© AP Photo/John BazemoreStudents at Emma Hutchinson School in Atlanta leave after the day's classes. Hutchinson has been identified as one of forty four schools involved in a test cheating scandal.
Teachers spent nights huddled in a back room, erasing wrong answers on students' test sheets and filling in the correct bubbles. At another school, struggling students were seated next to higher-performing classmates so they could copy answers.
Those and other confessions are contained in a new state report that reveals how far some Atlanta public schools went to raise test scores in the nation's largest-ever cheating scandal. Investigators concluded that nearly half the city's schools allowed the cheating to go unchecked for as long as a decade, beginning in 2001.
Administrators - pressured to maintain high scores under the federal No Child Left Behind law - punished or fired those who reported anything amiss and created a culture of "fear, intimidation and retaliation," according to the report released earlier this month, two years after officials noticed a suspicious spike in some scores.
The report names 178 teachers and principals, and 82 of those confessed. Tens of thousands of children at the 44 schools, most in the city's poorest neighborhoods, were allowed to advance to higher grades, even though they didn't know basic concepts.
One teacher told investigators the district was "run like the mob."
"Everybody was in fear," another teacher said in the report. "It is not that the teachers are bad people and want to do it. It is that they are scared."