Students Who Cheat
(and the technology that enables them)


Written by Leigh Attaway Wilcox
[North Texas Teens, April 2006, page 7]

Former Garland High School English teacher and mother, Denise Patton, says we often equate the “brainy” kids with being the most honest. But that is not always the case. Smart students under pressure will often find creative ways to use everyday conveniences to cheat. And technology just doesn't make it easier for kids to keep to the straight and narrow.

Don't know an answer? Casually text-message Julie across the room. Have an essay due tomorrow, but waited until the 11 th hour? Check the Web. Copy, paste—problem solved, right? Wrong. Students who resort to these tactics are cheating themselves out of adequate preparation for the future.

Victor Borras, Metroplex parent of three teens, says that he and his wife Lauri live their lives by setting an example. “Our children never witness us ‘cheating' or being deceitful to gain advantage.” And experts agree that teaching these traits at an early age seems to be the key to avoiding dishonest behaviors—like cheating.

What are educators doing to resolve the issue? Many area English Departments only assign writing tasks that can be completed during class. Nothing written is completed at home. It is too easy for students to take ideas and phrases from the Internet and call it their own (plagiarize) or to collaborate with fellow classmates and not give credit. Additionally, in many Dallas/Fort Worth-area districts, students who cheat earn a zero, are monitored ultraclose in the future and are denied letters of recommendation to accompany college applications. Other districts report students to the National Honor Society and strip them of honors. At home, the issue is, generally, also given serious attention; parents support in-school consequences and student face penalties at home, as well.

Occasionally, parents deny their child would ever contemplate cheating. “Parents don't want to believe their honors-level student would cheat,” says Erin Lee Golden, a North Texas Pre-AP English Teacher. But the fact of the matter is some do.

Here are a few hard facts: 54 percent of students admit to plagiarizing from the Internet, according to a national survey of 4,500 high school kids published in Education Week; 74 percent admit that, at least once during the past school year, they engaged in “serious” cheating; and 47 percent believe teachers sometimes chose to ignore students who cheat. So someone out there is cheating.

[Sidebar] DISCOURAGE CHEATING

›› Start Early
• Teach and model honesty from day one.
• Associate early lies or forms of cheating with consequences.
›› Be Involved
• Talk to your kids; know what they are doing—and with whom—every day.
• Lend an ear and share advice about how to handle tough situations.
• Spot check homework by entering phrases from their work on Internet search engines.
›› Utilize School Resources
• Look online for syllabuses and assignment calendars.
• Study the handbook each year and utilize policies as a starting-point for discussions about expected behaviors.