As demonstrated with North Atlanta High School, APS chief Erroll Davis is fond of the emphatic gesture. That was also evident when he suspended all the educators implicated in the cheating investigation by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
But some of those educators are fighting to return to their jobs as a tribunal sorts through the evidence against them in a series of hearings.
One of them is M. A. Jones Elementary School teacher Precious Moon. Her case seems among the murkiest, given the lack of clear evidence against her. Take a look at the AJC story on this week’s hearing and let us know what you think.
Atlanta Public Schools pressed its case Monday to terminate M. A. Jones Elementary School 5th-grade teacher Precious Moon for her alleged involvement in the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test cheating scandal that has implicated about 180 educators.
APS Superintendent Erroll Davis testified before a three-person tribunal that he had lost confidence in Moon because of numerous violations of school policy and for her allegedly prompting students to change answers or giving them the correct answers while she monitored the tests. The tribunal adjourned early Monday evening without a decision.
Davis said APS built its case largely on a state investigation of the school system that cited Moon for prompting students during tests and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission recommendation that her teaching license be suspended two years, which Moon has appealed.
Moon’s attorney, Gerald Griggs — who hammered at the APS case throughout the day citing lack of proof and witnesses — asked Davis if he would change his opinion and let Moon keep her job if she won her appeal to the PSC. “I do not believe that I would,” said Davis, because of all the information he had been given by investigators.
But there was no “smoking gun” testimony Monday, such as witnesses saying they had seen Moon tell students to change answers. Stan Williams, a private investigator hired in 2009 to do an internal investigation for APS, testified that he could find no conclusive evidence she cheated, and none of the estimated 20 Moon students he questioned said she cheated or helped them cheat.
APS said Moon violated test procedures when, as she admitted to investigators, she repeatedly advised students, “You need to focus and check your answers” during the tests. GBI agent Eugene Howard played part of his taped interview with Moon in which she explained she focused on one student in particular during the test and told him to quit playing with a new watch and to reread a section of the test she thought he moved through too quickly.
“Playing with the watch is one issue,” said Howard, explaining that it was within accepted procedure to focus a student’s attention during a test. “But redirecting him back to the test is not right.”
Earlier in the day Melissa Fincher, Georgia Department of Education Associate Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability, conceded under cross-examination that state regulations give test monitors the leeway to repeat instructions during tests. How often, and whether it’s acceptable to remind one student and not necessarily all the students, is a “grey area,” said Fincher.
Moon took the stand after Davis and testified that she never prompted students to change answers, didn’t give students the answers, and never in any way “signaled” that what they had answered was wrong.
“Do you think there is any reason the superintendent should have lost confidence in you?” her attorney asked. “No,” she said.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog