Blank Space: Cheaters thrive at Dougherty


Alicia Ho, Copy & Web Editor

Academic dishonesty has become an increasingly prevalent occurrence at Dougherty in the past few years, with 65.5 percent of surveyed DVHS students saying that they have cheated at least once at school.

52.6 percent said they have cheated multiple times. Even 40 percent of those who said they have never been academically dishonest report they have thought about cheating in school before.

AP Chemistry teacher Mr. Schnell calls this issue an “epidemic” at Dougherty. He reports noticing a vast percentage gap between class score averages on every test, the later periods of the day eclipsing the earlier ones by as much as 10-12 percent.

Many students agree on the cause for these differences in test scores. 71.4 percent of the survey responders ascribe the rise of academically dishonest behavior to the competition and pressure characteristic of Dougherty.

Senior Jessica Chipley comments, “I think it’s the competitiveness and the cutthroat environment.”

“We base our worth and how we judge other people on their scores,” another senior* agrees.

This increased emphasis on stellar academic performance seems to spread the belief that grades trump knowledge. Test days are often fraught with anxiety and desperation, and the scrambles for test information during breaks are often attributed to the difficulty of the class.

However, Mr. Schnell believes that class difficulty as a motive for academic dishonesty “stems from the fact that students [are not] trying to learn [the material] … They just want to pass the test and be done with it, whereas they should try and learn it; it wouldn’t be that hard without cheating.”

Indeed, 75 percent of students who reported having cheated claim they did so because they didn’t study for that test.

Senior Megan Li admitted to cheating multiple times, and believes it’s an issue at Dougherty because “no one wants to feel dumb.”

Suggesting an alternate cause of the cheating epidemic at Dougherty, one senior* believes “people not bothering to study who are too cowardly to acknowledge their error” are to blame for enabling the growth of this practice.

Survey results have demonstrated that some students impute the rise of cheating to teachers as well. 66.7 percent of those surveyed at DVHS believe the teachers’ inattention to students during assessments allow cheating to flourish in school.

AP European History teacher Ms. Lazar agrees, and encourages teachers to “be really diligent about watching the students as they’re taking tests” rather than “taking time to get caught up, as much as we would like to.”

Regarding methods teachers can use to curb cheating, Mr. Schnell is a strong proponent of making separate tests that cover the same material but with completely different problems. He believes that creating completely distinct versions of tests is the most effective way for teachers to prevent cheating. He concludes, “At the end of the day, people should just be honest, and not cheat.”

One junior*, however, believes his cheating habits are justified, arguing, “I’m nervous and don’t see why not.”

Senior Neal Sanghvi agrees that academic dishonesty is not an issue. He explains, “If people can cheat and get away with it, good for them. It might bite them in the rear later, but then again it might not. We’ve got to stop pretending that life’s fair and start doing what works for us.”

On the other hand, Ms. Lazar contends that “students think it’s easier to cheat than it is, because I don’t think they know when people get caught, because nobody brags about ‘Oh, I got caught cheating,’ but it happens a lot. So, I think students think they got away with cheating, but they’re actually not getting away with it as often as it seems … That’s my cautionary tale to [students].”

*Some responders wished to remain anonymous.