Is cheating the new norm at GBHS?

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It seems that stealing academic property – cheating – has become a norm at Granite Bay High School.

In socio-economically successful Granite Bay, that might be a surprise – GBHS has high standardized test scores, suggesting that students are hard-working and driven. Or the scores could suggest there’s an immense amount of cheating that occurs on campus.

Assistant principal Sybil Healy said cheating is definitely happening on campus.

“It’s very common,” Healy said. “I would say a lot of students just assume everyone’s doing it (and it’s) a way to get by, especially when they’re stressed.”

The high academic standards at GBHS set the stage for the cheating that occurs, according to Healy, because students feel they must perform well.

Healy said students face a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, peers and themselves to score highly, which prompts them to cheat.

“I would say it’s more common at any high-performing high school,” Healy said.

But is cheating ever justified? Does extreme academic pressure grant students the right to steal the work of others?

Advanced Placement American government teacher Jarrod Westberg doesn’t think so.

“It’s the sense of not putting in the normal effort or learning it for yourself,” Westberg said. “There’s just so much pressure, so they cheat, but it’s not sending a good message (to the student).”

Westberg said he draws a firm boundary when it comes to cheating. He explained that cheating doesn’t only hurt the student being cheated off of, but the cheater as well.

“My fear with cheating and not getting severe punishments … is that it goes into (the cheater’s) personality and later (into their) lives,” Westberg said.

Westberg also said he thinks honest students experience a monumental injustice because the students who cheat are more likely to get admitted to top colleges, because they have better grades.

“The person who cheats beats the person … who did it on their own,” Westberg said. “The honest people get burned by the dishonest people.”

AP European History teacher Michael Valentine said he attributes the large amount of cheating at GBHS to the tremendous amount of parent pressure on students to be admitted to top-tier colleges. Last year, Valentine experienced a cheating scandal on one of his AP European History tests. He said a student took a photograph of an exam and was suspended for it. Many students own a smartphone and have it with them during class, enabling them to cheat by taking photos, sending text messages during the test or quiz and even posting on social media about the content.

Healy said using a smartphone to cheat has become more and more common at GBHS.

“(Taking pictures of tests) is frequent … and it’s happened … four times this year just with my students,” Healy said. “Most phones are … within five feet of everyone all day long.”

Although cheating with electronics is prevalent, many students are still cheating “traditionally” by glancing at another student’s test.

An GBHS senior girl who asked not to be identified admitted to cheating in her junior year.

“The only time I have cheated was in (AP Statistics) junior year on a test,” the senior girl said. “I did it because I honestly had no idea (how to solve) a problem and I knew that if I (cheated, I) would be able to do the problem. I don’t think it significantly changed (my grade) but it did earn me eight points on an FRQ I wouldn’t haven’t gotten otherwise.”

The senior said she believes cheating is prevalent at GBHS.

“I do think cheating is the norm,” she said.

There is a policy in-place at GBHS that aims to inhibit academic dishonesty, but it leaves almost all discretion to the teacher.

Healy said cheaters experience virtually no consequences from the administration because teachers have a majority of the deciding power. The only consequence from the administration is that the student is flagged in the school’s student database, Aeries, and their names are added to the Academic Dishonesty List, available to all teachers, of students who have been caught cheating.

“Right now the teacher has a lot of latitude, so you get your consequences in class – which usually means (no credit) for that assignment or project,” Healy said. “Usually there’s not a discipline consequence (from the administration) other than that it’s noted in Aeries as an academic … integrity violation.”

Senior Ashna Shah was on the opposite end of the situation in her freshman year when another student cheated off her on a written assignment.

Shah said that, at first, the teacher thought she gave her paper away willingly to the other student, so she was going to be punished for cheating. Eventually, the teacher realized Shah hadn’t cheated. Because she was almost punished for an infraction she didn’t commit, Shah said she wishes the GBHS policy could be altered to assure innocent students aren’t punished.

“There is no warning system,” Shah said. “I could have easily gotten (on) the Academic Dishonesty List for … cheating, so one warning would be a nice way of leaving the innocent kids off the list.”

Healy, however, said she disagrees – she said there should be a stricter policy in place to stop cheating at GBHS entirely.

“I think it should be (more strict) just because … it’s easy to copy and send things on to other students,” Healy said. “I think we need to catch up with technology.”

 

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