ATLANTA, GA April 13, 2015—What easily could’ve been mistaken as a simple April Fool’s joke, sadly turned out to be one of the biggest criminal convictions and investigations in U.S. teaching history when eleven Atlanta teachers were busted for allegedly cheating on standardized tests to improve their student learning rates.
Today these ‘educators’ were sentenced. Here is the video of of the courtroom proceedings (courtesy of USA Today):
Earlier this month it was reported that eleven Atlanta public schools teachers were convicted and taken away in handcuffs on Wednesday morning in an Atlanta Court room. The conviction of all eleven was inflating students test scores and changing students answers on examinations to get additional funding for their schools and themselves.
Once convicted, each administrator, teacher and principal that participated in the scam will likely face up to 20-30 years in prison for charges including racketeering, embezzlement and fraud. The authorities had probed the investigation for more than five years, through monitoring students, interviews with parents and overtly discovering cheating within 44 school districts throughout the metro Atlanta area.
The cheating was finally unveiled by an article of the Atlanta Journal Constitution dated back to 2008 when it was briefly uncovered that student scores were statically inaccurate while attempting to improve the already poor reputation of their school system under the late Superintendent Beverly Hall. With more than $500,000 in payouts and more than 100 teachers accused of benefiting from the fraud, the eleven administrators got much more than they bargained for.
Not since the days of Enron and other notorious scandals involving the public’s trust have we witnessed one of this caliber, involving hundreds of teachers. Let’s examine why these 9 women and two men, all former Atlanta Public School employees, were charged.
Prosecutors and investigators say these eleven people knowingly participated in a corruption scheme to inflate student test scores on standardized examinations, with hopes of committing fraudulent activity against the system. All defendants not only collected bonuses, in the amounts of $5000 and $10,000, but its reported that the teachers literally fed their students the answers to each and every the exams solely to secure their own promotions.
The 11 teachers will be tried on April 8th, being charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Act, or better known as “Rico’ laws, which typically is a law used against narcotics, not education.
Furthermore, the case stems from an investigation carried out initially in 2011, which uncovered evidence that educators were giving students the right answers after they the exams were completed. The evidence was later found that in those 44 school districts, of those few teachers that tried to report it they were terminated.
On the bright side, perhaps these charges and convictions will send a national message that ‘test scores’ shouldn’t be altered for personal gain. This story will begin to uncover the corruption in other states and the ‘real’ reasons so many public institutions are failing across the United States. Between 2006 and 2009 Atlanta Public School test scores were altered, falsified or phony, according to the indictment on Wednesday morning.
Of the hundreds of teachers involved in the case, many of them either received plea bargains, were forced to repay the funds stolen or even exposed their counterparts, peers and supervisors.
Not to mention, the mastermind of the entire scandal Superintendent Beverly Hall slowly planned her exit, once she realized the scam was over. Hall’s legal team often argued that the defendant was too sick to mount any form of defense, just months before her death. However, Atlanta public school administrators claim that Hall’s influence played a major role in the scandal, the pressure to cheat and hundreds of inflated grades that misrepresented academic achievement.
It has been reported that before Superintendent Beverly Hall’s retirement, she warned her staff and administrators of the prospective investigation led by then-Governor Sonny Perdue.
The prosecution argues that the educators involved, were simply looking out for their own interest, seeking bonuses rather than worrying about the learning outcomes of their students.
The Honorable Jerry Baxter, Fulton County Superior Court Judge, commented that people guilty of such crimes ought to be convicted felons and that the accused teachers have made their proverbial beds so now they must lie in them.
My sentiments exactly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brandon Brice is a Senior Contributor at PolitiWeek® News Magazine. He began his political career as an intern on Capitol Hill in the Office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, while serving as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Brice moved on to a fellowship in the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs. Other professional positions include his work as an Associate at the National Urban League, Director of Education and African-American Affairs in the Office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Director of Development for the Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia.
Mr. Brice’s media work includes an opinion column in The Washington Times, Communities Digital News. Brice is also a frequent guest on TV programs such as HuffPost LIVE, The Blaze, and many others. Brice attended Howard University for a Bachelors in Business and earned a Masters in International Affairs from Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics as well as additional graduate work at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs for a Master’s in Public Administration.
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