What’s wrong with cheating?

GUSD students and staff talk about cheating, its consequences, and the new GUSD honest policy

December 10, 2015

Starting this year, cheating or violations of testing procedures are “recognized as deliberately seeking one’s own gain in academic, extracurricular, or other schoolwork in order to gain an unfair advantage, ” according to the new Academic Honesty Policy. The act of cheating may remain, but the disciplinary consequences of it are definitely becoming more prominent.

Assistant Principal Brian Landisi said that the new policy was created “due to many schools in the District having similar policies with slight differences. The new policy allows for there to be different layers for different situations. It creates less cheating than [through]academic honesty.” Although not changing anything related to test-taking, the new policy is not known to students at all. Most students interviewed for this story are comfortable with cheating “Although there is a new policy for cheating, I don’t think it will stop many people, if anyone, from still cheating on tests and assignments,” said an anonymous student.

Joseph Hermesmeyer, a Glendale High School junior, believes that the new academic policy is “a bit excessive compared to other district’s policies.” Hermesmeyer thinks that it is excessive so that “it dissuades other students from ever being academically dishonest. On the other hand, he also things that if other students are truly determined to cheat, the new policy will only exacerbate their predicament and lead the students onto a path of failure,” Hermesmeyer said.

When it comes to methods of cheating, students said that there are many ways to do so. Common methods include using cell phones, using small notes and asking a neighbor. To tackle this issue, Spanish teacher Melissa O’Gara, humanities teachers Christopher and Jennifer Davis, and chemistry teacher Loussik Kassakhian, among others, sometimes make their students turn off their cell phones and put them into a backpack, which is then set aside at the front or back of the classroom.

However, methods teachers use to prevent cheating may sometimes prove ineffective. An anonymous sophomore said to have corroborated an account of a seatmate cheating on a math test recently. “The girl who sat next to me pulled out a paper and started scribbling down work trying to solve a problem before the teacher could notice her cheating,” the student said. “I think teachers need to be more aware when it comes to test taking. If someone earns an unfair grade, they aren’t learning anything and it hurts them in the long run.”

Many students said that it is far too easy to cheat during tests. Eleven anonymous students from Clark, Glendale and Hoover High Schools who were interviewed for this story said that they were able to cheat multiple times a week. “I could easily cheat multiple times a day without having to worry about being caught,” said an anonymous Glendale High School student. Other Clark and Glendale students said that the last time they cheated was “four weeks ago,” “three weeks ago,” “a week ago,” and even that day.

Other forms of cheating, such as plagiarism, are becoming more prominent in the District, according to English teacher Conrad Pruitt. Plagiarism, as defined by the new GUSD honesty policy, “is the presentation by a student of materials or work prepared by another person/persons (including internet material) as the student’s own work and without assigning appropriate and necessary credit.”

In an effort to prevent plagiarism, English, history and science teachers at Clark have been using Turnitin.com since 2007 to discourage and prevent plagiarism. Turnitin is an Internet-based website designed to prevent plagiarism by letting universities and high schools buy licenses to submit essays to the website and then check the submitted documents for plagiarized content.

At Clark, there are over 730 students with active accounts, and over 5,300 student papers being submitted annually. “Using Turnitin lowers student’s chances to plagiarize, and if they do, we can know,” Davis said.   

To combat cheating on tests and quizzes, teachers almost always have different test versions for each period and remake them each year. Pruitt has created over 37 different variations of The Great Gatsby test that he administers. Most of the tests Pruitt gives are open book and he believes that “by making tests transparent and accessible enough, students won’t go into a state of anxiety which can often times lead students to cheating or being dishonest academically” — actions which can lead to consequences under the new District honesty policy.

Not in favor of the new policy, Hermesmeyer believes that “the District should create a fluid, progressive system that applies to the student on an individual level to gain a greater understanding which can help the student off of their cheating habits. “The District is definitely heading into the right direction with the new policy but it needs to be adjusted to accommodate students on an individual basis,” Hermesmeyer said.

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