Former APS principal says pressure led her to cheat

Clarietta Davis testified Wednesday that she changed her students’ answers from wrong to right on standardized tests because she feared what might happen if her school did not meet testing targets that she considered unrealistic.

“My motivation was to save my job and the job of others,” the former Venetian Hills Elementary School principal somberly told jurors during the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial.

“I regret it because I did have some smart children,” said Davis, an APS educator from 1975 to 2010. “The children were making progress but not enough to keep up with the targets. We just couldn’t.”

Davis, now serving a sentence of two years on probation, is one of 21 educators who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Fulton County prosecutors. She is the fifth such defendant to testify and, unlike some others, stuck to her plea agreement. Her testimony continues Thursday.

Prosecutors called Davis as a witness against former regional supervisor Sharon Davis-Williams, one of 12 defendants on trial.

Davis-Williams knew Venetian Hills students came from a transient population and that most performed below grade level, Davis said. Yet Davis-Williams only wanted to know what Davis was going to do to meet district test-score targets that continued to rise year after year, Davis said.

“Maybe you do not have the right people on the bus,” Davis-Williams told her, Davis testified. Davis said she understood this to mean her job and her staff’s jobs were on the line.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall, a defendant who is not on trial because she has cancer, also knew how the challenges faced by Venetian Hills students affected their capabilities, yet she still expected the school to meet targets, Davis testified.

“There were no excuses for not making targets,” Davis testified, saying that is what Hall told her. “None.”

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