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Still seeking formula to terminate cheating

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Phones: students’ take versus teachers’.

Phones: students’ take versus teachers’.

Hanna Bewley

Hanna Bewley

Phones: students’ take versus teachers’.


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After six years of annual cheating surveys, it seems far too many students toss morals aside and do whatever they must to get a high grade.

Even in this age of mastery grading—complete with retests—79 percent of students surveyed said cheating has helped them get a better grade. Last year that figure was 67 percent. The survey shows that 60 percent of students overall say mastery grading has not affected cheating trends, while 21 percent believe the policy has made cheating easier.

Whether intended or not, the perception that tests matter most persists. Over the last three surveys, an average of 51 percent of students who have cheated admit to looking at classmate’s work while testing.

To students, yes, grades matter, but obtaining them dishonestly is immoral. Show some integrity. If your conscience holds no sway, take heart in the new grading policy. Some failure is forgiven in redoing assignments. Use failure productively, as a tool to identify skill and knowledge deficits.

To teachers, thank you to those striving to adopt the principles of the admittedly unclear mastery grading policy. And know that we hope the school system and administration will offer you more specific guidelines after this pilot year. We also ask that you guard against cheating during class. Separating desks into rows may sound old school, but with so many confessing to wandering eyes, such a move seems wise. So too does stressing the value of academic integrity and resisting the tendency to look the other way rather than investigate a suspected cheater.

Lastly, it’s time for students, teachers and administrators to confront the reality of cell phones. About half of students said they cheated with a cell phone during class in 2014 and 2015. Under our more lenient cell phone policy permitting phones almost all the time that percentage has ticked toward 60 percent and has done so for two consecutive years.

We certainly could debate what to do about this. We say, let the discussion begin.

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