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Wave of Former Atlanta Educators Plead Guilty in Cheating Case

Eight former educators indicted in Atlanta's sprawling cheating case have pleaded guilty in recent weeks, many of them admitting to lesser charges in exchange for their pleas. Some defendants have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of their plea deals.

A Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 educators last spring—including Beverly Hall, the former superintendent—in a conspiracy case that accused them of changing students' standardized test scores or giving students answers in an attempt to make the district's academic performance look better than it was.

The judge overseeing the case has given the defendants until Jan. 6 to finalize plea deals with prosectuors, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Just one of the defendants—Tamara Cotman, a former area director who oversaw more than 20 schools—has gone to trial. A jury acquitted her of charges that she had influenced a witness during the investigation of the cheating scandal.

Ms. Hall, a former national superintendent of the year, still faces multiple criminal chages, including racketeering. Prosectors allege that Ms. Hall and the other educators cheated on state exams, hid the cheating, and retaliated against whistle-blowers who tried to expose it. Many of those who were charged, including Ms. Hall, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance bonuses that were based on the fraudulent scores.

Last month, the judge denied the former superintendent's motion to have statements she made to investigators thrown out. Her lawyer argued that the statements were coerced because Ms. Hall believed she would lose her job if she did not cooperate with the investigation.

The educators who have so far reached plea agreements are: Former principal Armstead Salters, former teacher Wendy Ahmed, former assistant principal Gregory Reid, former teacher Ingrid Abella-Sly, former teacher Lisa Terry, former teacher Shayla Smith, former teacher Sheila Evans, and former testing coordinator Lera Middlebrooks.

 

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