CRCT Investigation Report: East Lake Elementary School | Schools
East Lake Elementary School
145 4th Avenue SE
Principal: Gwendolyn Benton
Testing Coordinator: Fran Standifer
SRT-3 Executive Director: Dr. Gloria Patterson
Update: 11Alive News would like to clarify our reporting on East Lake Elementary. It has come to our attention that the previous version of this story may not have clearly stated some of the witness accounts.
Morresia Withers contacted 11Alive News via email Wednesday night. In her email, she provided her response to the Office of the Governor’s Special Investigation and 11Alive’s subsequent reporting.
Despite the Special Investigator’s report claims, Withers said she did not give her account of administering the CRCT in 2009. She told 11Alive News that she was on maternity leave at that time. She said she did provide her account of the CRCT’s administration at East Lake Elementary in 2010.
“I never reported that I saw Mrs. Benton or Mrs. Standifer staying late after school with the doors closed during the administration of the 2009 CRCT,” Withers said in her email to 11Alive. “I was on maternity leave during this time, and I informed the investigator of this at the time of my interview.”
“I informed the investigator that during the 2010 Writing test, Mrs. Benton called me and about 3 or 4 other teachers in her office and gave us seating charts and told us to seat the students in that order and pass out the test,” Withers explained in her email. "The teacher [Stephanie Walls] and I decided that we would ignore that order and administered the writing test as usual. Again, we did not follow Mrs. Benton's direction, therefore I can say that there was not any cheating on the 2010 Writing test, and did not make any comment about the 2009 Writing test [so the report is incorrect]."
"I did not say that ‘teachers need to get their students to pass the CRCT by any means necessary,'" Withers said in her email.
Below is the summary of Withers’ witness account to the special investigators, as provided in their report; Withers contends that this is inaccurate:
"Morresia Withers remembers that Principal Benton and Standifer stayed late behind closed doors during the CRCT testing period in 2009 and other years. After a security camera was installed around Principal Benton's office for the 2010 testing window, however, Principal Benton and Standifer did not stay late at the school during the CRCT testing window.
"Withers proctored the 2009 CRCT writing test in Stephanie Walls' classroom. She said that Principal Benton and Standifer instructed Withers and Walls to seat the students in a particular order for the Fifth Grade Writing Test. Withers explained the writing test was supposed to be handed out randomly, and the seating arrangement scheme ensured that the lowest performing students received the easiest writing question. Withers and Walls ignored Principal Benton and Standifer's instruction, but did not report the attempted violation to APS's testing hotline.
"Withers said that APS had a "mafia atmosphere" and that employees feared retaliation if they spoke up. Principal Benton threatened to place teachers on PDPs for low CRCT scores, and stated: "We will do whatever it takes to make sure the students pass the test."
Withers stands by her statement that APS had a "mafia atmosphere."
ATLANTA -- The Office of the Governor Special Investigative Team has concluded cheating took place at East Lake Elementary School in 2009, among other years.
The Investigative Team concluded that "Principal Benton and Fran Standifer erased and changed student answer sheets on the 2009 CRCT and in other years." They also determined that principal Gwendolyn Benton and testing coordinator Fran Standifer altered the results of the Fifth Grade Writing Test in 2009 and other years by manipulating the distribution of the writing test.