The 11 eleven educators who were caught and convicted of a massive test-cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia have received their sentences. For a group of teachers, the prison terms are surprisingly dire.
According to Reuters, the educators sentenced on Tuesday received one to seven years in prison. Three of them received a shocking 20-year prison term, with seven years served behind bars and the rest on probation. Five of the convicted educators will serve five-year terms, two will serve two years and three of them will serve only one year.
The crimes of the Atlanta educators are considered one of the largest racketeering scandals the country has ever seen, which Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter claims hurt “thousands of children.”
“It’s like the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town,” Baxter said.
According to NPR, the teachers and administrators conspired to cheat on standardized tests in order to boost their standing as a public education institution and earn bonuses and raises to their salaries. The defendants deliberately changed incorrect answers of students to improve their test scores for their own benefit. Anyone involved in the conspiracy who attempted to blow the whistle on the scandal was punished by the group.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the hearing frequently became loud and unruly. The educators sentenced for the conspiracy were seen crying while their lawyers argued vehemently with the judge. Meanwhile, Judge Baxter was simply trying to get the teachers to admit they had done something wrong by orchestrating such a large-scale cheating scandal. The judge reportedly got very emotional during the hearing.
“All I want from any of these people is just to take some responsibility, but they refuse.”
Only two of the educators sentenced accepted responsibility for the conspiracy, apologized to the court and struck a deal with prosecutors that drastically reduced their sentences. The remainder of the Atlanta teachers refused to back down and paid the price with much larger prison terms.
Suspicions about the conspiracy emerged in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested that the Atlanta school system was changing answers to improve scores. Investigators eventually found that many teachers were cheating on the standardized tests due to the pressure put on by administrator Beverly Hall, who died of cancer before anyone was sentenced. The trial lasted five months and ultimately ended this week with the corrupt educators sentenced by the Atlanta courts.
For a full list of all the educators sentenced on Tuesday, visit AJC.
[Image credit: Associated Press]