Former APS teacher admits cheating

Pressured to cheat, she did, Atlanta teacher testifies

A former Atlanta third grade teacher tearfully testified Monday that she gave in to pressure from an administrator to cheat on standardized tests.

Stacey Smith, who taught at Usher-Collier Heights Elementary School, said testing coordinator Donald Bullock dropped off test booklets at the end of a day when students had been taking the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009.

“He came to me and asked me if I wanted to make sure my children did well on the test,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to lose my job. I was told that I was not a tenured teacher, that I could be replaced at any moment.”

Smith was a witness in the trial of Tamara Cotman, a former Atlanta Public Schools area director who is the first defendant to go to trial for cheating.

Smith cried as she confessed that she changed students’ results by erasing incorrect answers and filling in the correct answers.

“I feel horrible,” Smith said. “I did my babies a disservice … My teaching wasn’t enough if I felt like I had to do what I did.”

Smith said she was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her cooperation with Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents.

An attorney for Bullock, Hurl Taylor, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

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