Cheating scandal involved allegations of altered attendance records

7:05 PM, Jul 14, 2011   |    comments
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Former teacher Sidnye Fells claims someone altered her class attendance reports.

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal involves claims of altered tests, as well as allegations of falsified attendance records.

In their lengthy report detailing efforts to cheat on the CRCT exam within the Atlanta Public Schools, investigators also explain how they interviewed teachers who allege they were either told to lie about student attendance, or witnessed altered records.

One of the witnesses interviewed by investigators was former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Sidnye Fells.

"Certain years, I was told toward the end of the year, we were all told, 'don't mark any children absent at all. Mark all of your children present,'" Fells said.

Several years ago, before she retired from teaching, Fells snapped a cell phone picture of one of her student attendance reports. She claims someone altered it.

"There was an absent symbol, and someone scratched it out," said Fells. "The "A" I'd written for absent had been scratched out by someone in the front office. I don't know who."

Fells said she refused to mark students as present when they were absent. She said she didn't complain until after she'd left the teaching profession out of fear she'd be fired.

Sidnye Fells cell phone picture is now part of the massive report on cheating in Atlanta public schools. I Investigators uncovered claims of attendance records altered in at least a half dozen of the implicated schools.

The report quotes a teacher at Benteen Elementary who told investigators that one child was absent over 100 days, but the student's attendance report showed that child had only three or four absences. The investigative report said when the teacher complained to Principal Diana Quisenberry, the principal responded that there "must have been a glitch in the system."

"In my opinion, they were doing it to meet attendance targets, and because of funding," said Fells.

To qualify for federal "Title I" dollars, schools have to meet certain standards on student CRCT scores and attendance.

Schools implicated in the cheating scandal could be forced to return federal dollars. If that happens, it could cost the Atlanta school district as much as a million dollars.

A spokesman said the state school board has yet to decide on how much if any money Atlanta schools will have to return.

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