Atlanta educators in cheating scandal due for sentencing

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 13, 2015 7:00 AM

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Ten former Atlanta public school educators convicted earlier this month of racketeering in one of the nation's largest test-cheating scandals are set to be sentenced on Monday, facing potential penalties of more than 20 years in prison.

A state investigation in 2011 found that 38 principals and 140 teachers in the Atlanta school district were involved in cheating on 2009 standardized tests, in a revelation that shook the city.

The cheating, which included erasing wrong answers, was prompted by pressure to meet test-goal targets and a desire to secure promotions and cash bonuses, prosecutors have said.

Bernice King, daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., last week urged the judge in the case to spare the 11 convicted educators from prison, one of whom is pregnant and due to be sentenced in August.

"It is my hope, instead, that their sentences allow for the 'APS 11' to be of benefit to society, while, at the same time, reconciling themselves with their offenses and enhancing their character," King said in a statement.

It is unusual for teachers and principals to end up behind bars for cheating on student tests, said Bob Schaeffer, education director for the nonprofit group FairTest, which seeks to limit the use of standardized testing.

A Georgia grand jury in 2013 indicted 35 Atlanta educators, including former school superintendent Beverly Hall, on conspiracy and other charges.

Of the 12 indicted educators who stood trial on the charges, 11 were found guilty.

Hall, who was named national superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators the same year prosecutors say widespread cheating took place, died earlier this year of breast cancer.

The 10 convicted former educators due for sentencing on Monday have remained jailed since being found guilty on April 1.

(Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Lisa Shumaker)