Video: 35 Atlanta educators to surrender today in massive cheating conspiracy

They had until noon today to surrender to police in the worst cheating scandal involving standardized education testing in American history. The thirty-five teachers and administrators represent only the first round of potential defendants in the appalling story, where “educators” spent more effort in burnishing test scores than in actually educating children — who got left behind in service to the ambition of the school system. CBS reports on an unusual type of Enrollment Day:

Investigators say Atlanta’s school district orchestrated a culture of cheating to benefit those at the top.

Nearly 200 educators admitted to taking part in the massive scandal: they tampered with students’ standardized tests and corrected answers to inflate scores. Some teachers had pizza parties to erase wrong answers and circle in the right ones. One principal allegedly handled altered tests wearing gloves to avoid leaving her fingerprints.

At one middle school, 86 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient in math, compared to 24 percent the year before. Prosecutors say that progress was a criminal mirage.

“The four principle crimes that are charged in the indictment are the statements and writings, false swearings, theft by taking, and influencing witnesses,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. said.

Beverly Hall is Atlanta’s retired school superintendent. Her system’s turnaround won her national fame, awards, and more than $500,000 in performance bonuses. But investigators say she pressured teachers and principals to cheat, and punished those who refused. Hall, among those indicted, has denied the charges. A grand jury recommended her bail be set at $7.5 million.

One of those left behind was Nybria Collins, now 15 and reading at a fifth-grade level. Despite failing her classes, she kept passing the standardized tests, leaving her mother to wonder what was happening at the public school. Instead of being prepared to succeed in adulthood, these “educators” left Nybria to fail for a lifetime while they had pizza parties to cover up their incompetence.

The indictments involve racketeering charges, which carry a maximum 20 years in prison. Compared to the length of the damage they did to children like Nybria, that’s letting them off easy.

Perhaps school choice will get a closer look, at least in Atlanta.

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