Thirty-five teachers in Atlanta now face prison terms for an alleged cheating conspiracy that spread to most of the system's 83 elementary and middle schools.
The skyrocketing test scores that had earned Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall national recognition and big bonuses turned out to be a lie.
Her staff allegedly did just about everything to raise test scores except teach. Even to the point of holding cheating parties, where they just filled in the test sheets themselves. Close to 200 teachers participated. I saw one pastor blame racism - because all the indicted teachers are minorities. I saw the teachers union blame standardized testing. But it looks like plain old greed to me.
Under Atlanta's incentive system, if a school achieved 70 percent or more of its test targets, all the teachers received a bonus. The idea was to use the kind of incentives that many businesses use: to reward results.
But that model also has its side effects.
Like when bankers made huge bonuses dressing up lousy investments. And when mortgage lenders figured out they could get rich by making up the numbers on home loans. Not everyone does it - but a certain percentage always will.
Atlanta linked money to test scores - and then put the answer sheets in the hands of the teachers whose paychecks would depend on them. Surprise! For a certain percentage, greed took over.
It almost makes you think that in some professions, maybe the Wall Street incentive model isn't such a wise choice. I have a really simple system. Every time a kids gets a full-time job or gets into college within a year of graduation and proves it with a pay stub or a grade transcript - every teacher who taught that student gets $25.
You can't fake that.