Did these Atlanta teachers cheat? You read the GBI transcript and decide.

crcted.0920 (Medium)Atlanta Public Schools is still in the process of trying to fire teachers implicated in the test-cheating investigation, a task that becomes more difficult as the cases and circumstances become murkier.

APS went after the most egregious offenders first, those who confessed to copying test booklets and erasing student answers. Now, it is pursuing those educators who made admissions to the GBI of far less overt actions, such as strongly suggesting students recheck answers.

In these less blatant cases, the question becomes what defines cheating? The AJC obtained the tapes of the GBI’s interviews with some teachers through the Georgia Open Records Act. After you read them, you decide. Cheating or not?

The first case involves Dobbs Elementary teacher Derrick Broadwater’s practice of telling students to “check your answers” and helping them with words they didn’t know.

GBI: At the time you were doing this, did you think by doing the kind of prompting you were doing with students you were increasing chances they would get the right answer?

Derrick Broadwater: I didn’t give it that much thought.

GBI: But isn’t that the point? To improve their scores?

Broadwater: Yes.

Broadwater’s lawyer: Or were you hoping they would get the right answer?

Broadwater: I’m always hoping they would get the right answer.

GBI: When you saw your students’ test scores, you were aware of particular students and how they did? How they scored?

Broadwater: Yes. They were always put in our face.

GBI: Some of these students, the poorer students, some you might have said you need to look over your test, did they do better than expected?

Broadwater: Some did, yes.

GBI: So you may have helped them improve their test scores?

Broadwater Yes

A tribunal voted April 30 to fire Sabrina Luckie, 28, for admitting to giving her students a look that expressed disappointment when they blackened the wrong ovals on a statewide test. She maintained she wasn’t trying to get her first-graders at Fain Elementary School in Atlanta to change their answers. Here’s an excerpt from her interview with GBI agents last year.

GBI: When we were talking, you said when you see a student has the wrong answer, you give them that look to say, ‘That’s not right, you need to look at that one again.’ Is that something y’all did every year? Was that the culture?

Luckie: I’ve heard people say that they have given the child the look, like, ‘Why did you put that down.’ But without saying it.

GBI: And you did that as well?

Luckie: Right.

GBI: Did you feel the principal would be upset with you?

Luckie: No.

GBI: Did he suggest y’all do that?

Luckie: No. I never heard him verbally say that. With him to say use voice inflection, I would assume that would be fine.

GBI: It’s like it’s understood?

Luckie: Right. It wasn’t a choice. [It was implied that] you better do something like that.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

47 comments Add your comment


May 30th, 2012
5:38 am

Yes, they cheated. Sorry.

Peter Smagorinsky

May 30th, 2012
5:52 am

I do hope that the go higher up the food chain and subject administrators who produced this culture to the same scrutiny and ethical standards.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

May 30th, 2012
6:00 am

I have never seen the directions for the CRCT, but with the EOCT the directions are EXTREMELY clear that you do NOT do stuff like that. It specifically forbids using inflection.

I have always wondered why we test our own students. Am I being naive as to why? My students have scored extremely well, without any cheating. I know their scores are remarkable and so I do everything I can to remove any suspicion. I stay with the precise text printed in the manual and I get back to the test coordinator with all my materials ASAP.

Look, we all know there are potential problems here. Why not proctor these exams with someone who doesn’t have a dog in that particular fight? Especially in the large districts in metro, you could switch faculty for one or two days and give principals a group of professionals they have no direct control over. That would be harder up here in the smaller systems, but I think something like it could be possible. Why not remove any appearance of impropriety? Why not just push hard and succeed the right way instead of cheating? Am I being naive again?


May 30th, 2012
6:08 am

What is so sad is listening to the stupid answers these dumb idiots give as to how and why they cheated. Trying to justify the unjustifiable. The woman who kept saying she didn’t read the instruction booklet. Do you really have to read the instruction book to know what is cheating? Sad, sorry bunch of idiots.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

May 30th, 2012
6:14 am

You don’t have to read it to know what’s cheating, but you do have to read it – and it’s quite clear.

drew (former teacher)

May 30th, 2012
6:16 am

“APS went after the most egregious offenders first, those who confessed to copying test booklets and erasing student answers.”

So…I guess the ones who lied and denied are less “egregious”??

What defines cheating? I’m not sure, but:

-children are cheated when they’re born to worthless parents

-children are cheated when their school board members are more interested in power and money than serving their constituents

-children are cheated when their teachers don’t care.

-children are cheated when they are crammed into a classroom like sardines

-children are cheated when education is reduced to test scores

-children are cheated when they are socially promoted and set-up to fail down the road

-children are cheated when schools focus only on testing and “closing gaps”

-children are cheated when schools fail to maintain discipline (i.e., see Trotter–good learning conditions).

So, I’m sorry…when a teacher uses body language to get a student reconsider their answer, I have a hard time getting too riled up.


May 30th, 2012
6:48 am

Any child who has been or is in a public school system has been cheated.

Geogia and education not compatible

May 30th, 2012
7:11 am

As far as Mr. Broadwater’s answers are concerned, he may have operated within acceptable ranges. In the testing examiner’s handbook, which teachers are required to read from, it instructs students who finish early to go back and check their answers. This option pertains to the section that the student may have just completed. Also, depending on the modifications for the particular student, a teacher can define some words.


May 30th, 2012
7:12 am

Let’s just call a spade a spade. Atlanta public schools always were, are now, and always will be 2nd class. They simply don’t have the demographics to be successful no matter what government regulations you hand down, no matter how you pretend all students are equal, and no matter what type of cheating you try. This is a great example of what happens when the federal government butts in and tries to fix things it knows nothing about.

Eyes Rolling

May 30th, 2012
7:58 am

Of course they cheated. Not only are they full of it, based on these transcripts they’re obviously too dumb to be in front of a classroom in the first place (not that stupidity is a disqualifier when it comes to employing “educators,” of course… 2/3 of them would be out on the street if it was).


May 30th, 2012
8:02 am

And now we’re doing everything we can to say we didn’t cheat or, even if we did a little, to justify it.

And that it’s being done by the very people who spend as much time with our children as their parents, are supposed to “teach” our children sopme of the educational skills it takes to function in our culture and society.

This is partly why we are where we are.

Ron F.

May 30th, 2012
8:16 am

From what we’ve been told in my district (post APS scandal), anything other than quiet monitoring could be considered an ethics violation. We were told not to look at the test, not to look at anything other than the portions of the answer sheet that had to be filled in with student identifying information, and all but a few had pre-printed labels already attached.

Sadly, what the investigation won’t be able to factually prove is the culture of test pressure that was all over the district. Like anything else, it comes down from the top and becomes a pervasive pressure to do whatever it takes to get the numbers. I can only hope that the facts will lead up the food chain, but I doubt it.


May 30th, 2012
8:16 am

I think we should look more at colleges who receive federal monies and their quality of education. Really, high school! I thought college is considered the answer to all the worlds problems.

The Truth

May 30th, 2012
8:31 am

So many hipocrites! So many of you lie everyday and really lack Good Christain moral values. Look into your own closet before you cast stones.


May 30th, 2012
8:36 am

I really think the real problem lies in a system that requires children who begin the year at all sorts of levels and abilities in classrooms with teachers who are given minimal control over how they teach and given minimal control over the tool they use to teach them being required at risk of job loss and school “failure” to have children, who are not “fungible” at a ‘point certain’ at the end of a given time frame instead of building in a system whereby the system looks for improvement and gives teachers controls over how they get there. To me, the cheating is a “duh” and it isn’t going to go anywhere…. it’s part of our culture (sad but true)

A Conservative Voice

May 30th, 2012
8:42 am


May 30th, 2012
7:12 am

Let’s just call a spade a spade. Atlanta public schools always were, are now, and always will be 2nd class.

To Bobo…….the above is simply not a factual statement. Forty years ago and all the way to the beginnings of the Atlanta Public School System, it was a fine, fine, first class, A Number One Educational Organization. Then something happened that changed it…….something that is still going on today……it is being managed (and I use that word very loosely) by people who simply don’t care or don’t know what in the h**l is going on. They are not capable of running an organization this complex.


May 30th, 2012
8:43 am

Seems like Fernbank could be retooled and become a STEM site… could be used as a model site to bring schools from around the metro area to see STEM in action. It must be saved.


May 30th, 2012
8:46 am

Depends on the test.

True/False or only 2 choices: Cheating
Multiple choice with multiple recommendations to check the answer again: Cheating
Multiple choice with only a recommendation to double check: Not cheating.


May 30th, 2012
9:06 am

With these two teachers, I don’t think they were blatantly cheating. The ones who had changed the test answers (erasures) and copied the test booklets cheated. Those who deliberately gave the students the answers cheated.

These two coached. Luckie may have been a bit too obvious in her coaching (hinting at incorrect answers), but I don’t see Broadwater having done anything wrong. I remember when I was in elementary school, if I finished a section of a test before time was called, I was instructed to go back over the section, double-check my answers, make sure the ovals/circles were filled in correctly, close the booklet, turn the test paper over, and put my head down.


May 30th, 2012
9:16 am

Maureen, I would like for you to write a column on the Georgia Connections Academy. All I’ve learned is that it is a free on-line public school. What I would like to know is this something that the state is paying for? Through my school tax dollars?


May 30th, 2012
9:30 am

Are we still talking about this? Of course they cheated..that has been established. And while I do not condone cheating, my heart feels for these teachers. Think about the pressure they were under. Think about what YOU would do if you had a family to support and that was counting on you and your boss told you to do something unethical. And if you didn’t do it, you’d be fired and there would be no food on your kids’ table and no roof over their heads. Don’t answer that here, but REALLY think about it. And be honest with yourself. Would you do something unethical or would you risk your family being homeless?


May 30th, 2012
9:35 am

They cheated. It wasn’t blatant but any help on the test is considered cheating.

The training sessions prior to testing are clear about what is considered cheating or a testing irregularity. If they weren’t clear, then someone needs to be investigating the person(s) in charge of teacher test training.

Mikey D.

May 30th, 2012
9:52 am

@Peter Smagorinsky
I too would like to see the administrators held to the same level of scrutiny, but you know that’s not going to happen. The little guys will become the fall guys, while the big cats skate free.


May 30th, 2012
10:52 am

Voice inflection, raised eyebrows, helping them with words they didn’t know….sounds like cheating to me. All we ever got in school was keep your eye on your own paper and make sure you have sharpen No.2 pencil.


May 30th, 2012
11:11 am

The test manual is pretty specific. If it isn’t in there, you can’t do it! These folks cheated.

Those who do the mandated training for testing should ALSO have a manual which tells them EXACTLY what they can say as they train teachers to do the testing. Failure to follow that should be cheating!

This really isn’t rocket science. Those who trained these teachers should also be considered culpable in their cheating. ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!

Michael Moore

May 30th, 2012
12:11 pm

This was all so avoidable. Teachers in school x report to school y for the next few days because you are going to give school y’s tests. Takes a little scheduling, but so what?

Beverly Fraud

May 30th, 2012
12:20 pm

Whose the most morally culpable: Taking shortcuts (in regard to teachers “coaxing” answers out of students) or a system that does not at this point seem overly determined to go after those who CREATED the culture of cheating in the first place?

That being said, one could say the Broadwater borders on the possibility of delving into the gray area (how’s that for a non-definitive statement?) while the Luckie case, not so much.

After all, the test is a “multiple choice” test. The CHILD is supposed to eliminate the incorrect answers, not the teacher.


May 30th, 2012
12:21 pm

It is a sad statement on our community when we even have to ask what qualifies as cheating and what doesn’t. Public school testing that is designed to categorize passing and failing (and constantly changing the line that determines the category-and constantly changing the information used to determine this) is always going to attract cheating. Trying to decide what constitutes cheating and what doesn’t just highlights the real problem-the test itself. With Common Core now being adopted but little or no funds for staff training and teachers being told to compare the curriculum and figure it out for themselves it is only going to get worse.

another comment

May 30th, 2012
12:47 pm

Funny how we never has any of these problems with the nuns teaching us growing up in the 60’s. We also had 40 kids in the class room. We didn’t have any behavioral problems, because I saw Sr. Monica paddle my boyfriend Robert who bought me penny candy for with one of those ping pong paddles that use to have a ball attached, in front of the whole class. Other nuns, made boys wear pink paper cut out ties, if they forgot their ties or did something. The worst offence was stealing tape records from the library, the riches boy in lass and two others go caught, they spent the summer panting the priest’s house. Mother drove by the school and church every day all summer to show us Robert Reager and the other boys painting the priest’s house. No one ever stole from that school again. No one ever got a criminal record either.

My one Aunt has told me recently that my other Aunt who is 85 and a St. of Mercy and has taught at all levels including mostly as at a Full Professor of Biology at a Catholic College, followed by being the headmaster of a Catholic Prep School. She has a Doctorate in Marine or Environemental Biology from the University of Florida. Not some on-line Doctorate. She has never been paid more than $120/mo for teaching over 60 years in Catholic Elementary, High Schools, and Colleges.

Living in an outdated ed system

May 30th, 2012
2:00 pm

Shame on @Maureen for sharing this with the community. First of all, this questioning would NEVER hold up in a court of law. There are instances of heresy and “leading on a witness.” And finally, it seems clear to me that the real criminals here were the administrators and the leadership of Dr. Hall, who fostered a culture of cheating, the result of a failed federal policy called NCLB. These teachers have been railroaded and it has cost taxpayers millions of dollars that will never come back to where it should be invested: THE STUDENTS.

What a circus!


May 30th, 2012
3:49 pm

We are not allowed to test our own students since the APS scandal broke. I’m grateful for it.

Atlanta Mom

May 30th, 2012
4:28 pm

I hope you’re wrong about that in the elementary schools.
While I believe that by 5th grade teachers should not be allowed to test their own students, prior to that, particularly for first-third, it would be not in the best interests of the child to change teachers.
Remember, these are 7 and 8 year olds. The teachers put incredible amounts of pressure on them. Don’t put a complete stranger in the class and add more fear to an already stressful situtation.


May 30th, 2012
8:33 pm

@Atlanta Mom: No worries. I teach high school. In this environment, it would be a good idea to have an independent proctor in the classroom along with the regular teacher when the little ones test. Then again, I think it’s completely ridiculous to give standardized tests to kids younger than 3rd grade.


May 30th, 2012
11:11 pm

I am sorry…These people cheated. I read this with my mouth open with utter disbelief these people could not even understand what they did was wrong. From reading the descriptions it is easy to see they were actually engaged in determining what these students were marking and signaling incorrect responses. Yes, I have a look and my students all know what it is in reference to…unacceptable behavior. To indicate in any way possible mistakes or to specifically to look over their tests or frown or look at them when they make a response on any testing whether is it is standardized or teacher created is cheating. These people had no role models…no leadership…no mentors…no one who respected them. I cannot even imagine living or teaching in such an environment. I just cannot accept any of this. I just hope those above these teachers really face the consequences of their poor leadership and I mean all the way to top.

To Cheat or Not to Cheat

May 31st, 2012
8:50 am

Is the GaDOE cheating by hiring one of the named cheaters and then having Atlanta Public Schools’ personnel answering directly to him? Why are they, the governing body of all schools, not held to the same standards? It’s odd that the individual would be having his own tribunal hearing if he was still with APS, but he is now under the protection of the GaDOE and continues to be a gatekeeper for student records. According to the GBI report, he removed special education students from testing settings, he encouraged parents not to bring their students to school, and he was at the school with an administrator (who admitted wrongdoing and was fired) late at night with the tests. It’s not just APS, it goes all the way to the DOE.


May 31st, 2012
9:38 am

I have been in this exact situation this year and lost my job over it. I know the pressure and innuendos placed upon teachers. I filed a complaint with my county and the PSC. Neither the county or PSC would bother with an investigation. I have written proof of what happened. Fortunately we can still put food on the table but we’re still tight but I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing. My issue is when my kids ask me why if I did the right thing refusing to cheat did I lose my job? It is confusing times when being above reproach gets you shoved out the door and the offenders are lauded.


May 31st, 2012
12:54 pm

Of course they cheated.


May 31st, 2012
4:29 pm

People need to quit whining about the culture. Every private sector job has pressure to produce. Increase the metrics or else. It doesn’t justify cheating or breaking the law.

I understand some administrators are charged with ordering people to cheat. They should be fired and lose their credentials. However, simply applying pressure for improvements is not inappropriate. That is what they are supposed to do, increase scores by teaching the children.

The first interview above shows that the defendent needed legal counsel. The instructions read to the class said to recheck answers. The teacher repeated those instructions. Isn’t it obvious that she said it hoping the kids would correct errors and improve their scores? Isn’t that why those instructions are in the pre-test instructions?

another aps teacher

May 31st, 2012
10:00 pm

Voice inflection is cheating. Telling a student to check a particular answer is cheating. Telling a student to recheck all answers is good proctoring. Everybody knows these things. But when you are forced to use teaching practices that are not working with your students, and poor test scores will prove how much these practices are not working, and will make the person who mandated these practices look like an idiot, then the mandator will intimidate the mandatee into doing things that make the mandator look good. cos’ it’s all about how it looks vs how it is.

Too many teachers are too scared to close the door to their classroom and do what works during the months before the test.

@ Maureen...

June 2nd, 2012
9:08 am

To Cheat or Not to Cheat
May 31st, 2012
8:50 am

Maureen, Do you know who the writer is referring to in the above referenced post?

It's all in the way you play the game...

June 2nd, 2012
10:46 pm

@ @Maureen: I do believe that the poster is referring to an individual who was formerly employed at Coan Middle School. I read the report, narrowed down the special education people named, and then I searched the DOEs site for those individuals. You might save a little time by searching the GaDOE’s special education section. I assume that there is a resonable expectatiion that this person is not a public figure so I won’t publish his name. He does not appear to be in danger of losing his certification, but more astonishing is that the DOE would have him keeping or reviewing records for the very district where he was labeled by the GBI as one who participated in the shenanigans.Shame on you, DOE!!

It's all in the way you play the game...

June 2nd, 2012
10:49 pm

@ @Maureen…check out the report on Coan Middle School.

It's the game

June 2nd, 2012
10:51 pm

@ @Maureen…check out the section on Coan Middle School. Shame on you, DOE!


June 3rd, 2012
7:28 am

You have given us the extreme cases. I would like to view the transcripts of some that were more controversial (mean there was a thin line). I was easy to dismiss or prove cheating that is obvious, but what about those cases where teachers where influenced by the GBI to make incriminating statements?


June 3rd, 2012
11:34 am

@ TJ. If the teachers in question hadn’t cheated, they wouldn’t be able to incriminate themselves.

Good Mother

June 3rd, 2012
5:05 pm

To ABC, you have it all wrong. Cheating is cheating. and YEs…I have been under the same pressue and refused AND lost my job, with kids.
I found another job because I have integrity and an education. Honest, educated people do not have to worry about crooked employers. THey can and do move on.
Only dishonest, uneducated, shiftless, sorry people need to be afraid.
Your “homeless” scrare is ridiculous. Teacheres cheated because they wanted their bonuses. They wanted the prestige.
All people are tested and tempted. Honest people don’t cave to pressure.


June 6th, 2012
5:35 pm

My son attended Clayton County Schools from kindergarten up until middle school. I was aware that the children were taught reading by remembering specific words (I believe there were 200 words). The elementary school advised extra help in reading. However, he scored on an 11th grade level in math.

My son began middle school in Clayton County. I knew that he had reading problems so I spoke to his English teacher regarding this problem. Her reply was that she had to read the test questions because many of her students had problems reading.

I enrolled my son in a Sylvan Learning Center. I was told he was on a 2nd grade reading level. After 6 months he was up to his grade level.

We moved to Hall County were he got an excellent education.