Two former educators involved in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) cheating scandal are going to prison after exhausting all of their appeals.
Out of the 11 educators involved in the cheating scandal, these two educators will be the first to go to prison. The two women, Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson, turned themselves in at the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday.
Williamson said she remains innocent and Cotman said she has been wrongfully convicted, according to local news outlets.
The scandal began in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an analysis of the state’s standardized test, the Georgia Criterion Reference Test (CRCT), which resulted in unlikely scores based on a statistical analysis.
In 2011, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that 44 out of 56 schools in the district cheated on the CRCT. Nearly 200 educators were found to have changed hundreds of students’ answers sheets.
The scandal sparked debates all over the country about the real purpose of high-stakes testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind law which has since been changed in 2015. The new changes still require standardized testing for state accountability purposes; however, new provisions in the law are allowing flexibility in testing to be used as diagnostic rather than having one large one-end-of-the-year test.
According to state investigators, Cotman threated many educators’ jobs if they did not increase test scores. It was reported by state investigators that Williamson prompted students to change their answers during the test and told them they would repeat a grade if they ever told anyone about the cheating.
Cotman and Williamson appealed their cases multiple times. Earlier this October, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to review their last appeal. Both women are expected to be in prison for less than a year, according to the prosecutor. The women turned down plea bargain deals which would have kept them out of jail.
Prosecutors said that the women were under enormous pressure to raise test scores by the district school superintendent Beverly Hall, who was charged in the case but since has died.
A trial date has not been set for the two women at this time.