Cheaters never prosper, but ...

December 08, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Academic dishonesty is inevitable and irrepressible, say six of 10 high school students polled by The Herald-Mail.

They say cheating is wrong. Most say they know the consequences if they're caught. But the majority say there's nothing schools can do to stop people from cheating.

"There will always be someone to cheat," said a 15-year-old male respondent, who said he attended 10th grade at Williamsport High School. "That's how life goes. If someone is going to cheat, they will do it no matter what schools say."

The informal, unscientific poll surveyed 10 randomly selected high school students at Valley Mall earlier this week. The students, who averaged 15 years of age, reflected each grade level and attended both public and private schools in Washington County and Franklin County, Pa. Six of them attended a high school within the Washington County Public Schools system. Those schools included Hancock Middle-Senior, North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Smithsburg and Williamsport high schools. Two of the respondents were boys; the rest were girls.


The vast majority - eight out of 10 - admitted to cheating on a test at least once in their lifetime. Six admitted to cheating on a test within the past year. All but one said that they thought cheating was wrong. Seven said they knew their school's policy on cheating.

Four students said cheating could be prevented.

One person admitted to being caught cheating on a test and was punished. The other seven who admitted to cheating on a test said they were never caught.

The national student ethics picture

The informal survey was prompted by a report issued in October by The Josephson Institute of Ethics, the organization that created and administers Character Counts, a Los Angeles-based organization that promotes character-building at schools.

The Josephson report surveyed the ethical behavior of 36,122 high schoolers. In the study, 60 percent of the respondents admitted to cheating on a test during the past year - 35 percent said they did so two or more times. Nearly one out of three said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.

Washington County Public Schools has used Character Counts as a model for some of its academic integrity policies, said school system spokeswoman Carol Mowen.

According to the Board of Education's policy, cheating on exams, tests or quizzes, falsifying information, plagiarism, and helping someone else cheat are all violations of academic integrity policies. Violators face a failing grade, parental notification and disciplinary action from school administrators, according to board documents.

Parents are key

Parents play a key role in preventing academic dishonesty, said Mike Markoe, Washington County's assistant superintendent of system-wide improvement, efficiency and accountability.

"Students won't succeed if parents aren't involved," Markoe said. "Parents have to be involved with character development. It's a collaborative effort between the schools, the parents and the community."

"Would you want to be operated on by a doctor who cheated on his board exams? I certainly would not," Markoe said.

Character Counts has included parents in its anti-cheating campaign. The organization offers several tips and recommends books for parents on its Web site,

Integrity counts!

Character Counts, a Los Angeles-based organization that promotes character-building at schools, says parents are one key to preventing academic dishonesty among high schoolers. Here are a few tips:

Take your child's integrity seriously. Be attentive to your child's values and behavior.

Discuss your values and establish ground rules. Don't be accusatory, but initiate a serious discussion with your children within the next two weeks (if you put it off, you might never get to it).

Continually reinforce the value of integrity. Look for teachable moments. Use news stories, TV shows and movies to highlight and discuss situations revealing the absence of integrity.

Take action to get your school to address the issue. Join the Parent Teacher Association, if you're not already a member.

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