Eleven former Atlanta educators were convicted Wednesday in a public school cheating scandal that has rocked the district for the past decade.
The 11 were found guilty of racketeering charges, while a twelfth educator was acquitted of racketeering, the Associated Press reported. The verdicts on other charges — theft and false statements — were varied.
In addition to the 12 defendants who stood trial, 21 others took plea deals, NBC affiliate WXIA reported. The 35 educators were indicted in March 2013 by a grand jury.
Prosecutors claimed the educators conspired to cheat on standardized tests as far back as 2005 after feeling pressure to meet federal and local testing standards, 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.
The investigation started after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper questioned the substantial test score improvements some students had been showing. At least 50 schools in the 50,000-student district were involved, according to the AP.
Among the educators on trial were five teachers and a principal.
In their report, investigators wrote that Hall "created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation" that allowed cheating to go on for years.
Hall maintained that she hadn't done anything wrong, but resigned during the investigation.
Jurors deliberated for more than eight days. The racketeering charges could carry a 20-year prison sentence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.