Former teacher is first to plead guilty in APS test-cheating scandal

A former elementary school teacher on Wednesday became the first defendant in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal to plead guilty.

Lisa Terry entered her plea before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter, who sentenced her to 12 months on probation. Terry pleaded guilty to obstruction, a misdemeanor.

In exchange, prosecutors dismissed racketeering and theft by taking charges against her.

“I sincerely apologize for my actions and regret that I failed to uphold the ethics and standards of the teaching profession,” Terry said in a letter to Baxter, parents, students and all other parties concerned with the test-cheating case.

“As an educator with more than 19 years of experience serving the students of Atlanta Public Schools, I should have prioritized my values and the faith I had in my students over the pressure placed on me by Humphries Elementary School administrators,” Terry wrote. “While the pressure was constant, it does not justify my choice to violate the trust of the parents and students that I served or the law.”

Terry wrote that during the administration of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, she directed students to go back and check their work which allowed them to correct their answers. She said she had no intent to harm any students.

“In hindsight, I acted out of fear of not achieving Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), meeting the school administration’s progress goals, or achieving poor job evaluations,” she said.

“To my family, I apologize for the disgrace and the hardship my actions have caused,” Terry concluded. “To the parents, students and anyone who has been affected by my actions, I am sorry.”