US & Canada

Atlanta educators in 'cheating-for-bonuses' scandal

Beverly Hall file picture, 2011
Beverly Hall was named as school superintendent of the year in 2009

Thirty-five former school officials implicated in a test cheating scandal have until Tuesday to surrender to authorities in the US state of Georgia.

The accused in the city of Atlanta face counts of racketeering, making false statements and conspiring to improve test scores to win cash bonuses.

Several of the defendants have already reported to jail in Fulton County.

Former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly Hall is among those named in the grand jury's indictment.

In 2009, she was named national superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators - the same year much of the alleged cheating is said to have taken place.

'Whistleblowers faced retaliation'

According to prosecutors, Ms Hall was given a $78,000 (£51,000) bonus from the public school system.

"The money she received, we are alleging, was ill gotten and it was theft," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters on Friday, when the grand jury indictment was made public.

By Tuesday morning's deadline, five educators - not including Ms Hall - had turned themselves in, the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper reported. They were being held on bail bonds of up to $1m.

All those identified by the grand jury must surrender, or face arrest at home or at work.

A 65-count indictment alleges a major conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers, while inflating student test scores.

The defendants include senior administrators, principals, assistant principals, teachers, testing co-ordinators, a school secretary and a school improvement specialist.

Ron Carlson, professor of law emeritus at the University of Georgia, told the Associated Press news agency: "It's the largest school teaching scandal yet recorded in the country."

Each accused is charged under a Georgia state law modelled on a federal statute enacted to target organised crime.

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