People don’t usually think of educators in terms of cheating, but 11 former educators in the Atlanta Public Schools of about 50,000 students have been convicted in a test cheating conspiracy. The educators were found guilty of inflating scores on students’ standardized tests, according to the Huffington Post. The 11 convicted educators included not only teachers, but also testing coordinators and other administrators. Investigators concluded that the conspiracy went on for 10 years, dating back to 2005.
Let’s do the math and determine how the number was reduced from the 35 indicted two years ago to only 11 who were just convicted. The superintendent, Beverly Hall, who was accused of being the ringleader of the cheating scandal, died earlier this month. One other former educator also died. Twenty-one others pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to probation. One educator was acquitted of all charges. That accounts for the 11 who were convicted.
The Wall Street Journal reported that those convicted were found guilty of racketeering charges, false statements, and theft. This became one of the largest school cheating scandals in U.S. history, with 50 schools and nearly 180 educators investigated. Evidence of cheating was found in 44 of those schools.
It was concluded that educators were pressured into meeting federal and local standards. For personal reasons, those convicted cheated to receive bonuses for higher test scores, to keep their jobs, or a combination of both.
The crimes consisted of educators giving answers to students or changing answers on standardized tests after students turned them in. There was evidence that teachers who tried to report the cheating faced retaliation from officials. It should be pointed out that while students were interviewed, no student was convicted of wrongdoing.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which brought the cheating to light, reported how lengthy the entire process was to come to the conviction. The criminal investigation by the Fulton County district attorney’s office lasted nearly two years and involved at least 50 schools, as well as hundreds of interviews with educators, school administrators, staff, parents, and students. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said it was the biggest and most complex case his office had ever handled.
The jury selection for the trial took more than six weeks. The trial itself lasted five months, with 162 witnesses testifying. Closing arguments from both sides lasted three days. The jury deliberation took eight days.
What does this mean for the 11 educators who were convicted? They could get a 20-year prison sentence for the racketeering. The other felonies carry a prison sentence of five to 10 years.
[Photo: Kent D. Johnson/Associated Press]