Educators lose appeal in Atlanta test-cheating case

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Educators lose appeal in Atlanta test-cheating case

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tamara Cotman is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial in 2015. (Kent D. Johnson/ Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Story Highlights
  • Eleven teachers and administrators were convicted in the APS test-cheating case
  • Two of them went to the Georgia Court of Appeals
  • The appeals court ruled against them Friday

Two educators who were convicted for their roles in the Atlanta test-cheating conspiracy failed to reverse their convictions on appeal.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the convictions of Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson will stand.

Both contended that the trial court erred in its instruction to jurors about conviction under racketeering law.

“We disagree that this instruction constituted error,” the judges wrote in their opinion released Friday.

The pair are among the dozen Atlanta Public Schools teachers and administrators who went to trial over allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests. They and nine others were convicted. Others planned appeals in Fulton County Superior Court; these two were the only ones who went directly to the appeals court.

Cotman’s attorney argued in May that she should get a new trial because the judge gave jurors too much latitude in reaching their verdict. 

“He was adding a new offense that was not part of the jury form,” lawyer Ben Davis told an appeals court panel.

Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Linda Dunikoski disagreed. “It was a good jury charge,” she said of now-retired Judge Jerry Baxter’s explanation of the law to the jury.

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

Despite the outcome for them Friday, both Cotman and Williamson will remain out of jail as their cases continue to the next level.

Within hours of the decisions’ release, Cotman’s attorney, Davis, filed notice of intent to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Williamson’s attorney, Gerald Griggs, said he would be filing the necessary paperwork to keep her out of prison, too.

“We will appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

In other APS news:

Dr. Meria Carstarphen took the job four years ago and inherited the largest school cheating scandal in history.
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