By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The trial of a dozen former Atlanta educators charged in one of the nation's largest school test-cheating scandals began on Monday and could last several months, prosecutors said.
The group of former teachers, principals and administrators was accused of conspiring to alter students' standardized test scores after a state investigation uncovered cheating at 44 Atlanta public schools in 2009.
Investigators said the educators inflated test results to boost their bonuses in a data-driven environment.
It could take lawyers up to a month to pick a jury, the Fulton County prosecutor's office said. If convicted, the former educators could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
In all, 35 public educators were indicted in the scandal, which rocked the school system. Most of them have resolved their cases by pleading guilty.
Former Atlanta school superintendent Beverly Hall was due to be among the final group headed to trial, but her case was delayed indefinitely after advanced breast cancer left her too sick to attend court proceedings.
Hall was named national superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators the same year prosecutors contend widespread cheating took place. She received a $78,000 bonus in 2009 from the school system for improving its test scores, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)