Scott Lemieux has a good take at The Week on the absurdity of sentencing in the Atlanta Schools cheating scandal. He’s also right on in noting that the cheating has been a highly predictable consequence of corporate education reform.
The legal context of the testing should also serve to mitigate the offense. In theory, standardized testing can be a useful tool in evaluating teachers and schools, but the regime established by the No Child Left Behind Act does not use it well. The statute sets up very rigid standards derived from single high-stakes tests. The unrealistic performance targets ensure that even competent teachers run the risk of being branded failures and getting sacked, while decent schools are in danger of being declared failures and closed.
I’d go a step further and note that if the Atlanta scandal (and the sentencing is part of that scandal) isn’t a perfect example of the historical convergence of white abandonment and property tax inequity, corporate education reform, ingrained distrust of Black people in positions of authority, and criminal justice run amok particularly against Black people, then it’ll do until a perfect example gets here.