04/14/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

3 Educators Sentenced To 7 Years In Prison In Atlanta Teaching Scandal

A judge disregarded prosecutors' recommendations and sentenced three Atlanta educators to 20 years, seven of them to be served in prison.

The state sought five year sentences, with three served in prison, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter threw out those recommendations in favor of the much stiffer penalties, according to the Associated Press.

Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts will serve the rest of their 20-year sentences on probation. Each was a regional director in Atlanta's school system.

The sentences come as a result of a massive cheating scandal in which educators manipulated students' high-stakes test scores.

"I think there were hundreds, thousands of children who were harmed," Baxter said, according to WXIA. "That's what gets lost in all of this."

But Brittney Cooper, a professor of African-American studies at Rutgers University, told HuffPost Live this month that the educators were being unfairly blamed for a wider problem of high-stakes tests.

"These teachers are scapegoats for what's a national problem and a strategy pioneered by the right-wing to ruin America’s public education system," Cooper said.

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