Nine of 10 former Atlanta public school educators convicted in a massive cheating scandal were sentenced to prison time Tuesday, with three of them getting seven years for their role in the conspiracy.
At an emotional hearing, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter called the case “the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town.”
The state had met with the 10 ex-educators to discuss plea deals. Two agreed to them: Donald Bullock, a former testing coordinator, and teacher Pamela Cleveland. Cleveland got one year of home confinement plus five years’ probation, and Bullock got six months of weekends in jail. Both waived their right to appeal and agreed to apologize to students, parents and the court.
The prison sentences ranged from one year to seven years, with the harshest punishment going to former administrators Sharon Davis-Williams and Tamara Cotman and former schools executive Michael Pitts.
Prosecutors claimed the educators conspired to cheat on standardized tests as far back as 2005, feeling pressure to meet federal and local testing standards and motivated by the promise of receiving bonuses or the threat of losing their jobs.
The educators said the pressure came from their supervisors, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, and was driven by a desire to show improvement among students.
Hall, who was superintendent for more than a decade, died in March from breast cancer. Her lawyer had argued she was too sick to stand trial.
An 11th convicted teacher, Shani Robinson, gave birth over the weekend and will not be sentenced until August.
This story originally appeared on NBC News