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Atlanta Test Cheating Trial Begins

The pressure for students to perform well on state mandated standardized tests weighs heavily on instructors across the nation. This week a trial begins in Atlanta to see if teachers and administrators there actually egregiously tampered with tests in order to improve results, according to a recent New York Times article.

Prosecutors as setting out to prove whether or not there was a “‘widespread, cleverly disguised’ conspiracy to cheat on standardized test scores in an effort to protect their jobs and win favor and bonuses from administrators.”

It was a near-guarantee that the trial, which is expected to last three months or more, will generate more unpleasantness for these former colleagues at Atlanta public schools. The urban school district has already suffered one of the most devastating standardized-testing scandals of recent years. A state investigation in 2011 found that 178 principals and teachers in the city school district were involved in cheating on standardized tests. Dozens of former employees of the school district have either been fired or have resigned, and 21 educators have pleaded guilty to crimes like obstruction and making false statements.

If in fact the educators did cheat, it could end up in quite a fallout for the standardized testing push. It’s a complex case and according to the Times, jury selection took more than six weeks.

The dozen defendants in court — 10 women and two men — included three regional school district directors, one principal, one assistant principal, two testing coordinators and five teachers. All have pleaded not guilty to a charge of participating in a racketeering conspiracy. All but one of the defendants also face various lesser charges. These vary from defendant to defendant, but in some cases include making false statements, for allegedly lying to investigators; and theft by taking, for the receipt of allegedly undeserved bonus money. All of the defendants have entered not guilty pleas for the lesser charges as well.

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