Months after promise of help, Atlanta students still waiting

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2015 1:20 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Six months after plans were announced for an academy to help thousands of schoolchildren harmed by the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating scandal, a prosecutor now says those plans are "on hold."

The problem is that organizers have not been able to raise the millions of dollars needed for the Atlanta Redemption Academy, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://on-ajc.com/1Ms8xAL ). He hopes businesses will support it, he said.

Howard had announced plans for the Atlanta Redemption Academy at an April 14 news conference after 10 of the former educators were sentenced.

In one of the nation's largest cases of its kind, a state investigation found cheating on standardized tests began as early as 2005 and included educators who changed students' testing sheets after they were turned in. Investigators said they found 44 schools and nearly 180 educators were involved.

The widespread cheating deprived students of educational help and left Atlanta with an under-educated workforce, the Atlanta Redemption Academy states on its website. The site, still accessible on the Internet, lists its goals as providing students with tutoring, GED classes and job training. It would be for students no longer in Atlanta schools.

Thousands of Atlanta Public Schools students affected by the scandal fell behind in reading and English language arts compared with classmates whose tests showed little or no evidence of manipulation, Georgia State University researchers said in a report released in May. Atlanta Public Schools requested the analysis, which found that 7,064 students were affected.

Prosecutors have also said one effect of cheating on the state testing was that students who were not prepared were advanced to higher grades and failed to learn needed concepts.

The major barrier to establishing the Atlanta Redemption Academy has been money, Howard said. It would take about $24 million, he told the Journal-Constitution.

The delay in establishing the academy was also supposed to help 11 former educators perform thousands of hours of community service there.

"We would love to work with the Redemption Academy, if it existed," said attorney Gerald Griggs, who represented former elementary school teacher Angela Williamson. "But it doesn't exist."