By Michele Hau
The expectations of doing well in school and getting into a good college is an enormous stress put on students starting at a very young age. Even in elementary school, students are taught to maintain good grades and as years go on, more and more pressure is put on students to do well. Competition between students at Central to do well has increased and those who are below average academically are afraid of being left behind when it comes time to apply to colleges. They’re constantly finding ways to try to stay in the running and to not fall behind their fellow students. Unfortunately, one of the biggest techniques is also one of the worst: cheating.
Most students enrolled in high schools nationwide give into the temptation to cheat to boost exam scores. According to surveys in the U.S News and World Report, 75% of college students admitted to cheating during high school, and of those people, 95% said that they were never caught. Unfortunately, the rise in cheating among high school students over the last decade is due to changes in the definition of “academic success.”
In most cases, grades (rather than education and learning) have become the major focus of many Central students. “Grades nowadays don’t reflect what students get out of the class,” Sophomore Mehow Podstawski said. “I could understand a class completely and get a B, while a girl who sits right next to me can just do whatever she needs to do get an A, and not understand anything about what’s going on”.
Many teachers see this happening in their classes and they believe that cheating ultimately hurts the student who is committing the infraction. “Dishonesty is the worst crime you can commit to yourself,” German teacher Dana Heimlich said. “Not only are you stealing from other people, but you are manipulating them as well”.
One of the most targets of cheating, homework, is often done simply to finish the work. However, homework is often used as a tool to enforce what was taught during class. Latin teacher Phil Cipolla said, “When a student decides against doing his or her work, it is disrespectful towards the teacher, because teachers are putting in the effort to make their students succeed”.
But even this disrespect has done little to deter academic dishonesty because students care more about the grade they receive than the quality of education they get. Many believe that they are forced to do whatever they need to in order to get better grades and stay ahead of the game, even if it involves risking serious consequences.
In order to combat the temptation to cheat, Hunterdon Central has a strict academic integrity policy which every student is required to sign in the beginning of the year. In the Student Handbook, the academic conduct policy covers all branches of cheating: plagiarism, cheating on tests, cheating on homework, and submitting someone else’s work. In a case of academic dishonesty, a teacher fills out a report, and passes bit down to an administrator. Then that student will take a grade of zero for that assignment and the student’s name will be entered in an academic misconduct file, along with having a report of misconduct.
However, even with Central’s own serious academic policy, students are under the impression that teachers rarely ever catch students, and therefore continue to cheat. Podstawski said, “There are over 3000 people in our school, what are the chances of me getting caught?” Teachers are given the burden of being responsible for scoping out students who are cheating, but when responsible for a class of 15 or more, it is hard to keep track of all activity.
Brandi Swavely, a biology teacher suggested, “to keep students from cheating, teachers need to be vigilant. Also, consistency needs to be enforced in classrooms; a student shouldn’t be able to cheat on a test in one block, and not be able to in another because of different teachers.”
With new technology and gadgets coming out every month, it is hard for schools nationwide to come up with ways to stop students from creating new tactics for cheating. Students can send each other homework digitally for those to copy, along with text messages during class. Many websites provide essays that students can submit as their own, while others even claim to write a sufficient paper for you for a certain fee.
No matter what happens over the years, it is inevitable that there are always going to be people who cheat and get away with it. It is important to make sure that that number is kept at a minimum so that schools remain as institutions of learning, and not places to cut corners.