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Atlanta cheating scandal: Should educators face jail for 'robbing' kids?

An 800-page report says at least 178 Atlanta teachers and principals cheated to raise student test scores. Some may face jail time, putting a new spin on the phrase 'high-stakes testing.'

Gov. Nathan Deal speaks at a news conference on Tuesday in Atlanta. A probe has found that more than 78 percent of Atlanta schools examined by state investigators engaged in cheating on standardized tests.

Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal & Constitution/AP

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With Atlanta in the middle of an unprecedented teacher cheating scandal where at least 178 teachers and principals in more than half the city's elementary schools changed test answers in order to make themselves and the district look good, the looming question now is whether those educators could, or should, face jail time.

Three county prosecutors are now perusing an 800-page report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal's office which describes how educators altered government documents and lied to investigators – crimes punishable by as many as 10 years in prison – in order to get bonuses, raise the district's profile, and pad the résumés of top administrators.

Dozens of other states have seen teacher cheating scandals in the last few years. But none has plumbed allegations as deeply as Georgia. The investigation began last year when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue threw out an internal school district investigation that downplayed allegations. Instead, he appointed special investigators to look into whether teachers and principals systematically changed test answers.

Following on reports of other cheating scandals in states nationwide, the scope and depth of the Atlanta cheating scandal has rocked the nation's educational community. It has renewed questions about the extent to which America's focus on high-stakes testing is causing educators to breach basic ethics to get ahead or even keep their jobs.


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