- In a longform piece in July's New Yorker, reporter Rachel Aviv thoughtfully documents the 2006 cheating scandal at Parks Middle School in Atlanta.
- Interviewing everyone from the teacher who opened the test booklets early and later re-bubbled student answers to the principal who condoned and encouraged this behavior, the article presents a more humanistic side of the story.
- Ultimately, the piece attempts to understand the pressures of the current emphasis on high-stakes testing and how rising expectations paired with little support for other factors like poverty drove the school to its cheating decision.
One heartbreaking scene in the article describes the school's celebration of its undeserved successes, with a pizza and ice cream party for students, when the doctored results came back.
"For the first time since the passage of No Child Left Behind, Parks had met its annual goals: the percentage of eighth graders who passed rose thirty-one points in reading and sixty-two points in math. 'Everyone was jumping up and down,' Neekisia Jackson, a student, said. 'It was like our World Series, our Olympics.' She went on, 'We had heard what everyone was saying: Y’all aren’t good enough. Now we could finally go to school with our heads held high.'”
There is something sad about students jumping around and celebrating unearned test scores, and that the principle is pushing for this charade to happen. The scene shows the school's desperation and underscores what value has currently been placed on. It wasn't just pizza the kids got from the falsified scores, but perceived validation of self-worth.
The piece additionally tries to understand how poverty factors into all of this. Arizona State University's former dean of education, David Berliner, told Aviva, “The people who say poverty is no excuse for low performance are now using teacher accountability as an excuse for doing nothing about poverty.” Ultimately, the story here is much bigger than cheating.