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Eleven Atlanta School Teachers Found Guilty of Racketeering in School Cheating Scandal

April 2, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Eleven Atlanta School Teachers Found Guilty of Racketeering in School Cheating Scandal

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The largest cheating scandal involving the Atalanta School System has resulted in the conviction of 11 former Atlanta public school teachers of racketeering on Wednesday.

The standardized test cheating scandals involving teachers and administrators have occurred in school disctrics in 40 states.

School officials were under pressure to meet certain test score requirements or risked being sanctioned.

Feds indicted the former Atlanta teachers for their involvement in the test deception scam. The indictment charged the former educators with inflating students’ scores on standardized state test exams, in order to collect bonuses and solidify their jobs within the school system.

The jury found one teacher acquitted of all charges. The defendants face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering.

A state-wide investigation uncovered wrong-doing dating back to 2005 and found that educators gave answers to students, erased or altered answers after the students turned in the exams. Prosecutors said the Cheating scandal involved school officials from 44 schools.

Charges in the indictment accused the defendants of threatening teachers who attempted to report the wrong-doing with retribution.

The 2013 indictment implicated Thirty-five members of the Atlanta school system, on multiple charges including, racketeering, theft, issuing false statements. Many educators have pleaded guilty in the case, although some testified at the trial in exchange for reduced sentences.

The highest ranking official implicated in the scam, the now deceased Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly Hall, was a well-respected member of the education community. She died last month of breast cancer.

Prosecutors accused Hall of running a corrupt criminal enterprise, which used the enhanced exam scores to reward teachers with financial gain.

Hall also collected substantial bonuses by achieving the system’s targeted goals.

Hall proclaimed her innocence throughout the indictment process. However, many of the teachers involved in the case admitted she was one of the high ranking officials pressuring them to falsify test scores in order to portray advances in student performance.

In addition, by showing Improving tests scores, it would meet federal benchmark requirements needed to secure additional funding for the school system.

After reading the verdict, Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter ordered all the defendants except one, remanded and immediately sent to jail despite objections from defense attorneys.

“The defendants are convicted felons; They made their bed, and they’re going to have to lie in it,” Baxter stated.

Teacher Shani Robinson was allowed to remain free on bail due to her pregnancy.

Prosecutors argued that the 12 defendants on trial ignored the children’s education and instead cared about their personal self-interests.

The defense attorneys called the charges of racketeering in the indictment excessive and an overreach by prosecutors, claiming the law is meant to prosecute organized crime, not teachers.

“The case is the biggest, and most complex case my office has ever handled,” District Attorney Paul Howard said.

He added “Our entire effort, in this case, is simply to generate awareness for the community to take a good look at the education system.”

Former elementary school teacher Dessa Curb was one of the defendants found not guilty of all charges.

“I prayed, and I believed that this would be my outcome,” Curb said with tears her eyes.

“This is the biggest development in American education law history,” according to University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson. “A message must be conveyed to educators here and across the nation. Playing with students test scores is a dangerous business.”

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