ATLANTA - A former testing coordinator has entered a guilty plea in connection with the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. During plea proceedings late Wednesday before presiding Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter, Lera Middlebrooks pleaded guilty to a single obstruction charge.
Middlebrooks was among the 35 APS educators (including former Superintendent Beverly Hall) indicted in March for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to alter Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores within the Atlanta Public School system. Each was charged with False Statements and Writings, Theft by Taking and Violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.
The charges against Middlebrooks date back to 2009 when she was employed as a testing coordinator at Dunbar Elementary School. As test coordinator, Middlebrooks was responsible for maintaining custody of test booklets and answer sheets when not in use by students. Middlebrooks initially denied the allegations against her but now admits she allowed teachers to have improper access to students’ completed CRCT answer sheets so they could change incorrect answers. She says she cheated because of tremendous pressure placed upon her by school administrators to meet academic targets that were tied to bonuses and incentives for the school districts. Middlebrooks also admits making statements to discourage and intimidate teachers at Dunbar that she knew had participated in changing answers from implicating her in any cheating activity to GBI Investigators.
Under the terms of her plea agreement, Middlebrooks was sentenced to one year on probation, ordered to perform 250 hours of community service. She must also provide truthful testimony at trial. In addition to admitting her guilt, Middlebrooks also submitted a letter of apology to the Court.
Middlebrooks plea brings to six the number of educators who have entered guilty pleas in connection with the cheating scandal. To date, four teachers and one assistant principal have pleaded guilty to obstruction charges and have been sentenced to probation, ordered to perform community service and pay restitution for bonuses received under false pretenses.