Eleven former Atlanta educators were found guilty on Wednesday for their roles in a public schools cheating scandal to inflate students’ scores on standardized tests. The educators were convicted of racketeering, a felony that could put them in prison for decades.
The guilty were accused of participating in cheating dating back to 2005, driven by the pressure to meet federal standards and for personal gain, according to The Associated Press.
Investigations on the educators started back in 2009 when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about Atlanta students’ drastically improved scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, a standardized test given across Georgia. In 2011, investigators found widespread cheating cases in at least 44 schools in Atlanta, with nearly 180 educators accused of wrongdoing. A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013 and 12 defendants decided to go before a jury.
Many of the educators blamed former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who died last month from breast cancer, of pressuring them inflate scores. She was supposed to be included in the trial. Investigators said Hall and the top officials “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” for anyone who tried to report it.