Nine school officials in Atlanta, Georgia, have been sentenced to prison after they were convicted of participating in an exam cheating scandal.
Three of those convicted received 20-year sentences, far harsher than the penalties asked for by the state, BBC News reported.
The state-led investigation shocked the city when it discovered that officials at the city-run schools had encouraged teachers to change students’ answers in order to demonstrate educational progress.
Evidence of cheating was uncovered at 44 schools with nearly 180 officials involved.
“It’s like the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town,” Judge Jerry Baxter said.
Those given 20-year sentences will serve seven years behind bars and 13 years on probation.
Several more received five-year sentences, but will spend only one or two years in prison.
Two others received weekend jail time and home confinement.
Some were also ordered to return the bonuses that they had been given based on the improved test results, according to the report.
The teachers have 30 days to file an appeal, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I think the conviction will be overturned,” Gerald Griggs, lawyer for one of the educators, was quoted as saying.
The testing scandal was one of the worst in the United States as teachers tried to increase students’ scores on the tests, the newspaper said.
A state investigation found that as early as 2005, educators gave answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in, it added.
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