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calendar   Wednesday - April 01, 2015

You Don’t Even Have To Look, Part … lots

11 Georgia teachers found guilty of racketeering

Eleven former Atlanta public schools teachers accused of participating in a test cheating conspiracy that drew nationwide attention have been convicted of racketeering charges.

The verdicts in the case were announced Wednesday in a Georgia courtroom. Only one of the 12 educators on trial, Dessa Curb, was acquitted of the racketeering charge.

“I knew God had my back,” Curb told the reporters after the verdict was announced.

Eleven of the dozen accused educators were found guilty of conspiracy charges. One of the defendants, Angela Williams - who was found guilty of conspiracy, two counts of false statements and two counts of false swearing, which is lying under oath - may face the longest sentence.

Ten of the defendants were taken into the custody right away.

Shani Robinson, who is pregnant and close to her delivery date, was allowed to remain out on bond.

“They have made their bed and they’re going to have to lie in it and it starts today,” said judge Jerry Baxter.

A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013. Many reached plea agreements with prosecutors. The educators said they faced pressure from supervisors including former superintendent Beverly Hall to inflate students’ scores to show gains in student achievement.

Hall was supposed to be tried along with the others, but her lawyers successfully argued she was too sick to help her own defense. She died last month from complications of breast cancer.

The long-awaited verdict comes six years after the allegations first became public, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about altered answers on standardized tests at number of Atlanta public schools. After six months of testimony from 164 witnesses, jury deliberations began on 19 March.

The Atlanta case is one of the largest school cheating scandals in US history.

“They cheated. They lied. And they stole,” John Floyd, the prosecutor, told the jurors in his closing statement. One teacher was acquitted.

Asked if he thought his office did the right thing in accepting plea deals from other 21 of the 35 indicted educators, Paul Howard, Fulton County district attorney, said: “Oh yeah. We absolutely did the right thing.”

The 21 plea deals helped make it clear that the accusations of racketeering were “not some fantasy created by the DA’s office” and “made it easy for people to recognize that something bad happened,” he said.

A 2011 report by two special investigators found that 178 teachers and principals at 44 schools had cheated. The 800-page report found that teachers at some Atlanta schools were erasing wrong answers and replacing them with correct ones. Better test scores on state tests resulted in performance bonuses for teachers and principals.

“The cheating had been going on so long, we considered it part of our jobs,” Jackie Parks, a former third grade teacher at Venetian Hills elementary school and witness for the prosecution, told the New York Times in 2013. According to her, cheating had been going on since at least 2004.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2015 at 04:22 PM   
Filed Under: • EducationRacism and race relations •  
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