Cheating has sullied the Atlanta school system

How will remediation efforts help victims of APS cheating? Read the story here.

After reviewing more than 800,000 documents and conducting thousands of interviews, investigators reported confirming cheating at 44 schools. They named 178 educators as participants and more than 80 confessed.

During the ensuing trial, the longest in Georgia history, educators described meeting privately to correct test answers. A former reading coach explained how a principal would divert the test coordinator with lunch so teachers could start changing answers so the school met its test goals.

Prosecutors said there were 256,779 bad-to-good wipes on the 2009 tests. The odds of that: one in a quadrillion, an absurd number followed by 15 zeros.

It was not a coincidence, but criminals.

They changed the answers to meet rising expectations, and along the way received bonuses and raises based on false scores.

These telltale marks would help convict 11 former educators for racketeering. Nine are still fighting convictions. Two took their cases unsuccessfully to the Georgia Court of Appeals and asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision. Seven others have filed preliminary motions for a new trial in Fulton County Superior Court.

Twenty-one others pleaded guilty to lesser charges such as obstruction and mischief.

The conspiracy left a crater-sized hole that APS is still trying to fix.

It ruined the vaunted reputation of Hall, who also faced charges but died before being tried.

This deprived students of the support they would have received if inflated test scores had not concealed their academic difficulties.

“These kids, some of them couldn’t read, but yet on the test they were like star students,” said retired judge Jerry Baxter, who presided over the dramatic and lengthy trial. “They were the most vulnerable and therefore probably needed the best chance to try to get through this.”

Jury foreman George Little said the cheating had hurt some of the town’s “neediest”.

“These children have been denied a right recognized by law,” he said.

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Jeremy S. McLain