Perceptions of Paradox
Illusions of Professional Skepticism
When I saw Beverly Hall's picture, I was reminded of my favorite elementary school teacher, Mrs. Foreman. Hall was Jamaican- American and her smile, like Mrs. Foreman's, seemed extraordinarily kind. She was the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools and named the national superintendent of the year in February 2009 by the American Association of School Administrators. The honor had been earned by raising test scores, including those on standardized tests that had been designed to hold teachers accountable as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.
By October the test scores were under scrutiny after being deemed statistically improbable. The truth was, there was cheating going on. A lot of cheating, but this time it wasn't by students. Erasure patterns were discovered on answer sheets that made it appear as though educators had corrected student's answers immediately after the testing. Students that had learning disabilities suddenly became proficient in math and reading, and students who were considered gifted went from exceptional to perfect.
In the fall of 2010, fifty agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation started questioning teachers about the conspiracy to falsify test scores. They considered Hall to be the ringleader. An accusation she vehemently denied. She allegedly offered cash bonuses to teachers who could meet the minimum score targets. The culture in the schools became one of unrelenting pressure to raise scores, and the cheating had reportedly been an open secret for years.