Teachers strategize and fight back in the war on cheating

Amanda Su and Ye Bin Shin

Over the years, a cheating epidemic has spread throughout Dougherty as more students fall prey to the pressure to succeed and resort to academic dishonesty. Students utilize several “innovative” methods to sneak by without getting caught, but little do they realize that teachers are not so ignorant about this “outbreak” at Dougherty.

Although students convince themselves that they can evade punishment from cheating, teachers are following close behind. Several teachers have mentioned that they catch a handful of students involved in both major  and minor incidents of academic dishonesty throughout the year.

AP Chemistry has a reputation as one of the hardest classes at Dougherty,  and thus students often feel the temptations to cheat. AP Chemistry teacher Mr. Ethan Schnell states that in his teaching experience, there have been “too many [cheating incidents] to count”.

Schnell says that he has caught students looking at their neighbor’s version of the test, bubbling in answers and that student’s version number, even though they were given a different one. Several other teachers, such as AP Biology teacher Mrs. Minu Basu and AP Calculus teacher Mr. Robert Gendron, all confirmed that they have seen this cheating method as well.

Basu states, “I’ve had students tell me when they’ve resorted to [cheating] and come confess … saying, ‘Give me a zero. I cheated.’”

Many teachers have noticed the usual methods, such as checking phones, glancing at neighbors’ tests or even just talking to friends between periods, but over time, students have devised more “creative” strategies.

Basu has observed these new cheating methods in her class. For example, during a free response question exam, a student claimed someone “stole their test” when it disappeared and was able to retake it. Shortly after, the new test was supposedly “stolen again.”

Gendron has seen students change their test answers after tests were graded and passed back, claiming afterwards that  they had the correct answer all along. With the multitude of ways cheating has evolved, it has become more difficult to track and prevent such instances of dishonesty.

In spite of this cheating epidemic, teachers are prepared for such situations and have crafted methods to combat this epidemic. To prevent students from cheating via the more traditional methods, such as looking at their neighbor’s paper, teachers have created different test versions by scrambling answers and questions, moving desks, and according to Basu, even “making tests bubbles smaller so they’re harder to see”. In case students change their test versions, they are told to write their names on stamped test forms, and teachers have specific test numbers for each question sheet.

But sometimes it is difficult to track the cheating that occurs outside of the classrooms, such as discussions about exams in the hallway.

According to AP European History teacher Ms. Julie Lazar, she has prevented talking between classes by “curving the test so it doesn’t help the student to let others know what’s on the test.”

What Lazar means is that when a test is curved, students’ scores will be relative to those of other students taking the same test. If one student scores extremely high, then the curve will decrease and will not raise everyone’s grade. It is actually not in the best interest of students to aid others by discussing the test to help them get more answers correct, especially if they themselves did not feel they did well. So, as much as students hope to slide by without getting caught, it’s difficult to do so when teachers, who have been teaching for many years and were once students themselves, are watching.

Although teachers cannot condone cheating and have to make sure students don’t, they are somewhat sympathetic to why students choose to cheat. Dougherty can often be a very stressful environment, considering it is so full of people who excel in so many ways. The pressure to stand out and rise above others often leads students to resort to methods that sacrifice their integrity.

Lazar says, “A lot of it is stress and pressure. I don’t think very many students cheat because they’re lazy. I think it’s just that they’re overwhelmed, which makes me sad, because if they would spend the effort studying rather than cheating, they would do better the honest way.”

Teachers understand students don’t cheat because they are “bad kids” or simply don’t care about school. But it hurts both the student and the teacher when students don’t truly learn and teachers are forced to give a zero. Not only does cheating jeopardize the student’s grades and take away the purpose of an education, but it can also damage the relationship between the student and the teacher.

Basu states, “They are under extreme pressure and think it’s the easy way out, but they don’t realize that once they cheat, they lose trust forever and nothing can really fix that.”

Teachers do not wish to see students cheat. As educators, they want  to teach their students, not catch them in the process of literally “cheating” themselves out of their high school learning experience.