David Beasley, Yahoo! News, April 14, 2015
Eight former Atlanta public school educators were ordered on Tuesday to serve between one and seven years in prison for their convictions on racketeering charges in one of the nation’s largest test-cheating scandals.
Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter gave three of the 11 educators convicted in the scandal 20-year sentences, with seven years to be served in prison and the rest on probation.
Five educators received five-year sentences, with two ordered to serve two years in prison and three to serve one year.
“There were thousands of children that were harmed in this thing,” Baxter said during a rancorous hearing.
“It’s like the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town,” he later said of the scandal that raised national alarm about high-stakes testing.
Two convicted educators, who apologized in court under agreements with prosecutors, received lighter punishments.
One must serve six months of weekends in jail and five years of probation. The other avoided jail and was sentenced to five years probation, with one year of an evening home curfew.
Baxter urged the defendants on Monday to consider plea deals requiring them to accept responsibility in exchange for limited prison time. But they would have given up rights to appeal, a sticking point.
Many, if not all, of the eight educators facing prison will appeal, their attorneys said.
A Georgia grand jury in 2013 roiled the community by indicting 35 Atlanta educators, including former school Superintendent Beverly Hall, on conspiracy and other charges.
Twelve of the educators went on trial, and 11 were convicted. Hall died of breast cancer this year.
While cheating has been reported in 40 states and Washington, D.C., in recent years, educators do not usually serve prison time, according to Bob Schaeffer, education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit known as FairTest.
Parent Colleen Bates said her daughter had to repeat two grades after her test scores were inflated during the scandal.
“I have no pity for what happened today,” Bates said.