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Two APS educators convicted of cheating lose their appeals. Right decision?

Today, the Georgia Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of two educators convicted in the 2015 Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial.

As my AJC colleague Ty Tagami reports:

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the convictions of Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson will stand. The pair are among the 11 Atlanta Public Schools teachers and administrators who went to trial in the racketeering case in the scandal over cheating on standardized tests. They and eight others were convicted. While others planned appeals in Fulton County Superior Court, these two were the only ones to go directly to the appeals court.

Cotman was a regional superintendent. Williamson was an elementary school teacher. Cotman, Williamson and the rest who received prison terms were freed on bond during their appeals.

During the trial, the most damning evidence against Williamson came from students. The AJC reported this testimony of former students:

Two other former Dobbs students testified that Williamson told them and other students the answers on fourth-grade state tests.

Williamson pointed out the right answers to the girls, both now high school sophomores, and to other students, the girls said. If several students were struggling with the same question, Williamson would announce the right answer to the entire class, one of the girls said.

But the girls didn't tell anyone about the cheating at the time. Williamson told them not to, they said. "If you tell anyone, it'll be the last person you tell, I promise you that, " Williamson told the class, one of the girls testified.

Evidence against Cotman came from teachers, as this AJC story reported:

A former Atlanta Public Schools reading specialist testified Wednesday that former regional supervisor Tamara Cotman told her she was being involuntarily transferred because she "wasn't playing for the right team."

Asked what she took that to mean, Monica Hooker answered, "To cheat. To up those numbers. It was not about the child. It was about the numbers."

Hooker was called as a prosecution witness in the trial against Cotman and 11 other former educators who are accused of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to inflate test scores. Hooker worked at BEST Academy middle school from 2007 to 2009.

She testified that Cotman called her into her office in June 2009 to tell her she was being transferred to Harper-Archer Middle School because Hooker's students weren't making enough progress, Hooker said.

Hooker said she told Cotman that all of her BEST Academy seventh-grade students passed the reading test and that her sixth-grade students also did well on it. After that, Cotman made the comment about not "playing for the right team, " Hooker testified.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.