Cheating in school is nothing new. I’m sure many of us can recall a time when we heard about some kids cheating in school (not any of us, of course) and maybe they got away with it, or maybe not, but there have always been students who may have faltered with academic integrity at some point. I remember finding out a bunch of students cheated on this tough AP English test in high school after I took the test, and later the teacher found out, and because the cheating apparently involved so many students, every one of us had to take a new test. Personally, I was pretty irritated with all the cheating students because I didn’t do that great the first time, and I did worse the next time.
Now as a high school language arts teacher, I have discovered plenty of cheating over 15 years of teaching, and all my colleagues would tell you the same. A study by Dr. Donald McCabe and the International Center for Academic Integrity showed that through surveys of 70,000 high school students over 12 years, 95% of the students admitted to cheating in some form, whether on a test, plagiarism or copying homework. This is certainly an issue and one that colleges also see with 68% cheating on tests or writing. Schools all have policies about academic integrity and the potential discipline to follow from being allowed to redo the assignment to receiving a zero to being suspended.
The biggest issue I personally see is plagiarism and my language arts colleagues would agree. Even with blatant plagiarism, students are often shocked when I ask them about the plagiarism and many try to deny it, despite the fact the essay suddenly changes fonts and has a gray background and that I found the exact essay online and show it to them. The student denial is not all that surprising–who wants to be caught? What is surprising is the number of parents who respond negatively to the teacher with denial, anger, or criticism when the teacher alerts the parents that their child has cheated in some way.
Parents, teachers need your help. In a world where cheating is really easy because the answers to questions are literally at our fingertips and websites exist for buying essays, we need to talk with our kids about academic integrity. I like to believe that the world is not really full of parents who are buying their child’s way into college and that most of us really want our children to do what’s right and to learn for themselves in school. As both a parent and teacher, I know sometimes it’s hard to get kids to talk about school, but it’s so important. Here’s how you can help.
- Explain what academic integrity means. Teachers are doing it, and it helps for students to hear it from parents too. The University of North Carolina defines academic integrity as, “Academic integrity is the commitment to and demonstration of honest and moral behavior in an academic setting.” Explain that this is not just taking someone else’s work, but also allowing someone else to take their work. A lot of students (and parents) do not understand that letting someone else copy their answers or using their essay is still cheating, even if they did the original work.
- Talk to your kids about the consequences of cheating before it happens. Know what the school’s policy is on cheating, and come up with home consequences as well. Teachers appreciate when parents work with us as a team. When the teacher contacts you, let them know you appreciate that they contacted you and that you will talk with your child and they can expect consequences at home too.
- Be sure your child is managing their time effectively. Most cheating tends to happen because a child feels under pressure. Encourage them to use class time wisely to work. Most teachers are providing plenty of work time in class, and unfortunately, not all students use that time well. Cell phones are a real addiction and some students spend more time on it than on their work. Then it comes down to the assignment being due and students panic, so they find something to turn in that is not their own.
- Minimize the pressure when possible. Some studies indicate that students with higher GPAs are more likely to cheat, which seems to show that students feel pressure to achieve. Taking challenging courses in school is important, but so is having the time for mental breaks. If your child’s courses, extracurricular activities and employment are very demanding, be sure they still have time for breaks. Encourage good work and good grades, but also emphasize that it’s okay to not be perfect and that As and Bs are great, but not at the expense of one’s mental health.
I get it, of course. Kids (and all of us) make mistakes and just make poor decisions at times. I won’t hold it against a kid for making a poor choice once, but it’s certainly very frustrating if a student doesn’t learn from their mistakes. If parents and teachers work together for a child’s education, the child can be even more successful. We all want our children to do well and we want them to learn, but it is important to teach them that no matter what, they need to have academic integrity because that will surely carry over into other areas of their life, so they can be honest and trustworthy individuals as kids and adults