Washington: In the largest cheating scandals to hit the US public education system, 35 Atlanta public schools educators and administrators have been indicted on charges of large-scale racketeering and corruption.
Among those indicted by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury was Beverly Hall, the former schools superintendent who gained national recognition in 2009 for turning around Atlanta's school system.
"She was a full participant in that conspiracy," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters during a news conference announcing the charges. "Without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place, particularly in the degree in which it took place."
Among those also indicted were four of Hall's executive administrators, six principals, two assistant principals, six testing coordinators, 14 teachers, a school improvement specialist and a school secretary.
Prosecutors allege the 35 named defendants "conspired to either cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistle-blowers in an effort to bolster Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) scores for the benefit of financial rewards associated with high test scores".
The indictment, released on Friday, follows a state investigation that was launched after a series of reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper found large, unexplained gains in test scores in some Atlanta schools.
A state review determined that some cheating had occurred in more than half of the district's elementary and middle schools, CNN reported. Hall has denied any role in the cheating scandal. She resigned from her position in 2011 following the state investigation, which lambasted her leadership and found widespread cheating in dozens of Atlanta schools.
The alleged cheating is believed to date back to 2001, according to the indictment, when standardised testing scores began to turn around in the 50,000-student school district.
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