Date: Sep 13, 2013 3:25 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: [ncsm-members] Former Atlanta Educator Found Not Guilty in Cheating

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From The Wall Street Journal, Saturday, September 6, 2013. See
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324123004579059102108040982.html
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Former Atlanta Educator Found Not Guilty in Cheating Case

Verdict Comes in First Trial Connected to Probe of Schools

By Cameron McWhirter

A jury found a former Atlanta school administrator not guilty Friday
in the first trial relating to one of the largest school-cheating
scandals in U.S. history.

The outcome suggests that it might be difficult for prosecutors to
win their cases against 34 former educators in Atlanta's public
schools. A state judge has scheduled one large trial for the
defendants next spring.

Tamara Cotman, a former area director overseeing 21 schools, was
found not guilty of influencing a witness. The jury deliberated
Thursday afternoon and part of Friday morning after a trial that
began with testimony on Aug. 23.

The verdict came after prosecutors presented evidence and brought in
testimony from numerous witnesses, including former Gov. Sonny
Perdue, who had ordered a probe of the school system after
allegations of widespread cheating on state standardized tests.

The charge against Ms. Cotman stemmed from allegations that she had
intimidated staff as part of an attempt to force them not to
cooperate with state investigators. She had sought a speedy trial, so
her case came first.

Ms. Cotman said outside the courthouse on Friday that she felt
vindicated. Her attorney couldn't be reached for comment on the
verdict.

Although Ms. Cotman was acquitted of the influencing charge, she
still faces a racketeering charge, along with other defendants.

Bruce Harvey, an attorney for a former elementary-school principal
indicted in the conspiracy case, said the verdict "shows that you
can't convict people on emotion; you need evidence. And clearly, the
state's case was all emotion."

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said at a press
conference after the verdict, "We are just going to get ready for the
larger case," referring to the trial set for next year.

A 2011 state report found that cheating on state standardized tests
was rife in Atlanta schools, including allegations that teachers
erased incorrect answers because they would get bonuses if their
students got higher scores. The report said the educators were
responding to pressure from the administration of Beverly Hall,
Atlanta's superintendent from 1999 to 2011, to show marked
improvement in their students' scores or face discipline or less pay.

Ms. Hall, who resigned in the wake of the scandal, was indicted along
with 34 other educators earlier this year on racketeering and other
charges. Lawyers for Ms. Hall have said she didn't participate in
wrongdoing, and she pleaded not guilty. Recently, one of the
defendants died of cancer, and lawyers for Ms. Hall have said she is
suffering from breast cancer.

Richard Quartarone, president of an education-policy group called
Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools and a parent with two
children in the city's public schools, said Friday, "I hope the
prosecution is able to shore up their cases as everything moves
forward. If there are no guilty verdicts, that is just horrible."
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SIDEBAR PHOTO: Former Atlanta school official Tamara Cotman speaks
Friday after a jury found her not guilty of charges related to an
alleged cheating scandal. Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated
Press
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Write to Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com
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A version of this article appeared September 7, 2013, on page A2 in
the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline:
Former Atlanta Educator Acquitted.
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--
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu