Wrong Answer by Rachel Aviv describes the widespread cheating on standardized tests that occurred at Parks Middle School. The mode of review theft was so well hidden that it was impossible to detect. The test malpractice was carried out with the aid of the school administration and some of the teachers who were persuaded that they were assisting the students by cheating. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated that children take standardized examinations to evaluate their learning proficiency. Each school was required to provide an Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) report detailing how students advanced from the previous year. The principal of Parks introduced cheating in the standardized tests to ensure that Parks school met the standards of NCLB. Waller convinced a section of the staff to assist in the examination malpractice. Once the students finished the standard examination, the selected teachers would later access the answer sheets from the office, erase wrong answers and write the correct ones. As a result of the cheating, Parks Middle School recorded impressive examination scores. However, the examination vice was discovered by education officials who started investigations. Although cheating took place at Parks Middle School, it was facilitated by various conditions which justified the actions of the perpetrators.
Teachers believed that they were helping the students achieve their academic dreams through fabricated examination results. The educators felt that the students at Parks Middle School deserved better scores in the examinations so that they could continue their education without challenges. Besides, the teachers did not wish any form of harm to happen to the students as a consequence of failed grades as dictated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. It was love and compassion for the students at the school that motivated the teachers to support cheating in the standardized examinations. One month after standardized tests had been done, the students were congratulated by a teacher at a gathering in the hallway. The teacher’s message to the students was that “You did it! You finally made it!” (Aviv 3). Teachers wanted students to be happy that they had passed the examinations with good grades. The teachers succeeded in helping the students as “Everyone was jumping up and down” (Aviv 3). The students were happy with their performance, but they did not know that it was through cheating facilitated by their teachers.
Another justification for the cheating at Parks Middle School was the pressure exerted on the teachers by the education officials. The administration and its staff were required to record satisfactory examination results. Each year, the student’s performance was expected to improve their performance and a progress report provided to verify that the students were becoming proficient learners. Teachers were expected to work hard in ensuring their students’ performance was exemplary. The education official issues a stern warning to nonperforming teachers and school administration. There were set penalties for failing to meet performance targets, and the school administration had to explain why their school did not show improvement in the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) report. Hall, who was Atlanta’s school superintendent “linked teachers evaluations to test scores” as a technique to pressurize the teachers to perform better. She also “warned principals that they’d be fired if they didn’t meet targets within three years” (Aviv 5). Sub-superintendent Pitts informed Waller that “no excuse can or will be accepted for any results that are less than 70 percent of school-based target acquisition” (Aviv 8). Pitts’ and Hall’s actions show that education officials exerted much pressure on teachers to perform hence they resulted into cheating in the standardized examinations.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law contributed to the introduction of cheating at Parks Middle School. The NCLB law assumed that all students had same learning capacity hence their performance could be evaluated similarly. The law had no room for exceptions as some students face unique challenges at school or home. Moreover, the law had no provision to accommodate the mentally challenged learners, and it was expected that the performance of such student is graded similarly to the one who had no psychological problems (Dee and Jacob 423). The performance at Parks was poor since “the student’s test scores were never high enough to make adequate yearly progress” as defined by the NCLB (Aviv 6). A description given by Aviv depicts the NCLB as being “a nearly utopian statute that required all public-school students to become proficient in math and reading” (Aviv 6). The evidence provided shows that NCLB had set high standards and most students at public-schools were not able to achieve. Such unrealistic requirements forced Parks’ administration and teachers to engage in examination cheating.
Standardized tests are another factor that contributed to cheating vice at Parks Middle School. These tests do not recognize unique abilities and talents possessed by the students. However, the standardized tests are a good measure of student’s understanding of subjects and academic aspects. The teachers wanted their students to be on the same learning level as others from different schools. Introduction of cheating showed that the teachers understood the use of standardized examinations to benchmark understanding of educational concepts. Lewis told Waller that their students were “doing hot. We know they are learning” (Aviv 9). Lewis meant that their students were doing fine even without being subjected to tests. However, Waller asserts that the students were at the risk of being “separated and sent to different schools” if they did not pass the tests. Lewis believed that it was his sole responsibility never to “let that happen” (Aviv 9). Statement by Waller and Lewis shows that they knew the value of the standardized tests, but they were not willing to allow the tests dictate the fate of the students hence they started cheating.
According to the teacher’s code of conduct, Parks Middle School teachers committed punishable offenses. As professionals in the field of education, they were not justified in tampering with examination materials and cheating on behalf of the students. It is not ethical for a teacher to sneak into the examinations office and change answers so that the student may receive a good grade and be happy. The actions taken by some of the teachers at the school were shameful and displayed gross professional misconduct. Lewis, the mathematics teacher at the Parks Middle School, purchased a razor and used it to slit open the package that concealed examination materials. He obtained “math, reading, and language-arts sections” of the standardized examination and gave the materials to other two teachers (Aviv 1). The teachers aimed to understand the examination questions and inform students of what they expected in the education or find correct answers at the examinations office. Further, Lewis and Draper entered the testing office at the end of the testing week and “erased wrong answers and bubbled in the right ones” (Aviv 2). The conduct displayed by Lewis and Draper does not reflect professionalism and are equally shameful.
In conclusion, the cheating at Parks caused by factors such as too much pressure on teachers, unrealistic NCLB targets, establishment of standardized tests, and the idea of teachers to make students happy. Although the cheating incidence by the teachers was not justified, the goals NCLB were supposed to be attainable and realistic. The cheating scandal shows that a vice can be committed by the perpetrator out of both good faith and bad intentions.
Aviv, Rachel. “Wrong answer.” The New Yorker 21 (2014): 1-26.
Dee, Thomas S., and Brian Jacob. “The impact of No Child Left Behind on student achievement.” Journal of Policy Analysis and management 30.3 (2011): 418-446.