Three dozen former Atlanta school administrators, teachers and principals, including the former superintendent, Beverly Hall, were indicted Friday in a massive standardized test cheating scandal.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted Hall and 34 others on charges that they conspired to help students cheat, and even erased wrong answers, on federally mandated standardized tests from at least 2005 to 2010, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The grand jury also alleged Dr. Hall and several teachers and principals who worked with her benefited financially from the gain. At least one of Hall's bonuses was tied to student's performance on the tests.
Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, is facing up to 45 years in prison on charges of racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements.
According to the New York Times, Georgia state investigator, Richard Hyde, was able to convince a third-grade teacher named Jackie Parks to flip against Dr. Hall and turn state's witness.
Parks agreed to wear a wire to the school and record the conversations of her fellow teachers as they sat in a locked windowless room and changed students test answers.
Pressuring school staff to achieve targeted test scores "created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education," the indictment read.
According to the Associated Press, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard highlighted the case of one third-grade student who failed a benchmark exam and received the worst reading score in her class.
The girl was held back, yet when she took a separate assessment test not long afterward, she passed with flying colors. Howard said the girl's mother, Justina Collins, knew something was wrong, but was told by school officials that the child simply was a good test-taker. The girl is now in ninth grade, reading at a fifth-grade level. - AP
"I have a 15-year-old now who is behind in achieving her goal of becoming what she wants to be when she graduates. It's been hard trying to help her catch up," Collins said at the news conference.
Grand jurors recommended that a judge set bond for Dr. Hall at $7.5 million.
All of the defendants have until Tuesday to surrender.