TODAY   |  March 30, 2013

School officials charged in Atlanta cheating scandal

Close to three dozen teachers, principals and administrators in Georgia are facing serious charges after a massive school cheating scandal. "As a parent who wants the best for her child I'm very disappointed," said parent Justina Collins. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>> it is being described this morning as one of the largest cheating scandals to hit the nation's public education system. nearly three dozen teachers and administrators in georgia now facing serious charges involving standardized tests. gabe gutierrez has more from atlanta .

>> reporter: a cheating scandal that has tested atlanta public schools for years now includes criminal charges . a grand jury decided friday former superintendent beverly hall led a corrupt organization that used students' test scores to earn cash bonuses.

>> the whole purpose behind this is to vindicate the little children who got jipped out of an education.

>> reporter: in all, hall and 34 other educators were indicted on racketeering charges. court documents allege a systematic conspiracy where test answer sheets were altered, fabricated, and falsely certified.

>> dr. hall had a contract that was set up to pay her bonuses when she achieved certain results. those results were caused by cheating.

>> reporter: hall had been named national superintendent of the year in 2009 . she now faces 45 years in prison if convicted. nbc news could not reach her attorney for comment, but the new superintendent says the district is moving forward after a scandal that's become a national punch line.

>> i was sweating like a school kid in atlanta trying to pass a test on his own.

>> we deserve tobarrassed for the things that have happened and the only solution to that is to produce.

>> reporter: the charges couldn't some soon enough for some of the district's parents.

>> i'm disappointed as a parent that wants the best for their child. i'm very disappointed.

>> reporter: still, lawyers for some of the indicted teachers say they will vigorously fight those charges. their clients have until tuesday to turn themselves in. for "today" gabe gutierrez, nbc news, atlanta .

>> still such an unbelievable story.