Teachers are aware when their students cheat – whether it be sharing information, taking photos, or peering at a neighbor’s exam. Although they are not able to eliminate cheating by word of mouth, teachers are able to prevent less discrete methods of cheating – something that the Edina High School Science Department has made a priority to focus on this year
Although it’s not unusual for students in high school to cheat in any class or subject, the science department as a whole has found this to be an obstacle worth tackling, seeing as it gets in the way of true learning.
At the beginning of the year, when teachers are going over their syllabi, many of them make it a point to discuss cheating and be upfront with the consequences a student will face if they decide to do it, in the hopes of disincentivizing students. “Before the first assessment, whether it’s a test or a quiz, I give an outline [on cheating]: here’s the expectations, here’s what cheating looks like, and here’s what’s not okay to do. I make it really clear that if they decide to cheat I’m going to hold them accountable and report it to the administration,” AP Biology and Human Anatomy teacher Stephen Sanger said.
A common tool that not only science teachers but teachers around the school have implemented in their classroom this year to prevent cheating are phone caddies. Every pocket in the caddy has a number assigned to a specific student in each class, that way if a student doesn’t put their phone in the caddy the teacher will be able to know. “Last year, I just had students place it in their backpack, but a lot of times kids kept them in their pocket. So [the phone caddy] is a way for me to guarantee that their phone is not on them, it’s in their caddy,” Biology and Human Anatomy teacher Ryann Longley said.
Because teachers at EHS cannot control what students say to one another about what’s on a test, they have found ways to vary the test versions between students. The test copy that a student receives is typically different than the one of the student sitting next to them. Some teachers even have different tests for different periods of the same class.
However, a lot of students have picked up on their teacher’s test administering habits and found ways to use that to their advantage. For example, if a student knows that there are only two different prompts or sets of questions being administered, then they can more easily prepare by reaching out to their peers that have already taken the test.
To get around this loophole, Biology teacher Katrina Stern switches up how her tests are laid out and administered for each unit. As a baseline, she creates at least two variations of each test, although more often than not she creates even more. Each variation has a specific number and form letter on it so Stern can make sure that they are passed out in a manner in which students cannot glance at a peer’s exam, and so she can assure that she has received all of her tests back at the end of the hour.
No matter how much teachers do to prevent it, cheating is a part of age-old high school culture that might never go away. “The unfortunate reality is that we have to crack down on test security, in ways that we shouldn’t have to. I feel like I don’t know always how students cheat and so it’s this arms race. There’s this expectation that students are gonna cheat so we have to come up with ways to beat it. I wish that students would have more integrity,” Stern said.