On Friday a Fulton County Grand Jury delivered an indictment against 35 Atlanta Public Schools officials, which included charges against former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall. Page Pate was asked to comment about the indictment on WABE FM 90.1, Atlanta’s NPR affiliate.
The charges stem from a massive scandal involving cheating on standardized tests by both teachers and administrators in 58 schools throughout the city. Dozens of teachers have already admitted to their roles in the cheating. Charges the school officials face include conspiracy, false statements, obstruction of justice, racketeering, and theft.
The cheating scandal arises out of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated standardized tests in public schools across the country to track student achievement and teacher performance. Many have complained that the Act has placed enormous pressure on teachers and administrators to improve test scores, and that many have resorted to cheating to avoid negative reviews. Although such cheating has been reported across the country, cheating in the Atlanta public school system is perhaps the most widespread and high-profile case in history. In addition to Hall, other prominent APS officials charged in the indictment include the former Human Resources Director and a number of Area Superintendents.
Many of the APS officials are charged under the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. A conviction under the Georgia RICO Act requires that prosecutors prove a pattern of predicate offenses that include a wide variety of crimes such as theft, obstruction of justice, fraud, homicide, drug offenses, kidnapping, or terroristic threats, among many others. Convictions under the Georgia RICO Act carry sentences of 5 to 20 years imprisonment as well as the possibility of very large fines and restitution.