April 22, 2009

Cheating Wisely

My students take a national Word Master challenge three times a year. It is a very difficult vocabulary test that requires students to not only know the definitions of their words (inside and out) but to be able to apply them in complicated analogies. Sometimes I even struggle to figure out the problems, and I have the answer key!

The second challenge of the year was held in February. We spent hours preparing for the test. We created and shared cartoons with mnemonic devices, quizzed each other with flashcards, played review games and wrote our own analogies to practice using the words in context. I was so proud when my students placed 7th in the nation!

Today, my students took the test for the third challenge, but we will never know how they place because we decided to disqualify the entire 7th grade for this meet. The problem was that word got back to me that students were sharing answers with friends who had not yet taken the test. By the end of the day, I had 11 names of students who either told or heard answers on the test. I cannot, in good faith, allow my students to be recognized on a national level when I know they were cheating. Thankfully, my administration was fully supportive in this decision.

The struggle now, though, is in deciding on consequences for the students who played a part in the cheating. There is clearly a difference between asking a friend for an answer and having a friend disclose that information without prompting. But it is nearly impossible to discern who falls into which category.

So how do we reprimand these students accordingly? And what type of consequence (in any) is going to curb this behavior in the future? My co-worker compared cheating to speeding. If you get caught, you don't stop speeding, you just learn where to slow down to avoid further consequences.

If you're going to cheat, at least be smart enough not to get caught!

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