by Penelope Jones & Audrey Payne | Contributing Writers
Cheating. Freshman student Cassie Williams knows: the students who cheat are not the only ones affected.
“I’ll be the first one done and everyone would ask me what I got for a lot of questions,” Williams said. “It makes me feel kind of used that people are only seeing me as an encyclopedia and not as a person.”
Both students and teachers recognize that the effects of cheating are detrimental to all parties involved.
“For kids who cheat it really is unfair, because I see those kids who do do the work, who put in all the effort, who stay up, who do everything they’re supposed to do, who sacrifice their personal free time to do good in school,” geography teacher Justin Felux said. “To see kids who cheat and just sort of leech off others to get the same grade, it’s just really frustrating for me as a teacher, because I appreciate those kids who do what they’re supposed to be doing, and I think they should be rewarded for it.”
Classic cheating, such as peeking at another student’s test answers, still exists today. But now cheating is becoming more complex with technology and social media.
“Now kids are getting really creative about sneaking pictures of the test and sending it to their friends,” Felux said. “As technology has advanced kids definitely have gotten more creative about how they can cheat on tests.”
Online social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, has changed what people consider cheating. The line is blurred between asking for help and directly receiving answers.
“I think generally speaking, getting help from friends, getting help from other people, is a good thing. I’m not against it,” Felux said. “But, there is a definite line between getting someone to help you understand something so that you grasp the concept and simply asking someone for the answer and getting the answers from them.”
Other teachers are not as lenient.
“‘Online help’ means cheating,” English teacher Gabriel Oviedo said. “Cheating is defined as any help not expressly approved by the teacher, even if that means outside of class group work.”
Students are developing their own opinions in relation to asking for help using social media and when it is considered acceptable.
“If it’s like on a quiz, online or take-home quiz, then it’s not good to look up an answer online,” senior Caileigh Reed said. ”But if it’s just like a homework grade, if you ask your friend how you do one or two problems, then it’s not that bad.”
Students who are faced with the temptation to cheat often feel the need to do so because of stress that can be overwhelming.
“I think at Johnson it’s ironic because often times the kids that you catch cheating are often times some the best students,” Felux said. “The reason why I feel like they cheat is because there is such an immense pressure on them to keep up their GPA, averages, and class rank and they feel pressured from their parent. They feel pressured from all kinds of different areas to get this very high, very impressive grade. And so, sometimes they don’t even really need to be cheating but they do it because they’re just afraid.”
Amy Allen, freshman algebra teacher, agreed.
“I think kids are under pressure; they want to make sure their grades are high so they can participate and not let their team down,” Allen said. “Students need to understand that if they come and see their teacher they’ll help them. And usually when you feel that desperately that you want to cheat and make that decision, you just need to go to tutoring.”
In a New York magazine article, written by Robert Kolker, statistics showed that nearly 85% of all high school students have cheated at least once, and only 10% have been caught. Those who are caught cheating can face a variety of disciplinary actions based on the teacher, the severity of the issue, and the school’s policy.
“If I see a kid who is glancing at their neighbor’s paper during a quiz, for example, I might just walk over and make it clear to them that…I saw what they did, and usually that’s enough to keep them from doing it again,” Felux said. “If I found out a more extensive or elaborate kind of, you know, cheating was going on, if kids were sending pictures of the test, then that might get me to the point of doing a write up or something along those lines.”
Academic integrity policies are sets of rules that describe what is considered cheating and what the punishments are for it. Johnson’s policy, written by Gabriel Oviedo and the school’s librarians, aids in preventing cheating and setting guidelines for punishing students who choose to cheat.
“The policy is pretty straight forward: don’t cheat, but it is more of an administrative procedural thing that students don’t generally see unless they get caught cheating,” Oviedo said. “The kids do have it though, because the district gives it to each student with the student handbook. And, individually it is stressed by the teachers.”
Reed, as a student, believes that Johnson’s policies are reasonable methods to approach cheating in school.
“It’s a fair enough policy that if you cheat you’re gonna get a zero,” Reed said. “It’s just when they [teachers] don’t catch it, is the problem.”
Universities treat academic integrity policies a little more seriously, increasing the importance of students’ awareness to rules.
“Usually, it’s a little bit different because cheating in universities can cause you to be expelled from the academic program, failure from the class, or just a zero for the assignment.,” Oviedo said. “At the university level it is very clearly stated.”
Some students cheat with the belief that the material being taught is pointless information, therefore unnecessary to learn. However, having the skills and knowledge can help prevent cheating, which is considered important in college and for future success.
“Students sometimes ask, “Why do we have to learn this? It is not like I’ll use this later in my life!” And, that is true,” Oviedo said. “But, each of these assignments, each of these projects, each of these lessons is not created to ensure memorization. They are created to help foster the development of critical thinking skills. So, the question is not, “Is Romeo & Juliet going to help me later in life?” The real question is, “Are critical thinking skills going to help me later in life?” The answer is obviously yes!”
Students who are regretful of their cheating in the past can change their ways. Ms. Allen has advice for students to make decisions when being tempted to cheat.
“I always tell students…a grade doesn’t say what kind of person you are. It just means that you didn’t learn what was on that test, so you need to go back and learn it. And then pass the test,” Allen said. “But failing a test because you don’t know what’s on it doesn’t make you less of a student. It just means that maybe I need to try and teach you again. So, just fail it and we’ll fix it, but it’s definitely better than cheating because then you missed your opportunity to ever learn what was on the test.”
As for kids who choose to cheat, Cassie Williams wants to make sure that these students no longer use others for free information.
“I think cheating is very serious and demeaning and it should be dealt with properly,” Williams said. “I’ve seen too many people get away with it and teachers need to be more proactive in stopping it.”