Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy


Make no mistake.

The conviction of 11 former Atlanta public school teachers for cheating on students standardized tests has little to do with what these people actually did or didn’t do.

It is meant as a message for the entire education profession: if you cheat on standardized tests, you will be given the harshest possible punishment!

Don’t get me wrong. These people deserve punishment. They easily deserve to be stripped of their teaching certifications  and to return the bonuses they received for engaging in this activity.

However, they are each looking at a potential 20 year jail sentence for essentially making copies, erasing pencil marks on paper and filling in different bubbles.

This is absurd.

It’s only possible because they were charged with and found guilty of racketeering. You know, the same charge we use against organized crime!

The justification given was that bonuses and raises were awarded to the former educators based on test scores. Prosecutors characterized this behavior as participation in a massive criminal conspiracy and charged the former teachers with violating the state’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

I’m not surprised that the state of Georgia tried to use this statute against these people. I am shocked, however, that it held up in court.

These defendants have been charged and found guilty of the same crime as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Gambino Crime Family.

Changing standardized test answers to make it appear students are doing better than they really are is certainly a crime, but is it really on the same level as the mafia!? Is it the same as extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery?

Because those are the crimes usually prosecuted with a RICO charge!

One thing is certain: it’s worse than murder.

According to Georgia law, actually killing somebody will get you a less severe sentence than cheating on standardized tests!

The mandatory sentence for second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the state is only 10 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide will get you 5 years.

Heck! Even a first degree murder charge leaves you eligible for parole in 30 years! That’s only 10 years more than cheating on a bubble test!

Again, this has nothing to do with what these defendants did. It’s a message to the rest of us.

These people – all of whom are people of color – are being offered as a blood sacrifice on the altar of the testing gods.

Those of a reflective nature have already suggested that what this scandal really shows isn’t the danger of cheating so much as the problems of high stakes testing.

When you hold educators and schools responsible for student test scores, you create an environment rife for cheating. When you threaten to close schools and/or fire educators and/or withhold pay based on factors out of an individual’s control, you are inviting cheating.

People think, “why shouldn’t I cheat? I’m being held to an impossible standard anyway!”

The simple fact is that teachers can’t control how well their students do on standardized tests. Educators do their best to ensure their students are prepared, but it is up to the student to actually take the steps necessary to learn.

We all accept the axiom that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink. We accept it everywhere except in the school room.

Corporations and their proxies making billions off of standardized testing will tout the importance of the teacher in the classroom. And, yes, the teacher is very important – the most important in-school factor. But out-of-school factors are even more vital.

Parental income, child nutrition, the number of books in the home, exposure to violence – all these have a greater impact than the teacher.

We continually refuse to accept this fact.

More than half of all public school students live below the poverty line, but we refuse to offer any real help. We instead offer nothing but standardization – in the form of tests and canned curriculum – and the magic bullet of increased privatization.

No wonder there are some teachers cheating on their students standardized tests!

We’re forcing them to march calmly over a cliff or take extreme measures!

What these teachers did is not excusable. They did the wrong thing. They cheated. They tried to game the system.

What they should have done is expose it.

They should have refused to give these tests in the first place. They should have made their case in the public square. They should have lobbied their politicians, educated parents and organized a coalition committed to ending this reign of terror.

And there are tens of thousands of people out there right now doing just that!

Every year the anti-standardization movement gets bigger. Every year more teachers and parents refuse the tests.

This court decision is but one more hysterical reaction from our corporate masters to turn the tide. To shut us up.

But we shall not be moved.

You can offer these people up as a blood sacrifice to your dark god, but it is a false deity and we will continue to refuse to worship at its feet.

The days of the Testocracy are numbered. And every day passed is one less in its reign!

NOTE: The article also was published in the LA Progressive, on Education Bloggers Network Website and the Badass Teachers Association blog.

APTOPIX Atlanta Schools Cheating

25 thoughts on “Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy

  1. Reblogged this on Save Our Schools NZ and commented:
    If this debacle doesn’t convince you that the holy alter of testing has long since gotten way out of hand, perhaps nothing will. And I’m not referring to the actions of the teachers.

    Don’t get me wrong – teachers changing students’ test scores is never right. It’s cheating and it has repercussions for the student and beyond. But how on earth these teachers can be jailed for longer than a rapist, a paedophile, or a murdered gets is beyond me.

    Is the grip of education reformers go tight and so deep into the 1% that they are willing to game the legal system just to send a message to teachers that the test is sacred? This is lunacy. Strip them of their right to teach, yes. Their bonuses, fraudulently obtained, should be repaid with interest, yes. And a punishment beyond that is warranted given the scale of things. But 20 years in jail is totally out of proportion with the crime.


  2. They actually have not been sentenced yet so maybe we ought to wait and see if the crime does fit the punishment. Don’t get me wrong: I think they deserve some kind of punishment but I agree 20 years is too harsh. I am willing to wait to see what the judge gives them before criticising the system.


  3. Their punishment is harsh! Losing their jobs, teaching certificates and possible pensions is more than enough. This corruption didn’t start at the bottom it started at the top. The state hires companies to make these tests and the companies hire people to score these tests. Teachers can’t read these tests before they are given to the students-these are the rules. What good teacher won’t read what their students are working on. Would you as a parent give your child a package and not look at it and pass it on to the state or one of these companies. There was an article about those people who scored the test were changing tests scores in the Atlanta area. Those students attending schools in poverty areas scores were all given lower test scores by those scoring the test. These was brought to the media attention by a white man. He was wondering why his daughter had low scores. To get the test breakdown parents have to request their children’s test scores and a breakdown of it. Then he got the test scores and found the companies were changing the test scores to make it seem like certain were low level in knowledge. These lawyers need to check into these practices. The article was in one of those principal magazine.


  4. The answer is power. Generally speaking people of color, and especially people of African descent in America, do not have the power to lobby politicians, sacrifice their careers by disobeying orders from higher-ups or “just go somewhere else” if the conditions of the job become untenable. The choices and opportunities are just not the same for them as for people of the dominant culture in America.

    We ALL of us know African-American schools, students and experienced African-American teachers are under assault by the School Reform agenda, which is to destroy Public Education along with the opportunities for achieving Middle-Class success which allowed them into the same realm of competition with Whites; even to become the President of the United States, (the ultimate insult and affront)

    Without doubt what these teachers did was wrong and they deserve punishment. What they did not deserve was to be marched off to prison immediately after a court verdict as if they posed an imminent danger to society. There are teachers in suburban areas of my city who were engaging sexual relationships with students who were not treated in this manner. They got a right to post bond, appeal etc.

    I would not be surprised at all if the judge, who was found guilty of perjury in 2011, was squarely in the pockets of testing companies with huge pocketbooks.

    Again, I am not condoning the behavior of these teachers but I feel the punishment does not fit the crime. I also understand their restriction of choice and freedom of movement from one job to another in this society we call the United States of America.


  5. In Michigan Pearson is advertising for college grads to do this at a price of $13 an hour…..not people in education either….. This is so wrong. Altho wrong, I do understand these teachers actions, their job depended upon this test…written by people not in education and corporations are scoring them…..something is very wrong here.. Those that point fingers ought to try and walk in their shoes everyday. Most of the people have no idea how difficult the job is and how many problems students deal with in their lives everyday. Everyone should be shouting from the mountaintop…..this is wrong….so wrong!!


    • Sheryl…I full agree. How many teachers have risked saying “no” to the testing regime and its false premises by refusing to administer these tests? How many continue to participate in the ‘grand scam’ that we all know testing to be in order to maintain our jobs and incomes? And as long as we are complicit keeping the cadence of this ‘march of metric deception’ and go along with it by administering the tests we disagree with, year after year….aren’t we as guilty of ‘racketeering’ as those in Atlanta?


  6. Testing doesn’t really tell us anything about how smart a student is. Many children do not take tests well for many reasons, anxiety, self-esteem issues, problems at home or in other relationships. Students are human and they can’t be programmed.

    Most people grow up decide what they want to be and go for it. I think that is what most children will do, they certainly shouldn’t be measured for a career path in elementary school. Childhood is about growing and learning about the world you live in. Let them be children they can decide when they are adults for themselves what they want to do with their lives. No standardized test will ever be able to measure the success of a child. Who do these people think they are.

    I don’t agree with cheating, But I don’t agree with teaching a test either, Twenty years is ridiculous. Shame on them for cheating and shame on a court system that would give them twenty years.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Back to separate and unequal, and if you have the audacity to refuse to allow us to break your children, we will bring down the maximum punishment on your head.


    • Understand what I’m saying… its a nationwide disaster among many school districts…. There should be an investigation with the DOJ… they will find out a lot, once they get involved…


  8. Why are people acting like this is something new… its done nationally where state test are required. Teachers don’t want it…. Now we have a mess… The careers of these dedicated and faithful teachers has been destroyed and puts them in a range of a lifestyle that will bring depression and possible poverty level struggles….


  9. “You don’t fatten a pig by constantly weighing it.” Our system in the UK is the same! 😦 Less time is given to teach our youngsters what they need for ‘real life’ because some bod in our government, who’s been given the post of ‘minister for education’, wants to make a name for himself during his brief term in office.
    They use our children like toys of politics and treat intelligent, academic, caring individuals with no importance. The opinions of teachers don’t count which is an insult to academics and I am happy to be out of that system, although I still perform my craft and feel that I am contributing to a better future for the next generation. Current politicians have taken the fun, enjoyment and status away from the educators and it can be a thankless job when everything must be quantified and emotional literacy, character-building and personality are pushed out of the door. I salute all those going into this profession now. They do because they hope they can make a difference to the lives of the younger generation! They don’t choose this job for the money! However, these men in power, who don’t have a clue about our children’s real needs as individuals – and whose point of reference is usually their own privileged background – continue to leave a legacy of unemotional ‘corporate’ criterion – and blast them they’re proud of it. :,( . The real legacy won’t be measurable by academic testing which ends when an individual leaves the system but by the actions of the academic failures which the ‘system’ is creating. And I must stop ranting – although it has been cathartic. Sorry and thank you if you read thus far.
    I wish these (would they also be ‘female’ dominated by any chance, as well as black?) teachers , although ‘ex’ they may be, the same kind of understanding and support that I know they would give to their own students – because all teachers are awesome.
    Big mistake it turns out, but we say, ‘all mistakes deserve forgiveness’ and this one killed no one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s the students who are losing in this battle. After giving 2 weeks of testing, I have witnessed 7th graders and 3rd graders in tears. We can tell these students that they should just do their best and not stress about it, but think about it, they are children. All children want to please their teachers and parents. They know these tests are important, but they don’t understand why. We spend so many classroom hours preparing for the test, that it’s taking away the enjoyment. I agree with the above person who commented that we don’t even get to see the tests ahead of time and we hand it to them and expect them to work hard and do well. We know the subjects and the standards, however the tests are written with so many unclear problems that it is hard to understand what is being asked. These tests were developed by people who don’t work with children. That is wrong in and of itself. Ask a teacher who is passing their class and they can tell you exactly where the child stands and that’s without a standardized test.
    Refuse to give it and you will lose your job. Not an option.


  11. […] half of the public school students in this country are in poverty and in need, and yet society’s answer is more testing. Many of these students are prepared for a pipeline to […]


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