In a dramatic conclusion to possibly the largest cheating scandal in the U.S. history, an Atlanta jury yesterday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a school district's reputation and raised broader questions about the role of high-stakes testing, the New York Times reports. On their eighth day of deliberations, jurors convicted 11 of 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants, including public school teachers, testing coordinators, and administrators also were convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.
Judge Jerry Baxter ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Sentencing hearings begin next week. The 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 a series of articles that sowed suspicion about the veracity of the test scores, and Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered an investigation that found cheating in at least 44 schools and said the school district was troubled by “organized and systemic misconduct.”