Friday, April 30, 2021

Should I Be Glad They're So Bad At Cheating?

I caught another one.

Last week a student completed a make-up test at home and submitted it online.  I failed to notice that it was turned in, so the student sent me an email asking me to grade the test.  I did so immediately.

And there it is again.  Obvious cheating.

I make different versions of my tests.  It's no secret that I do so, I even put Version 1 or Version 2  or some identifying mark at the top of the 1st page of the test.  Just about every teacher has different versions of his/her tests.  Do students not know this, or not care?

I discard the "not care" argument, because students obviously care enough to cheat.  So how is it that I'm catching so many students recently using in their calculations numbers that do not appear in the problems, but are the exact numbers for different or previous versions of the test?

And when I call them on this, the initial reaction is to double down.  I don't try to get students to lie to me; I tell them exactly what I think (that they cheated), and I present all my evidence.  It's not often that one backs down at that point; no, they often say they just cannot explain how that happened but they absolutely did not cheat.  Maybe they looked at a similar problem in their notes.  They're never able to produce this "similar problem", and often at this point they'll either admit to a "lesser included offense" or will at least stop digging deeper, but seldom will they admit to outright cheating.  And they never tell me who gave them the answers they used.

There are plenty of times I have a strong suspicion of cheating, but my evidence isn't rock solid.  I have to let those go.  But when the evidence is crystal clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, I don't back down--not even when parents swear they'll go to the school board to get a grade overturned (none ever has, at least, not with me).

Online schooling has magnified the problem exponentially.  Students are so short-sighted, though, especially the underclasses--do they think they'll really be ready for next year's math class after cheating their way through this year's?

It's so disappointing.


Ellen K said...

Cheating has become rampant as a means to inflate GPA's. I encountered more cheating in my AP courses than in my lower level classes. Part of this is due to the way AP and IB courses are "weighted" to further heighten the perception by students and their parents that "everyone" is making a 4.0+ for a GPA. Personally I think weighting rigorous courses is a disgrace. I remember one time a student, one of the Top Ten in his class, asked me to raise his test score by 3 points to bring his overall GPA to where he'd move up in the rankings. I thought he was joking and laughed at him. His reply was "that's okay, someone else will do it." I don't know if taking away class rank is the answer, but I also know students who were in the top 12% who transferred to a school in district where their same GPA would put them in the top ten percent. I also sat in 504 meetings in which parents tried to get special modifications, accommodations and extended time for their otherwise fully capable students on standardized testing. One parent, who was a lawyer, actually insisted his daughter be allowed to take the SAT over a period of five consecutive days. My message is, it's not just students driving this cheating phenomenon.

Darren said...

Oh, I know it's not just students who drive the grades arms race. Absent further information, though, I believe it's students who do the cheating, not the parents.

That they're so *bad* at it is what strikes me.

And thankfully I've encountered several parents over the years who give every indication that they are displeased that their children cheated (which is very different from being displeased that they got caught). Integrity is still a thing for many of us.

PhillipMarlowe said...

a decade ago, after having swallowed that bee, Michelle Rhee brought in principals to District of Columbia Public Schools who chastised teachers for making more than one version of a test as you described. One teacher was told that he had the wrong attitude about his students, anticipating that they would cheat.

Darren said...

I was a supporter of Rhee, but would not agree with her on this topic if that was her opinion. It's akin to not having the Highway Patrol because that anticipates that people would speed down the freeway.