Confronting the CHEATING Epidemic. Part TWO: Staying the Course

When I wrote “Confronting the CHEATING Epidemic. Part ONE: Starting the Conversation,” I was frustrated and disappointed. I had just sent home a letter to all of my students’ families. (See the letter in the Part ONE blog).

Since that time, I have been talking openly with my students about cheating. I have also moderated a Twitter Chat with my colleagues: @CowetaEducatorChat #CowetaEdChat. The chat is archived and can be found at: http://t.co/EHCTFYndXo (Thanks, Rainy Johnson!)

After digesting the information I have collected, I can share SIX POINTS that will reduce the cheating that takes place in our classrooms.

1) TALK ABOUT CHEATING. Once you meet your students, at the beginning of the semester or the school year, you need to start a conversation about cheating. It may seem negative, but it is necessary. It is like practicing fire alarms and code yellow drills. My instinct is NOT to talk about the negative issues, but GOOD teachers must address BAD things if it is something that will promote safety or ethical behavior. That is our job.

2) USE PRACTICAL PROCEDURES. Use different test versions. Separate kids during testing and have them use cover sheets/dividers. Have students write their names on the tests, even when it is a class set. (If they have a “B” test, you can verify that and they can’t claim to have had an “A” test, the same version as their neighbor.) For research papers, there are apps and programs available to check for plagiarism. Have students do their writing in class so you can monitor them. Take their phones away during testing. Talk to your teacher friends about what they do – we have come up with ways to stop the clever tactics.

3) USE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES. Offer some tests or assignments in which students are allowed to work together or use their notes and textbooks. Many times, we don’t consider how valuable it is for students to work with a partner on a test because they TALK about the material when it is a test grade. Some SERIOUS learning often takes place during a partner test. Many students, unfortunately, won’t crack open their notes unless it is an OPEN-NOTE test or quiz. Again, serious learning often takes place during an open-note quiz.

4) EVALUATE HOW YOU SET UP THE GRADEBOOK. Giving plenty of formative assessment before a big summative assessment takes the pressure off of the BIG test. Having plenty of grades in the gradebook allows students to have some low grades and remove the fear of one bad score tanking the grade. Also, allow students to correct bad grades. If they miss questions on a test, have them reevaluate those questions and explain what they did wrong OR explain how to find the right answers. This process is not only valuable in repairing bad grades but (more importantly) helps students achieve mastery of content.

5) STAY VIGILANT. Students will always need supervision. No matter how much we want to trust each one of our students, we need to watch them. THEY need to know that we are watching…because they need to know how important it is for them to stay honest. Eventually you will find someone who isn’t follow the honor code, and you will confront the issue. Not allowing dishonesty and confronting the situation sets the expectations for your students that cheating is not allowed in any manner.

6) KEEP TALKING. Keep having open and casual conversations about cheating. Have conversations about how they could do an assignment without cheating and still maintain their grades. Many times, cheating is a result of feeling overwhelmed or due to a lack of confidence. Often, students cheat because they assume their friends know more than they do, and they may copy someone’s wrong answers. Assuring students that they are capable of doing well is part of the conversation.

Listen carefully. Kids need to feel open enough to tell you about things they are doing in other classes; they will let down their guard and tell you WHY they are doing these things. Don’t be too judgmental or too harsh. They need to feel SAFE enough to talk, and they need to feel like you CARE as you explain to them how to be their most honest selves.

Confronting the CHEATING Epidemic. Part ONE: Starting the Conversation

Collaborative Educators, including myself, like to focus energy on the positive, joyful aspects of teaching and learning. And there are so many exciting adventures in which we can immerse ourselves. Teachers do get discouraged, however, and instead of ignoring the negative, we must decide to fix what’s wrong. So, we need to address and analyze what’s wrong. That doesn’t sound fun, especially now as April moves quickly on toward May, and teachers, I mean students, get antsy for summer vacation.

I have confronted cheating incidents in my classroom, and it is never pleasant. I continuously monitor students for cheating, of course, so I have to think about it regularly. I don’t like thinking about negative things, but I must.  Cheating makes me angry, and when I am angry I am not as compassionate and optimistic as I would like to be. My anger affects my students’ attitudes as well as my own mindset. Instead of dwelling in this anger and frustration, I realize it is time to take action. Yes – Take Action.

The first step requires that we have a conversation about cheating. Cheating is ugly, and talking about cheating is even uglier. It is ugly because we have to speak to people about the fact that they, their friends, or even their children, have been dishonest and untruthful. We are not talking about making bad grades; that’s an easy conversation. We are claiming that our students are damaging their own character and reputation. We are implying that their morals and values are low or wrong. We have to look people in the eye and tell them something that hurts, and then we must watch their reaction as they process the ugly truth.

I have written a letter to send home to my students’ parents. I will discuss the issue thoroughly with my students, of course, but their families need to be aware of the impact of cheating, so the communication is vital to changing things.

BELOW is the LETTER for my students and their families. Let me know what you think. In my next post I will address simple ways to prevent cheating….

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Cheating: Its Growth & Impact on Education

Cheating has become a “normal” part of life for many students. Cheating can have serious consequences and can damage character, reputation, and self-worth. As evidenced in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) cheating scandal, cheating can become a group effort, it can become a way of doing things, and it can seem acceptable because “everyone” is doing it. The cheaters in the APS scandal are now facing up to 20 years of jail time for something they thought was “okay” at the time they were committing the crime.

Teachers know that cheating is common, and even though a student might not get “caught”, and the teacher may not have full proof of student actions, teachers are generally aware of intentions. Just because the teacher does not “accuse” you of cheating or speak to you about it does not mean it is acceptable. Cheating has become common enough that there is a way to notify parents of student cheating in Infinite Campus.

There are many forms of cheating. Some of the most common include:

  • Taking photos of your work and sending it to others electronically
  • Looking at photos of other students’ work
  • Taking photos of the teacher’s answer keys or teacher’s book
  • Finding the assignment online and using it to “check” your answers
  • Texting other people answers (or any form of electronic communication)
  • Using a paper cheat sheet (this is fairly outdated but still exists in some 21st Century classrooms)
  • Having helpful hints written on the desk or your hand
  • Whispering among your classmates to make sure you understand the question
  • Writing that you have a test version “A” when you really have a test version “B” (the version that your neighbor / classmate has)
  • Copying and pasting another student’s work
  • Copying and pasting any information from the internet or an electronic document
  • Allowing people to look at your quiz or test
  • Copying other students’ paper from the turn-in bin / basket
  • Copying other students’ paper before classmates turn it in.
    (Discussing an assignment or teaching someone before it is turned in may be acceptable if it is not a quiz or test. It depends on the instructions, and the teacher should make it clear if you are allowed to discuss it.)
  • Saving work from one semester to give or sell to students in the following semester.
  • Saving work from one block to give or sell to students in the following block.
  • Looking at another student’s paper and copying their work.
  • Allowing another student to look at your paper to copy your work.
  • Allowing another student to use your work in any of the situations listed above

If a teacher finds that you have participated in any of these actions, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

Cheating is actually devaluing your education. Because of cheating, teachers need to spend more time creating new projects & assignments, conferencing with parents, assigning zeros and then working with students who are upset they got zeros.

Teachers, therefore, spend less time creating new, exciting lessons and writing grants to purchase cool new equipment for the classroom. Their positive energy is diminished and replaced with negative attitudes toward the population of students who are cheating. Disappointed teachers may teach less effectively to the entire class based on the actions of the cheating students.

Government and private enterprise (business) employers are now seeing the result of student cheating. They have voiced complaints that young employees do not learn and comprehend well. Many students are less capable of retaining information because they simply are not developing their study skills.

What are your views on cheating? (don’t answer on paper….this is just something to think about)
a) Do you cheat occasionally?
b) Do you cheat only if you didn’t have time to study?

  1. Do you think cheating is okay?
  2. Do you not consider some of the points listed on the previous page to be cheating?
  3. Do you think that cheating is okay if someone is copying your work? (i.e., you are just sharing)
  4. Do you think cheating is okay if the teacher doesn’t catch you?
  5. Are you bored with this document because it is wasting valuable cheating time?
  6. Do you feel bad that you have cheated?
  7. Do you think cheating is okay because your family expects you to make good grades?

We need to STOP the cheating cycle. The purpose of your education is for you to LEARN, to analyze, to process information, and to create quality work. Students and teachers need to work together to increase the value of YOUR education.

If you see cheating, let your teacher know. Your name will not be revealed…it’s all confidential.

You need to choose not to cheat from this point forward. If you have never cheated, WAY TO GO!!!! You are the kind of student that makes it great to teach young people in America!

If you have participated in cheating, and you decide that you think it is the wrong thing to do, then simply make the decision NOT to cheat from this point forward. Teachers will really appreciate this commitment from you because it reflects strong character and a trustworthy reputation.

Honestly yours,

Mrs. Milam