How to Handle Cheating

By Frances Wills

Media coverage and recent surveys on cheating in K-12 schools have heightened awareness of academic dishonesty and its impact on school culture. The situation is not new, however. School districts have been grappling with cheating by using monitoring software, re-examining testing protocols, reviewing teacher responsibilities for reporting, and addressing the behaviors and consequences more directly through disciplinary codes.

Given the complexity of academic cheating and what it means for the district, teachers, and students, what should school boards do to preserve the academic integrity of their educational programs? What roles should parents and the community play in examining this issue?

In one suburban district, the school board made the issue of academic integrity a districtwide priority, with the goal of eliminating student cheating in its schools. The board was concerned about how the district addressed cheating incidents, and determined a review and revision of the district’s code of conduct was needed to establish detailed descriptions of violations and consequences.

To do this, the board appointed an ad hoc committee, led by the superintendent and made up of community members, to examine the cheating problem. This committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and students was charged with crafting new regulations for a code of conduct.

The concern with academic misconduct revealed a deeper dismay that something was amiss in the messages received implicitly by the students, who are still forming their sense of ethics. Student representatives were not reticent in describing incidents they had witnessed. They listed the many ways cheating took place, including writing on various parts of the body and taking cell phones into the bathroom during tests to text others for answers or to search the Internet for information. 

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