. Terry for her courage and humility in the face of the criminal charges against her. Thanks to Ms. Terry, the truth is finally here.”

The District Attorney’s 21-month criminal investigation followed a 2011 probe initiated by the Governor’s Office into testing irregularities and cheating allegations on 2008-2009 CRCT exams in dozens of Atlanta Public elementary Schools. The District Attorney’s Office created a special unit of prosecutors and investigators to explore potential criminal activity connected with the allegations. The investigation included a review of testing activity associated with at least 50 APS schools as well as hundreds of interviews with school administrators, staff, parents and students.

Prosecutors allege the 35 named defendants conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster CRCT scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores. The alleged activity dates back to as early as 2005. In addition to Dr. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent, the indicted defendants include four high-level executive administrators, six principals, two assistant principals, six testing coordinators, 14 teachers (including Lisa Terry), a school improvement specialist and a school secretary.

Each of the defendants is charged with Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations). The 65-count indictment also includes charges of False Statements and Writings, False Swearing, Theft by Taking and Influencing Witnesses in connection with the alleged conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores.

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