Cheating: Is it everywhere?

So far this week, I heard Arne Duncan speak, paid a brief visit to a middle school defying the odds, sat down with a former Kenyan education minister and read several new studies on teacher quality.

But it was a 30 minute conversation with a teacher that sticks with me the most.

She told me that she’s concerned with cheating on the CRCT because she has seen firsthand a student who failed the reading test and then managed to score at the exceeds level in the summer retake.

Yet, when the child arrived in her classroom in the fall, he was unable to read.  Her principal said the child may have just made “lucky” guesses on the retake.  The teacher said colleagues in other counties have experienced the same thing. She said it does not serve the child to misrepresent his reading abilities and makes it harder for a teacher to know what the child needs.

I want to bring up another cheating issue that I have seen. It’s become common for schools to post student work on bulletin boards. I often read the writing samples, some of which have the standards attached showing that the teacher rated the writer as “advanced” in all categories.

Here’s my problem: There is no way that a child wrote some of the samples I’ve seen on display. It wouldn’t matter if the child attended the highest achieving district in the state; the writing is well beyond a child’s capability and sounds like it came off the front page of The New York Times.  It does not read like an essay by a child, but a news story by a trained journalist.

(I know that some of you doubt there are sophisticated skills associated with what journalists do, but there are and those skills are easy to recognize in writing samples. The heart of explanatory journalism is condensing complex ideas. It’s creating comparisons to put an issue in context. It’s hard to do well.)

In one instance, I copied a sentence from a bulletin board writing sample on Swine flu and ran it through our archives to confirm that it came out of an AJC story.

Here’s a true story. In a local student essay contest a few years ago, the judges went to the winner to ask one final time if any of the material was plagiarized before awarding the prize . The girl admitted some of her story was copied. So, the judges went to their second choice. And that kid also said he lifted some of what he wrote. They had to go to the third place winner before they could award the prize.

Is cheating a way of life now?

41 comments Add your comment

Darren

October 30th, 2009
10:28 am

Funding is not keeping pace with population growth. Focussing on anything else right now takes the eye off this imperative ball.

hawk teach

October 30th, 2009
10:28 am

“If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying.”

zoe

October 30th, 2009
10:51 am

http://www.turnitin.com (paid subscription, used by hundreds of colleges nationwide) http://www.doccop.com (free) These are programs designed to detect plagarism. I usually do not use either though, I just run suspect phrases in quotes through Google.

I teach Social Studies and require my students to complete 2 research papers a school year (one fall, one spring) I spend time explaining the research process AND the concept of footnotes. I’ve let them know that if I find out they have plagarized, they will get a zero on their paper.

I just did a Google for Turnitin + Georgia Tech (they are one of the schools that uses Turnitin) and apparently turnitin is now providing services for Admissions counselors to determine if students have plagarized admissions essays.

Turnitin keeps a copy of every document submitted and the program compares documents submitted to not just webpages, but also documents submitted by other students required to use Turnitin.

V for Vendetta

October 30th, 2009
10:53 am

If Arne Duncan has his way, cheating will be the norm.

ugaaccountant

October 30th, 2009
10:53 am

Is cheating common everywhere?
Yes

In other news, the sun rose this morning. More details to come as this unusual story develops.

DigALittleDeeper

October 30th, 2009
11:04 am

The question of the day should be – “Who are we hiring to teach our children?”. The fight at Rex isn’t just a Clayton County problem. We have a bunch of people with low moral values, teaching our kids, in every county. And this isn’t about race. We have had sex scandals, drug arrrest, cheating (on test and with other spouses) and they say it’s a personal issue. It’s not personal when it’s being broadcast on the Six O’Clock news and happens on school grounds.

Yes, Cheating and Lack of Moral Values is everywhere, including our schools.

BeScared

October 30th, 2009
11:06 am

Yes, definitely.

Several years ago an Atlanta Public Schools’ Special Education high school student passed a standardized reading test. The problem was that he could not read.

Draw your own conclusion.

esa

October 30th, 2009
11:10 am

Standardized tests should be proctored by teachers from another school. There is ample evidence that when teachers administer the tests for their own students cheating by students will be overlooked and the test administrators will also cheat. This should come as no surprise since everyone has an incentive to cheat.

steve

October 30th, 2009
11:17 am

Unfortunately, YES. Since the government thinks every kid is college material then what are teachers supposed to do? Apathy, illiteracy, inability, etc., runs rampant in the classrooms and not from the teachers only – a lot comes from students. BUt, if the government says they are college material it must be so. They would not lie to us – would they?

Grammar King

October 30th, 2009
11:24 am

The examples you’ve given, at least until the final few sentences about an essay contest, make the cheating “phenomenon” sound like it’s more Teacher Cheating and less Student Cheating that is a major problem. Some students (many students?) have always cheated, but they tend to just scrape by after school, as well. It seems that the cheating associated with the CRCT tests is mainly being done by the teachers. This is what happens when you tie their bonuses and pay to student performance – the teachers inflate their students’ performances to inflate their paychecks.

Grammar King

October 30th, 2009
11:28 am

Steve – I agree, not every student is “traditional college” material. That is why the US should implement post-secondary trade schools that have as much respect as college. Continuing education is profoundly important to developing a competitive labor force. However, I don’t think that cheating on CRCT tests is indicative of the government pushing unwilling or unready students towards college.

Rob

October 30th, 2009
11:35 am

It’s the SEC’s fault.

V for Vendetta

October 30th, 2009
11:51 am

Dig,

I don’t think it’s that simple (though in some cases it is). When your job might depend on the performance of a student raised in a crack den who can’t read, write, or spell, suddenly you start thinking of solutions you might never have previously considered. What if a manager tied one employees job to the job of another, horrifically terrible employee? I bet the first employee would be doing a lot of the second employee’s work.

Grammar King,

I agree with the beginning of your post; however, I disagree with your assertion that the government is not pushing “unwilling or unready students towards college.” By eliminating the technical diploma in some places, or making it nothing more than a watered down college prep diploma, what else could they possibly be doing? The government controls education, so who else is causing this perception?

Maureen Downey

October 30th, 2009
11:51 am

G. King, Those are good points. Although I think the lifting of material is student cheating. Teachers may compound it by not calling out the cheating but a colleague and I were talking about how many essays a teacher has to grade each week, and how much harder that is now when they also have to cite all the standards being met in each essay.
Maureen

Kurt

October 30th, 2009
11:52 am

The school system has been dumbed down so much to TRY to accomodate a certain demographic. And it’s still failing. And so are they. I have 5 children in our school system, and I see it first hand. It’s sickening.

A Realist

October 30th, 2009
11:52 am

Cheating is everywhere. It depends on the school and your social class which determines if you will be reported or not.

V for Vendetta

October 30th, 2009
12:02 pm

Maureen,

It’s actually not too hard to catch a kid who has been lifting material. Google makes it quite easy. :-)

mad as hell...let's revolt... untelevised

October 30th, 2009
12:06 pm

http://www.ajc.com/news/clayton/clayton-teachers-on-leave-177266.html?imw=Y

this is one reason why:

1. A playa can’t roll on facebook
2. Clayton county schools suck
3. Brothers need to check themselves and quit playing
4. Sisters need to check-out the men they get involved with
5. The media doesn’t have to mention what ethnicity these fools were, their names tell the story… Chaka Cobb and Ebony Smith

So sad…

oldtimer

October 30th, 2009
12:17 pm

Cheating is a problem. And, yes, V it is easy to catch. But sometimes, even with proof parents will not believe you and administrators tend to not want problems. One school I worked in just had students redo and redo and redo work so by the end of a grading period you had tons of redone work and everyone made an A.
As to sped kids passing standardized tests…If it is in the IEP it must be read to them.

Old Physics Teacher

October 30th, 2009
12:22 pm

V for Vendetta,
Actually it’s not always that easy. After you catch the young ones by running a Google, they get better at cheating. Not every book, newspaper article, magazine, or journal is online. Sometimes they actually check a magazine out of the library and copy it onto their word processor. When you check Google, it doesn’t show up. You have to compare it to previous writings of that student, or you have to have read the article yourself. I though I have covered every base when I gave an assignment to write a report about N. Tesla as I had read every article and book published on the man. One student (a junior) wrote a beautiful paper on him. It was well written, covered all the major points in his life, discussed his foibles, etc. I gave the student top marks. Three years later I found a book that I didn’t know existed. It was in my own school’s library. The librarian had pulled it out because it was published back in the 70’s, and space was needed for new books. I bought it for a buck or two and read it. Unfortunately I found out the student had copied word-for-word directly from that book. It was a bit late to change the grade as she had graduated a year earlier. Google didn’t have anything on this book.

There are sites to check for plagiarism. They are getting better at updating their databases, but they (pardon the word) AIN’T cheap, and few schools can afford the cost!

Old Physics Teacher

October 30th, 2009
12:24 pm

Sorry, correction: …I thoughT I HAD covered…

Gwinnett HS Teacher

October 30th, 2009
12:48 pm

mad as hell…let’s revolt… untelevised – What ethnicity was that crazy astronaut who drove all night with a diaper on, so she wouldn’t have to stop during the night to confront her alledged “boyfriend”? And, next time – stay on topic.

Arthur Thompson

October 30th, 2009
12:49 pm

I substitute on occasion in Rockdale county. While at Memorial Middle School I did a math class for students needing extra help. The group from the 7th grade during the class lesson (20 total students) took the worksheet and one did the work. It was passed to others and during the last 15 minutes one assignment after another was turned into me with the identical 40 answers. Too bad for the kids who copied (aboout 8 )
that their elected head cheater did every problem wrong!

The kids who did their own work may not have completed it all but at least it was their work. The kids who cheated not only made a zero but will be reprimanded by their regular teacher as well. This school is 85% black/ 5 percent white and 10% hispanic.

PhD Student

October 30th, 2009
12:56 pm

Cheating is rampant and accepted. I’ve met high school honor students, HOPE scholarship recipients, that can’t even tell you who fought in WWII or Vietnam. I’ve met “A” students in math that can’t do multiplication without using thier fingers. If anyone looked at the questions on the CRCT you would be ashamed to say this is the minimum requirements for education in Georgia. The whole system is a hoax, designed to deliver a credential for entering the workforce but without any substance supporting the credential. The system endorses cheating: when you send seniors that are a year behind their peers to “alternative schools” where they receive a year and a half of education in six months so they can graduate on time, that’s called cheating to improve your graduation rates. When you don’t count the students that drop out of school before reaching high school, that’s cheating on your graduation rates. When you don’t count the students who drop enrollment at one school but never register at another school, that’s cheating on your graduation rates. Stop hiding the truth and let us know how the schools are really performing. Cheating on the CRCT is just the tip of the iceberg.

teacher/parent

October 30th, 2009
1:12 pm

@ Old Physics Teacher-I agree that you can’t catch them all. However, as sad as this sounds, most students are too lazy to cheat well. They copy word for word, usually from the internet because they couldn’t find a book in the library. I’ve had seniors in my class who don’t know how to access the on-line card catalog because they’ve NEVER looked for a book in the library.

@ugaaccountant-hysterical and true

Private school guy

October 30th, 2009
1:29 pm

Having the schools administer the tests is like having employees do their own reviews. Tests should be given by those outside the school. They should be random and unannounced just like a fire or food safety inspection. If the sampled results of random students indicate that the school is not on course then test everyone. Things will start to change if this is done.

Evil Old English Teacher

October 30th, 2009
1:39 pm

I hate be the one to bring this up, but there has been many an instance in which I compared a student’s in-class writing and in-class test scores to papers that come from home, and seen a remarkable difference.

I don’t want to cast stones, but it is difficult to teach the importance of academic integrity, if it is being undermined at home.

Disgusted

October 30th, 2009
1:46 pm

PhD: that is exactly what many of us up here in Hall County have been saying. Our leadership spouts Character For All at every chance and then implemts the unethical alternative school transfers as the way to improve Graduation rates. How can we expect our kids NOT to cheat in this sort of situation? It is sickening! Unfortunatly our BOE seems to applaud it! we even have ex DOE bigwigs up here on the payroll now that seem to be part of it.

William Casey

October 30th, 2009
1:51 pm

Cheating is, and has been for a long time, rampant. This includes “run-of-the-mill” classroom cheating as well as the more newsworthy cheatng on high stakes tests. The reason is simple. Any serious attempt to prevent it reflects badly on the school and the people who are in charge. I’m retired now but was an administrator at Chattahoochee H.S. in North Fulton back in the 1990’s. Cheating was prevalent at this “fine blue ribbon” school. I advocated and organized an effective anti-cheating plan based upon recognized national models. It took a year with the help of the faculty and students. In the end, when it was time to initiate the plan, it was squashed by then principal, Bob Burke. I was removed from my position as Dean of Students for pushing too hard and causing “trouble” … sent back to the classroom. Mr. Burke went on to a $150,000+ job at the county office. So it goes!

Evil Old English Teacher

October 30th, 2009
2:49 pm

Mr. Casey,
I am so sorry to hear that. Your integrity is sorely missed.

Sincerely,
The Evil Old English Teacher

Tony

October 30th, 2009
3:58 pm

The most egregious cheating of the last few years is hardly school related, but Wall Street related. The financial sector seemed to have lost sight of all common sense in the greedy quest for more money. Driven by obscene bonuses based solely on earnings, it was apparently too easy for too many to simply cook the books and steal money from investors and now the American taxpayer. With a culture of cheating so entrenced in the so-called private sector with all the priviledges the wealty feel entitled, how is a lowly school employee supposed to buck the parents who demand that their child did not cheat? Then, they bring out the lawyers and big guns to bully the teacher and principal into submission.

It is sad and unfortunate that school employees have also been caught cheating. They should not be singled out as the only ones with the issues. The decay of America’s moral backbone is getting worse. Too many people feel entitled to things even though they are not willing to put in the work to earn them. This is bringing our country to its knees.

ugaaccountant

October 30th, 2009
4:40 pm

What is the right solution for a kid caught plagarizing word for word? Where there’s no ambiguity he did it? I have no idea what an effective and fair punishment would be. You can’t kick him out of school because then he’ll just grow up to be a net drain on society. But you can’t just let him do it because he’ll just grow up to be a net drain on society.

If only there were still the physical discipline option that actually puts fear of punishment into the system. Since our country got politcally correct and frankly soft, the fear of punishment has gone away. Now people of all ages and walks of life cheat in one way or another with little fear.

V for Vendetta

October 30th, 2009
5:20 pm

Old Physics Teacher,

Great points; however, many students are not motivated enough to go to all that trouble. I’d estimate I catch around 90% of the ones who cheat on their essays. That’s a pretty good success rate.

ugaaccountant,

They get a zero on the assignment and discipline action. If it is an essay, it should count enough that it severely impacts their averages. It’s the best we got!

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

October 30th, 2009
5:46 pm

William Casey, we need more educators and retired educators to practice the same professional integrity you have.

Lee

October 30th, 2009
6:00 pm

Here ya go, a link to the Code of Ethics. Sounds like we have some educators who need a refresher….

http://www.gapsc.com/Rules/Current/Ethics/505-6-.01.pdf

Lee

October 30th, 2009
6:21 pm

Stressed Educator

October 30th, 2009
9:49 pm

Cheating is a way of life for sure in Atlanta Public Schools. Maureen, teachers are retaliated against and can be placed on a professional development plan for not having their bullentin boards “designed” in the APS way. Teachers are told that all work needs to be corrected and perfect when displayed on the bullentin boards. In other words, student work, regardless of how much it has improved, needs to be embellished in order to keep the phony image alive that Atlanta Public School students have the skills of college students at all their schools.

As far as the CRCT, teachers are able to tell when a student had help answering questions on the previous year CRCT, especially when the student scores over 900 (an exceeding score) on the math portion of the test in 5th grade, but in the 6th grade can’t multiply 9 times 3 without using fingers and being allowed at least 3 guesses. Hhmmm, you do the math and then ask yourself did some serious cheating go on? I think Heather Vogell’s next investigative report should be about the astronomical gains made by middle schools in APS with a follow up to how one of the principals from one of the 12 schools who possibly cheated is now at the feeder middle school who is on the needs improvement list. I am willing to bet everything that the school will miraculously make AYP this year!

OvenBaked

October 31st, 2009
8:46 am

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is one of the major reasons for cheating. Making AYP has become the focus.

ScienceTeacher671

October 31st, 2009
11:46 am

Cheating in schools…cheating in personal relationships…cheating on taxes…performance-enhancing drugs in sports…cheating on Wall Street…government officials caught in scandals…

It sure seems as if cheating is everywhere, doesn’t it?

Maureen Downey

October 31st, 2009
11:50 am

Scienceteacher. We seem to have become a win-at-any-cost culture. It’s celebrated in all those reality shows. Not sure what can change that.
Maureen

Sarge

November 4th, 2009
12:08 am

Personal ethics, something which, once upon a time, was taught by nasty ole nuns swingin yardsticks upon kids’ sixes is, like the study of Latin, a dead language. In many ways, unethical behavior is not necessarily one of choice but, as with the dead language, ethics is an entirely unknown factor in the lives of entire generations. Why might this be?

For one thing, kids are reared to believe that they are number one, that they are super-special, and life exists solely for their gratification (unfortunately, this sad state of psuedo-esteem extends, all-too-often, well into the adult years). The day that parents, schools and society in general all stop being afraid of what kids might think of them, there just might be a return of ethics in the American fabric. It’s only a start, but it’s the only way.