Channel 2's Richard Elliot Reports

Witness: APS staff accused of cheating told kids “You all just dumb”

Certain fourth-grade teachers at Dobbs Elementary School told their students things like “You all just dumb. You can’t learn anything,” former Dobbs teaching coach Lori Revere-Paulk testified in the Atlanta test-cheating trial Wednesday.

But many of those students went on to ace state tests, even though results from other tests suggested they would fall short, Revere-Paulk said.

Three former Dobbs staff members are on trial in the cheating scandal: principal Dana Evans, fourth-grade teacher Angela Williamson and special education teacher Dessa Curb.

Revere-Paulk’s testimony Wednesday was part of the state’s case regarding cheating at Dobbs and against defendant Theresia Copeland, a former administrator at another elementary school where Revere-Paulk was eventually transferred.

A 2011 state report investigating cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools found high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures on state tests at Dobbs and alleged that Williamson and Curb were among those who had cheated.

Fourth-grade teachers Derrick Broadwater and Shayla Smith — who Revere-Paulk said sometimes denigrated their students — were also among those accused of cheating. Both have pleaded guilty to lesser charges. But Revere-Paulk described Williamson as “hard working” and “there for the children.”

State investigators said Evans knew or should have known about the cheating. Evans denied participating in, allowing or knowing of cheating, but told investigators she accepted responsibility for what happened in her school.

“We commend her for accepting responsibility — she is one of the few in APS to do so,” state investigators wrote.

Revere-Paulk testified Wednesday she told Evans three times about suspected cheating at the school.

She said she told Evans that fourth-grade students’ state test results were much higher than third- and fifth-grade results and their state test performance was much higher than their performance on other tests. She also said she told Evans about disturbing reports from fourth-grade students about testing. Teachers prompted their students to change answers and “prepped” them using copies of state test questions, according to the 2011 state report.

The final time Revere-Paulk spoke up was after the release of the 2008 state test results. Many fourth-grade students had the same scores and missed the same questions, she said.

“I was told that that just meant that the teachers team taught,” Revere-Paulk said.

The response, Revere-Paulk said, was “ludicrous.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X