Cheating hurts integrity


Ji-Sung Lee

The feeling is all too familiar. As the teacher hands out the exam, students fidget in their seats, crack their knuckles and glance around. They hope their peers look just as nervous as they do.  It’s this feeling of utter panic when the test is being passed out that students try to avoid.  
A majority of students report being more stressed by tests and schoolwork than anything else, the American Test Anxieties Association said.  The association found that 16 to 20 percent of students have high test anxiety, which accounts for the most prominent educational issue in schools today.  This test anxiety makes students  blank or freeze, the association said. High test anxiety decreases memory and increases mistakes.  Additionally, students with high anxiety perform around twelve percentile points lower than their peers, the association said.  Senior Ayooluwa Odemuyiwa believes students can become overwhelmed when they enter a testing environment feeling inadequately prepared.
“The feeling that students will eventually fail is horrifying, and often, when students are aware that other classmates are cheating, they feel tempted to try and get help on questions,”   Odemuyiwa said. “The idea of answers being ‘right there,’ either on a phone or another student’s paper, is usually enough to convince one to take advantage of an opportunity and cheat.”
In Odemuyiwa’s opinion, cheating is not worth the zero or detention a student can receive as a consequence. If students continue to cheat on tests, they will never learn content that will allow them to succeed in the future, Odemuyiwa said.
Like Odemuyiwa, senior Ruth Wu believes cheating is just not very genuine.  Students should not be blamed for wanting a higher grade, but they should strive to reach greater heights based on their own effort and ability, Wu said.
“Cheating is not fair on other students either. When I study for a test and find out that people cheated, I feel like all my efforts have been wasted,” Odemuyiwa said. “Cheating has negative consequences, even if you don’t get caught. You lose the trust of others; you set yourself up for failure in the future.”
Math teacher Angel Jacquin mentioned that when students are academically dishonest, the only person it hurts is the cheater.  Students who cheat are not able to thoroughly understand the content, and instead, rely on others’ work.  She understands that oftentimes, however, students find it difficult letting a teacher know they are confused, and as a result, copy off their partner. For Jacquin, her definition of cheating consists of students not producing their own answer or copying the answer from somebody or something else.
“I think that it is a big reason students do cheat because they have to face the fact that they don’t know how to do it, so they would rather hide that fact,” Jacquin said. “It can be embarrassing sometimes, even though as a teacher that’s why we’re here, to help you learn how to do something. But if you don’t let us know that, it’s hard to help you.’
A problem arises when students are highly motivated by grades, but less motivated by learning, an Eberly Center group of teaching consultants at Carnegie Mellon University concluded.  In this case, students were said to be less likely to put effort into understanding the material and more likely to take shortcuts to a desired grade.  In addition, students feel pressure from peers, adults, standardized testing and from the demands of responsibilities, the Harvard Graduate School of Education said.  Because of these pressures, it’s common to see wandering eyes as students hope for a little help on those tough questions.  After all, a 2017 survey conducted by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics found that 59 percent of high school students admitted to cheating on a test during the last year.
Additionally, another study found it is the above-average college bound students who are cheating, whereas in the past, it was the struggling students who were more likely to cheat, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an advertising campaign. The ETS said cheating among high school students has risen dramatically during the past 50 years.  As for RBHS’ academic integrity policies, “the evaluation of each student’s achievement are of primary concern to educational institutions.”  Students who “cheat or plagiarize may be subject to the following: referral to the principal; parent/guardian contacted; a “zero” recorded for the exercise; possible detention and/or suspension; and/or removal from the course with a grade of “F” recorded on transcript”, the Student Handbook for the Columbia Public Secondary Schools said.
“People cheat even though they know it’s immoral because of the pressure that is put on them,” Odemuyiwa said. “Their  philosophy is this: ‘Why fail a test and disappoint when you can cheat and succeed?’”
[quote]People cheat even though they know it’s immoral because of the pressure that is put on them, –Ayooluwa Odemuyiwa, senior[/quote] Odemuyiwa said because there are unrealistic expectations in school settings, students often push themselves to excel in every aspect of life, from being socially active to having great grades. People are willing to do whatever it takes to get by, even if it means being academically dishonest.
“One can be expected, for example, to have a 4.0 [grade point average] (GPA) while being a successful athlete. When students are pushed to be perfect, they will often try to make up for it wherever they see themselves failing,” Odemuyiwa said.  “If a student isn’t doing well in sports, he or she may be tempted to turn to steroids or other illegal substances to make up for it. In the same way, if a student routinely makes D’s on tests he or she might cheat to make up for the ‘failure.’”
With a 1:1 student to laptop ratio at RBHS, technology is now more accessible to students.  Statistic Brain, a research institute, said only 3.9 percent of schools have one computer for every student. RBHS is a part of this small percentage, and while this technology offers easier access to notes, powerpoints and lesson plans, The Boston Globe  mentioned that better technology does not mean better education. Odemuyiwa said with testing on platforms such as Schoology and Blackboard, more efforts must be made to enforce the honor code. She believes teachers should supervise online tests as they would pencil and paper tests.
“Because of technological changes and how common phones are, teachers don’t expect students to use them to their advantage, but they do,” Odemuyiwa said. “Laptops and the advancements in technology definitely make it easier for people to cheat. Online platforms are no substitute for supervision.”
It’s more than the advancement of technology that has made getting answers online more accessible. There are other flaws that Wu sees in the system. She believes the root problem is that schools focus too much on results and not enough on progress.
“Cheating is great for getting good grades; however, it cripples students from improving based on their own academic efforts,” Wu said. “Instead of prioritizing test scores or grades, education should be focused on teaching students to love learning.”
Cheating, much like plagiarism, is taking credit for someone else’s work. For Wu, this includes any school assignment, project or exam. On the other hand, Wu said checking answers with a friend after finishing a homework assignment can be mutually beneficial to both parties, provided the teacher did not explicitly say to work on the assignment individually.
“Group work is collaboration. Cheating is stealing someone else’s credit. Group work is, in theory at least, evenly divided among the team,” Wu said. “Cheating is being dead weight on a classmate. I think that borrowing a friend’s notes is fine as long as it’s used as a resource, not a replacement for reading the textbook themselves. There is a fine line between inspiration and conspiration.”
Jacquin believes one of the best things teachers can do to prevent cheating is to teach students how to be organized and manage time. If students can accomplish these things, teachers are able to assist them. Then, they are less likely to cheat because they feel prepared for an exam, or they know the answers and they don’t have to cheat, Jacquin said.  
“I think the more I can motivate my students, especially my struggling learners to come in and get the help they need, the less stressed out they are about exams and the less likely they are to resort to cheating,” Jacquin said. “It’s all about that time management and the preparation and giving them a calm and relaxing environment; that can help, too. If you’re not in a stressed environment while taking a test, or you if can alleviate some of that testing anxiety, then there’s less likely last minute resorts of looking up answers.”
As Jacquin looks for ways to decrease academic dishonesty, Wu thinks cheating is an easier way out of pressure, as it’s ultimately a trade off.  Especially in high school, students are willing to trade their morals for higher grades in order to improve their GPAs.
“Cheaters appear to put in minimal effort and get maximum gain as long as they don’t get caught and choose the right victims.  Schools puts a lot of focus on appearances, such as grades, so in a bind, students may be tempted to cheat to maintain their image as an effortless genius,” Wu said.  “Morals are the basis for integrity and character, crucial for a successful student because ultimately, schools want to create good people, not good cheaters. Our IQ, GPA, test scores – those are just numbers. Perhaps they are numbers with an unfair amount of weight in our life.  Morals, however, are priceless qualities at the center of living.”