A trial that sent shockwaves through the educational system in not only Atlanta but nationwide came to an end last week. While there were 12 on trial, only one escaped the long arm of the law and went home free.

The other 11 were not so fortunate. Lives ruined. Careers destroyed. And for what? To improve the test scores of students in their care. 26 counts were read in Fulton County Court by Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter last Wednesday.

11 lives were ruined. After seven years after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigated the cheating that went on involving standardized testing in the Atlanta Public School system. Only one person, Dessa Curb, is free after being found not guilty on all counts. Could this mean the end of standardized testing not just in Georgia but nationwide? After all, there was a conspiracy to change scores and some teachers and administrators were required to do that and were rewarded for their actions. A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013. Twenty-one took plea deals, and another defendant, former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall, died.

Educators have said they faced pressure from supervisors to inflate standardized test scores to show gains in student achievement. In their report on the cheating scandal, investigators wrote that Dr. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.” Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis told jurors that the chances of the number of wrong to right erasures on the 2009 CRCT in Atlanta Public Schools was one in a quadrillion and called it a vast conspiracy, according to the AJC and WSB-TV.

Willis said that “And the purpose of this conspiracy was this: To illegally inflate test scores and to create a false impression of academic success for many students in the Atlanta Public School system.” Some teachers, said Willis, gave students the right answers in the classroom. Others, she said, held erasure parties to change wrong answers to right ones. “And the answer that students wrote down on their exam that were wrong, they erased them and they put the right answer. That’s the only way you’ll hear they cheated,” said Willis.

Attorney Bob Rubin, who represents Dana Evans, former principal at Dobbs Elementary, said his client is really innocent. “She was a servant leader. Know who else was a leader? Jesus Christ,” said Rubin. The investigators wrote that cheating was commonplace in individual schools — at one, for instance, a principal wore gloves while she altered answer sheets — but they also said that the district’s top officials, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, bore some responsibility. Investigators wrote in the report wrote that Dr. Hall and her aides had “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.” Officials said the cheating allowed employees to collect bonuses and helped improve the reputations of both Dr. Hall, a former administrator in New York City and New Jersey and the perpetually troubled school district she had led since 1999.

Dr. Hall, who died on March 2 of breast cancer, insisted that she had done nothing wrong and that her approach to education, which emphasized data, was not to blame. “I can’t accept that there is a culture of cheating,” Dr. Hall said in an interview with WSB-TV and the AJC in 2011. “What these 178 are accused of is horrific, but we have over 3,000 teachers.” But in March 2013, a Fulton County grand jury accused Dr. Hall and 34 other district employees of being complicit in the cheating. The indictment accused them of racketeering and other crimes that together carried decades in prison. Twenty-one of the educators reached plea agreements and detailed their transgressions before Judge Jerry W. Baxter of the Fulton County Superior Court in exchange for lesser punishments, including probation. (Two defendants, including Dr. Hall, died before they could stand trial.) For their 30 pieces of silver, these teachers, principals and administrators betrayed the trust of their peers, their communities and the students they were supposed to help and guide. Their actions were not just misguided, they were criminal, as they were tried under the RICO act.

Fulton County Prosecutor Clinton K. Rucker, pleaded with jurors to convict the dozen educators seated across Courtroom 1C. “We’re not saying these defendants are devils or Satan or anything like that,” he said. “They did a bad thing that affected a whole lot of people.” So these adults, who the children of the affected schools looked up to as heroes, now wonder what will happen to them. Some are calling for tighter standards with regard to these “high stakes” tests, which makes a school look good but doesn’t tell the whole story. Others are calling for an abolishment of these tests altogether, saying they are a waste of time, energy and money. The time that is used for the exams could have gone to more classroom time for the teachers and students and the money spent could have gone to pay raises. It’s not just if Johnny can fill in the dots, it’s “what did Johnny learn over the year and did he retain any or all of it?” They are not devils, they’re not even Satan. They did commit crimes that destroyed the trust of their peers and the school system they served.

Pending appeals, some will spend as much as the next 20 years of their lives in prison, others if they are lucky will get probation but most will surely lose their license to teach anywhere for the rest of their lives. 12 stood trial. One walked away and is free to tell her story. The other 11 will sit in prison cells and wonder what happened to them and the students they were supposed to protect and like Jesus in the garden, they will feel betrayed.

The 11 Convicted (courtesy WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Sharon Davis-Williams, School Resource Team Executive Director, Violation of racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations act (RICO): GUILTY, False statements: NOT GUILTY

Tamara Cotman: School Resource Team Executive Director, RICO: GUILTY

Michael Pitts:  School Resource Team Executive Director, RICO: GUILTY, Influencing witnesses: GUILTY

Dana Evans: Dobbs Elementary Principal, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Angela Williamson: Dobbs Elementary Teacher: RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY, False swearing: GUILTY

Dessa Curb: All counts: NOT GUILTY

Shani Robinson: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Pamela Cleveland: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Diane Buckner-Webb: Dunbar Elementary Teacher, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

Tabeeka Jordan: Deerwood Elementary Asst. Principal, RICO: GUILTY, False statements: NOT GUILTY, Theft by taking: NOT GUILTY

Donald Bullock: Usher-Collier Heights Elementary Testing Coordinator , RICO: GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY, False swearing: GUILTY

Theresia Copeland: Benteen Elementary Testing Coordinator , RICO: GUILTY, Theft by taking: NOT GUILTY, False statements: GUILTY

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