The Problem with the Answer Key

What do you do when your teacher tells you that you’re wrong, but can’t explain why?

Today, parents and students are not sure how to handle a conflict or misunderstanding with teachers in their lives. Does standardized test practice help a child learn if their teacher has difficulty explaining the concepts addressed on the test? In the past, if a student had a question about something answered incorrectly on a test, they could go to their teacher and he or she would explain the concept so that the student would learn. This part of the learning process seems to be disappearing. When there is a rush to move from one standard to another, there is not much time to review or check for understanding. Since beginning my work as an educational advocate, I receive daily inquiries from people struggling with a misunderstanding that his or her teacher either can’t seem to explain or doesn’t have the time to address.


Recently a fifth grade student at a school in Palm Beach County, Florida came to me with a concern. He truly believed he had chosen the correct answer on his Science test and wasn’t sure why he was wrong. Upon examining the test question myself, I also thought he might be correct. My response to him was simply, “Have your mom write a note on the test asking your teacher to verify the answer and then explain to you why it is wrong.” The next time I met with my client, he showed me his teacher’s response to the inquiry.  She wrote, “According to the answer key, it is marked correctly.” I proceeded to ask him if she explained why the answer was G. He sadly shook his head and said, “No, I guess I just don’t understand Electricity.” I told him it would be ok and not to be discouraged. I still believe he is a correct. He and his parents gave me permission to post this. I would love to hear your opinions whether you are a teacher or a parent. If you can explain why he is wrong let us know. His teacher wasn’t able to and I want to demonstrate how it is still possible to learn something by asking others for help.


Test Question with Student Response

Test Question with Student Response

If you find yourself in this situation here are my top 5 tips to hopefully resolve the situation.

  1. Explain to the teacher/professor your strong desire to understand the material & your need for further explanation. Most teachers will empathize with you and give you the extra instruction.
  2. Poll peers to check for student understanding. If you find that your peers are just as confused, ask the teacher if it would be possible to reteach the lesson. If you don’t have a good relationship with this instructor, avoid this step.
  3. Go to another teacher/professor (Department Head) who teaches the subject and voice your concerns.
  4. If you still don’t feel your concerns are answered seek the help of an administrator/counselor.
  5. Ask on social media. Look for experts in the area you are having difficulty. Many people will help you if they see you took an interest in their work. During the time I worked on my Masters thesis in Education, professors from other universities in my area of interest were happy to discuss my study with me which provided me with great insight.

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