theodp writes Just weeks after an L.A. Times op-ed called on public schools to emulate high-tech companies by paying high salaries to driven, talented employees whose productivity more than compensates for their high pay, the New York Times reported on the dramatic conclusion to perhaps the largest cheating scandal in the nation's history, which saw a Judge order handcuffed Atlanta educators led off to jail immediately for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that raised broader questions about the role of high-stakes testing in American schools. Jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants — a mix of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sowed suspicion about the veracity of the test scores in 2009, and while investigators found that cheating was particularly ingrained in individual schools, they also said that the district's top officials, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, bore some responsibility for creating "a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation" that had permitted "cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years." (More below.)Officials said the cheating allowed employees to collect bonuses and helped improve the reputations of both Dr. Hall and the perpetually troubled school district. Dr. Hall, who died on March 2, insisted that she had done nothing wrong and that her approach to education, which emphasized data, was not to blame. But a Fulton County grand jury later accused her and 34 other district employees of being complicit in the cheating. Twenty-one reached plea agreements, and two defendants died before they could stand trial. Interestingly, in early 2010, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on how Hall and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were bringing a "fair and transparent evaluation and support mechanism" to the Atlanta Public Schools. "We are excited to continue our [$23.6 million] partnership with APS and Dr. Hall," said Gates Foundation director of education Vicki L. Phillips. Five years earlier, in a 2005 Gates Foundation press release, Hall said, "We look forward to partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to take our reform efforts to the next level."
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