Atlanta math teacher Shayla Smith is accused of giving students answers to state exams because they were "dumb as hell."
A tribunal hired to investigate a widespread cheating scandal among Atlanta Public School teachers and administrators is recommending that the school board fire Smith by not renewing her contract. She was a fifth-grade teacher at Dobbs Elementary School, and is one of about 180 Atlanta educators accused of various improprieties related to the administration of state exams -- including erasing wrong answers on students' multiple choice exams and replacing them with correct ones.
Dobbs fourth grade teacher Schajuan Jones taught in a classroom across from Smith, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Jones testified during the hearing that she had overheard Smith speaking with a teacher in the hallway about administering a test for her students.
"The words were, 'I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they're dumb as hell,'" Jones said.
A now-eighth-grade student testified that Smith administered her a re-test of the state math exam in 2010 and offered assistance, CBS Atlanta reports.
"She would walk around and tell people the answer," the student said. "She would just come to our desks and read the question and say the answer."
Smith denied allegations of cheating and called Jones "a liar."
With 21 pending tribunal hearings, the school board has yet to vote on the panel's recommendation to terminate Smith. Superintendent Erroll Davis said during the hearing that erasure analyses showed that tests administered by Smith had high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures, WSBTV reports.
"This district has lost complete and utter confidence in her ability to remain in the classroom," Davis said of Smith. "I have absolutely no confidence that [this] teacher could, in fact, administer future exams with integrity."
So far, of the educators implicated in Atlanta's cheating scandal, 17 have been fired, 16 have been reinstated and 110 have either resigned or retired.
The investigations and pending punitive actions come from a two-year investigation released last summer that found widespread cheating among educators in at least 44 Atlanta schools. The findings shook the country and "stunned" U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The district spent about $600,000 monthly on the teachers on leave, and the entire scandal could cost taxpayers in the neighborhood of $9 million.
APS last October sought to raise $600,000 to help tutor struggling students affected by the scandal, including students whose test scores weren't directly inflated. The district also agreed in January to repay more than $363,000 in federal money won by teachers and administrators cheating.
Firing educators in the right-to-work state is costly and complicated. Depending on the case, firing a teacher could take anywhere from days to years.
In Georgia, teachers can be fired for "incompetency, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, immorality, encouraging students to violate the law, failure to secure and maintain necessary educational training and any other good and sufficient cause," according to state law.
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