Category Archives: Cheating


A student was going around asking teachers to raise his grades from last year so he could play a varsity sport. One teacher (a coach) did it. Another (a young, new teacher) did not.

To me, this is a clearcut example of cheating, and what message did the coach send to the student by changing the grade?

How have you or your school dealt with these situations?

Preparing for the Politics of Grades

January will be an interesting month as my school heads into the final weeks of 1st semester. It’s a fun time of the year, but it’s also one full of pitfalls and the one I dread the most is the grading conversation on the horizon.

While helicopter parents can be annoying, they are (for me) less daunting than the parents who simply want to negotiate the final grade a student earns. I have already received fair warning that oneย  student’s parents will be trying to increase her daughter’s grade if it’s not an A.

I simply find these conversations annoying, and a no-win for anyone. I find them tedious. Parents walk away without a change.

I never change a grade that a student earns based on a parent conversation. I tell parents and students that “I record what is earned.” I often repeat that “I don’t give grades. Students earn grades.”

Well, this is put to the test each year, so when a parent asks me to raise a grade I respond with one or more of the following depending on the situation:

  • “So, you’re asking me to cheat for your child?”
  • “Are you asking me to lie?”
  • “Do you often ask people to lie for you?”
  • “What would this teach your child?”
  • (if speaking to a fellow teacher) “Do you cheat for your students?”
  • (if speaking to a fellow teacher) “Do you lie for your students?”

Most of the time, one of these questions ends the discussion. Then I document the incident for future reference.

Plagiarism & Rewrites

At lunch today a colleague mentioned that two of his students plagiarized a course requirement, and he decided to give both kids an F for the semester. This sparked quite the conversation today.

Ultimately, the group felt that failing a student for an entire class of 18 weeks for a behavior (cheating is a behavior and not a measure of skill or knowledge) is unreasonable. The colleague in question ultimately decided to have the students come in each morning for a week to retake the research essay test; since their passing or failing depends on this assignment, he would give the students no higher than a D for the class.

I could easily refer you to my past posts on how students may just not be honest people, today’s (sad state of) heroes, and my take on what to do with academic dishonesty, but I won’t. Oh wait. I guess I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

Today’s Heroes

We had a bit of a tangential discussion in class yesterday centering on the question “Who are today’s heroes?”

The kids did not think athletes were role models. Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Shawne Merriman, Floyd Landis, Shawn Kemp, Tim Donaghy, the 2007 Boston Marathon, NASCAR fines for cheating are up, Gary Player said golfers are doping, and horse racing is again seeing illegal substances used. Even tennis isn’t immune:

“the ATP is investigating suspicious gambling activity around Nikolay Davydenko’s Aug. 2 match with Martin Vasallo Arguello after an online British gambling company received 10 times the normal wagers on the match.”

My students also said they can’t look up to corporations or politicians. They named Enron, Balco, the partisan firings of lawyers, the banking failures, Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame, Ted Stevens, Jack Abramoff, Monica Lewinsky, and Halliburton. The kids saw the leaders of the country and its financial institutions as no better than anyone else.

Sadly, numerous students said their parents aren’t the role models they hoped for growing up either. My students were pretty open discussing how their parents over-drink, break (what they consider minor) laws, cheat on taxes, have affairs, and can’t maintain marriages.

After listening to them list all the reasons why these people could not be role models, they were hard-pressed to choose another group to whom they could look for guidance. The only groups the kids felt really comfortable mentioning as role models were local church leaders (even then with some reservations) and teachers (with some concerns here too).

Ultimately, the students decided they had to look to individuals to be role models; groups had too many variables and outliers.

If you had to pick a group to be role models for students, who would the group be? Is it possible to look to a group?

It’s amazing what kinds of discussions can come out of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.


Update (3/1): Check out this article about the impact a role model can have.

4. Academic Dishonesty Should Not Result in a Lower Grade.

In my Standards-Based Grading post this weekend, Anon Y. Mous asked that I explain the rationale behind each of the core guidelines involved in the S.B.G. system. I think it’s a good suggestion and here is the fourth core guideline. Please comment with any corrections as I am still learning this new system. ๐Ÿ™‚

If a student cheats on a test or plagiarizes a paper, his/her grade should not be affected; afterall, cheating is a behavior and not a measure of achievement. Deducting points or giving a zero for academic dishonesty would skew the meaning of a grade and would not be a reflection of what a student can do.

This does not mean, however, that the student goes unpunished. School policies normally dictate that a referral be sent to an administrator (for tracking and penalty). In addition, the student’s parents should be called.

Most importantly though, the real penalty for academic dishonesty should be redoing the work. The student should be forced to complete the assignment and show mastery. Simply giving the student a zero on the assignment does not measure what a student can do or where his/her achievement level lies.

I had a situation this year where a student who had finished a test was helping a student still finishing a test. I asked both to see me after class. I instructed each to have his parents call me that night. That night I received calls from each parent and I had the students do the following:

  • compose a letter of apology to me for the dishonesty and detailing how each would regain my trust,
  • sign a referral I sent down to the administrator for informational purposes, and
  • the student who had not finished the exam had to take a different version.

The parents of each student told me how happy they were that I called, and each was further punished at home. I created a better bond with the parents and–believe it or not–with the students. I sat and chatted with each of the students one on one, and I explained how a betrayal of trust hurts and how they must earn back my trust. Both were contrite and have since been model students. Relationships were strengthened and parent involvement was increased.

Simply giving each a zero and moving on would not have nearly had as much of an effect in my opinion. The incident would’ve passed and a school consequence given, but I doubt I would’ve seen any change in behavior (except that any future cheating would have been better planned). I now know exactly where each student’s mastery level lies, and I sincerely doubt a repeat of this behavior will occur.

Again, a citizenship grade in addition to an academic grade would be practical and appropriate on a report card.

On another level, creating assignments where cheating is very difficult or impossible would greatly reduce the need to monitor students as closely. Carefully crafting writing prompts and performance pieces can be an a possible fix.