Politics

The Roots of Atlanta’s Cheating Scandal

Former Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Atlanta. Cotman and 10 other former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a test cheating conspiracy that drew nationwide attention were convicted Wednesday of racketeering charges. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool)
Former Atlanta Public Schools school research team director Tamara Cotman, center, is led to a holding cell after a jury found her guilty in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool)

 

(Politico) – Last week, a parade of educators filed into an Atlanta courtroom to be sentenced for their roles in the test-cheating scandal that has roiled the city for the past several years. The 10 teachers, convicted for boosting sagging test scores at struggling schools by changing students’ responses or feeding them the right answers, pleaded for leniency. Another 21 had already taken plea deals.

The optics were hard to countenance: an all-black roster of educators convicted of betraying mostly black children and their parents, in a district formerly helmed by a black superintendent accused of masterminding the scandal.

The educators were prosecuted by a black district attorney, in a city led by a black mayor. Among the character witnesses asking for less harsh sentences in their cases was civil rights icon and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. Bernice King, the daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was also in the courtroom.

The lengths of the deception—involving almost 180 educators and 44 schools—had come to light back in 2011, after the state’s white Republican governor ordered an investigation prompted by reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The judge who sentenced those who pleaded guilty or were convicted was also white.

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