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Student recalls cheating teacher's 'help'

9:01 AM, Jul 8, 2011   |    comments
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A student recounts how her elementary school teacher gave her and others the answers to the CRCT when they got stuck on problems. Now her parents are contemplating legal action against the APS system.

ATLANTA -- "I didn't think anything of it at all. I just thought my teacher was helping me," recalled Amirah Tavares.

She's a 17 year-old Atlanta Public School high school grad who is now on her way to college. But Amirah has never forgotten the "help" she got in elementary school during the CRCT -- help she now knows she should not have received.

"If they see you struggling, they'll try to help you," she said of the teachers monitoring those tests many years ago. "[They] tell you the answer is C if you're struggling on one answer. If you're struggling on another, the answer is B. So just the little answers that they give you . . . can cause a big change."

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta Public Schools CRCT Investigation

11Alive news spoke to Amirah and her mother about the cheating scandal. All four kids in the family went to schools that are or were under investigation.

"Students are now being cheated more than I was being cheated when I was in school," said Amirah. "So now it's basically terrifying, because everybody seems like they're all just cheating; and everybody's just cheating their way through school."

Her mother agrees vigorously.

"They're cheating children out of life-long opportunities," she said. 

Shawnna Hayes-Tavares is no stranger to APS officials, especially when it comes to the CRCT. She said she knew something was wrong when her youngest son's scores went from first to worst after he went to a new school. There were no satisfactory answers from APS.

"We're talking about a 50 or 60 point drop in all of the areas where he met and exceeded (the CRCT) at Slater," she said. "Of course you don't want to believe it. You had good teachers. I felt like I'm a good parent. However... you can't deny."

Slater Elementary is on the list of schools where cheating is suspected.

Tavares said parents need to come together against the APS system to correct what may be incalculable damage to their children.

"A class-action suit to ensure that our children will be tracked, to put (together) wrap-around services for each of them," she said. "Education plans that will be available to each of them, individual education plans that track them where ever they are."

Even for Amirah, as she heads to college, she can't help but wonder if all her scholastic accomplishments were truly hers.

"I feel very sad inside, and I feel very hurt," she said. "Considering I made it, I just graduated from 12th grade. I went from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I made it by myself. Then at the same time, I couldn't even think if I did it by myself or not."

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