The scandals have left some districts with huge budget shortfalls, not to mention a stigma that won’t go away any time soon—and local officials also face the prospect of federal sanctions.

While volunteering to help prepare for the start of classes, Alice Jonsson, whose son Jake began first grade at Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta this month, reflected on the city’s cheating scandal that erupted this past summer.

“My biggest concern is when the kids do well, they’re going to be perceived as cheaters. That’s heart-breaking,” she said as she cut paper to create a bulletin board for faculty members at the school.

In Atlanta and elsewhere, students are returning to school for what is likely to be a tough year amid cheating scandals that have forced thousands of students to seek remedial tutoring because they were promoted based on falsified test scores.

The scandals have left some districts with huge budget shortfalls, not to mention a stigma that won’t go away any time soon—and local officials also face the prospect of further sanctions from the federal government.

In this special report:

Fallout in Atlanta … and elsewhere

Why do educators cheat?

How investigators root out cheating

Consequences for educators—and districts

What states and districts can do

Experts say these high-profile cheating scandals have led to soul-searching within other urban districts that have seen a rapid rise in test scores. And in districts of all sizes, many stakeholders are left wondering how to spur reforms without creating a culture of fear that can cause normally ethical professionals to take such desperate measures as compromising the integrity of the educational process.

Next page: Fallout in Atlanta … and elsewhere