A group of teachers, principals, and administrators from Atlanta were found guilty this week of taking part in one of the nation’s biggest cheating scandals for their own personal gain.
According to the New York Times, 11 teachers were convicted of racketeering, while some were charged with perjury and giving false statements to the police. The cheating scandal goes back to 2005 under the late Beverly L. Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.
Hall, who died in early March due to breast cancer, denied playing a role in the cheating scandal, but further investigation uncovered that Hall and several others pressured educators into changing the answers of students’ standardized tests to secure bonuses and improve the reputations of the schools and themselves.
In 2013, 44 schools and nearly 180 educators involved were brought to the stand as the jury indicted 35 teaching professionals on charges of racketeering, false statements, and theft. The Atlanta school district, which houses over 50,000 students, was questioned in 2009 when test scores increased dramatically for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, a standardized examination given yearly to students.
Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered an investigation, which lasted until 2011.
On Wednesday, only a single defendant, former elementary school teacher Dessa Curb, was cleared of all charges, while the 11 other educators were taken back into police custody.
“I’m thankful to God that it turned out well for me, but I’m very upset about the others,” Ms. Curb said outside the courtroom. Prosecutors said the 12 former educators on trial were looking out for themselves, seeking bonuses for higher test scores rather than worrying about the education of the children they were charged with teaching. Defense attorneys said their clients were caught up in an overly broad prosecution that overreached in charging them with violating racketeering laws most often used for organized crime.
Lawyers were stunned by the verdict, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter voiced his own thoughts, saying the educators should deal with the consequences of their actions.
“I don’t like to send anybody to jail,” Baxter said. “It’s not one of the things I get a kick out of, but they have made their bed, and they’re going to have to lie in it, and it starts today.”
Only one teacher, Shani Robinson, was released on bail due to her pregnancy. Sentence hearings are expected next week.
SOURCE: NY Times | VIDEO CREDIT: NewsOne Now