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Education - Testing Corruption Last: 04/27/2015

ATLANTA — In a dramatic conclusion to what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury here on Wednesday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a major school district’s reputation and raised broader questions about the role of high-stakes testing in American schools.

On their eighth day of deliberations, the jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants — a mixture of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — were also convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.

 
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Donald Bullock, a former Atlanta testing coordinator, was led to a holding cell after his conviction. A judge ordered most of the educators jailed immediately.

Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Judge Baxter, who presided over a trial that began with opening statements more than six months ago, will begin sentencing hearings next week.

“Our entire effort in this case was simply to get our community to stop and take a look at our educational system,” District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. said, adding, “I think because of the decision of this jury today that people will stop. I think people will stop, and they will make an assessment of our educational system.”

The dozen educators who stood trial, including five teachers and a principal, were indicted in 2013 after years of questions about how Atlanta students had substantially improved their scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, a standardized examination given throughout Georgia.

In 2009, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution started publishing a series of articles that sowed suspicion about the veracity of the test scores, and Gov. Sonny Perdue ultimately ordered an investigation.

The inquiry, which was completed in 2011, led to findings that were startling and unsparing: Investigators concluded that cheating had occurred in at least 44 schools and that the district had been troubled by “organized and systemic misconduct.” Nearly 180 employees, including 38 principals, were accused of wrongdoing as part of an effort to inflate test scores and misrepresent the achievement of Atlanta’s students and schools.

The investigators wrote that cheating was particularly ingrained in individual schools — at one, for instance, a principal wore gloves while she altered answer sheets — but they also said that the district’s top officials, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, bore some responsibility.

Investigators wrote in the report that Dr. Hall and her aides had “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.”

Officials said the cheating allowed employees to collect bonuses and helped improve the reputations of both Dr. Hall and the perpetually troubled school district she had led since 1999.

Read more here: Atlanta Educators Convicted in School Cheating Scandal via the NY Times

So do you suppose that Federal Money offered for higher grades may have been the catalyst of this?