Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Oct. 2, 2007

Magnet to hold ethics presentation Thursday

by Pia Nargundkar, Online Editor-in-Chief
During the advisory period on Thursday, the Magnet will hold an ethics presentation in the auditorium to discuss the issue of academic dishonesty, according to Magnet Coordinator Dennis Heidler. Magnet math teacher David Stein and counselor Jennifer Taylor will present the results of a survey distributed to magnet students at the end of last school year.

The survey asked students to identify anonymously how frequently and why they engaged in academically dishonest behavior, and the results showed some troubling statistics. "We found that students admitted to a lot of cheating, in lots of different forms, and that the prevalence isn't the same for all types of cheating," Stein said. "There were different excuses given by students to justify their actions, and different patterns among the age groups."

Stein does not think the results are unique to magnet. "Magnet students don't cheat more than other students," he said. "It's just that we are trying to diagnose and address this universal problem." Taylor concurred, saying, "You could run [this project] anywhere and find similar results."

The survey project was designed after the magnet staff discerned that there might be a problem with academic dishonesty, according to Stein. "We really wanted to find out where the problem was so we can do something about it," he said.

Taylor created the survey, and Stein, Heidler, other magnet teachers and the magnet parent advisory committee helped to refine the questions. After getting surveys from 353 students, many teachers helped to enter the data into different categories. Stein, who teaches Applied Statistics, then spent part of his summer analyzing the trends in the data.

The results aren't all negative, though, according to Taylor. "Some kids are just as concerned about their peers cheating as we are," Taylor said. "And there are students who say they don't cheat at all. I don't doubt that."

The results were presented to the magnet teachers and some administrators, including assistant principal Linda Wanner and principal Darryl Williams in August, according to Stein. "Teachers seemed depressed, while not necessarily shocked, about the results," Stein said. "But they were interested in seeing what the kids thought would be effective in fixing the problem."

Stein acknowledges that the problem won't go away overnight. "We're in the 'admitting we have a problem' stage," Stein said. "Now we're getting to a 'what are we going to do about it' stage." Once the presentation is given to students in the SAC, students will discuss the issues in subsequent advisory periods. The results will be presented to parents at a later date, according to Heidler.

Heidler hopes the presentation is the first step in correcting the perceived cheating problem. "I was concerned with some of the choices students were making," he said. "I want to make sure that students at Blair develop with the highest integrity."

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  • '09 Magnet on October 2, 2007 at 5:42 PM
    What is this supposed to accomplish? We know cheating is "wrong" and we do it anyway.
  • :O (View Email) on October 2, 2007 at 6:33 PM
    wow, they finally realized the perfect grades that magnets get arent really earned?
    and these are the people teaching?
  • Abby on October 3, 2007 at 1:24 PM
    Yeah, I doubt that anything will be changed by holding a seminar. What are they going to try next, getting magnets to read the bible?
  • 07 Magnet on October 3, 2007 at 3:40 PM
    i filled that out...but i cheated off my neighbor
  • another 09 magnet on October 3, 2007 at 5:43 PM
    I think it's kind of unfair how they single out magnets. There's that stereotype that magnets are perfect students so it just looks worse when they find out magnets aren't as perfect as ppl think. I think it'd be interesting to see the results if everyone took that survey. It's not as if magnets' grades are better only cuz we cheat and we're on the only ones to cheat. Well at least it shows one thing...magnets were pretty honest on that survey.
  • Someone you may know on October 3, 2007 at 9:13 PM
    To 07 Magnet:
    I love how the magnets cheated on the survey about cheating. Touchè guys, touchè.
  • hey on October 3, 2007 at 9:52 PM
    the entire school didn't single out the magnets, the magnet program did this on their own, mainly because they FINALLY realiized that it is a major problem, the magnets i know cheat more than any of the non-magnet and non-cap kids, mainly because they are under so much pressure
  • '10 Magnet on October 3, 2007 at 10:48 PM
    This advisory period solves nothing. It's like a slapping a band-aid on a gash and saying "That should fix it." Has anyone considered that due to time restraints and the limits of the human body, as well as the pressure to excel academically, that magnet students are under huge pressure to cheat?
  • '10 Magnet on October 3, 2007 at 11:41 PM
    the teachers already knew there was a problem, and are just now finding out how bad it is, and i don't think targeting us in a presentation is any use; we're too far gone.
    if they want to make a difference, intervene before kids hit 6th grade, when grades actually start to *sort of* matter.
  • joe-ell (View Email) on October 4, 2007 at 8:00 AM
    the practice of cheating helps alleviate some of the stresses magnets feel in a rigorous academy such as this.

    the pressures of learning are too much to bear sometimes especially since we are constrained to rigid, indifferent time frames.

    have some sympathy, puh-leez
  • Magnet Student (View Email) on October 4, 2007 at 8:00 AM
    The only reason us Magnets cheat more is because we can actually pull it off without getting caught. It's a skill.
  • :) on October 4, 2007 at 8:40 AM
    Academic integrity is very important. I am glad that the magnet is doing something to help the students make better choices. It is important to emphasize that cheating is bad, not because of the potential punishments but because of the damage that the student is doing to himself and the system.

    The current system tries to stop cheating by threats. This does not work because students still want to cheat and hope to get away in the process. The only results from this system are academic dishonesty and failing caught students. This problem must be stopped at the roots by strengthening the students' innate morals to overcome the desire for a better grade. I am proud that the magnet is doing something to fix this system.
  • mag. blazah on October 4, 2007 at 10:35 AM
    When I looked at the stats Mr. Stein presented today, it was really obvious that a lot of people did not admit to cheating.

    For instance, one of the first statistics I saw was that 9% of students have plagiarized. 9%, are you kidding? I don't know ANYONE who has NOT plagiarized. That number should be at least 75%.

    Even with total anonymity, some students will never admit to cheating for fear of jeopardizing their relationships with teachers, reputation, or college admissions chances.
  • So you know on October 4, 2007 at 10:36 AM
    Statistics is cool!!!!!
  • honest Magnet on October 4, 2007 at 11:31 AM
    Not all magnets cheat. Don't forget that.
  • '10 Magnet on October 4, 2007 at 8:47 PM
    To mag.blazah:
    Did you really know 75% of all of last year's magnet students?
    Yes? With relationships personal enough for you to know as a fact that all of them plagiarized?
    If that is the case, then I salute you for being able to maintain 300 close personal relationships.
  • another 07 magnet on October 5, 2007 at 12:46 AM
    not all of the magnets cheated...some of us earned those perfect grades through our own hard work...and not everyone plagiarized either...just because a lot of people did doesn't mean that everyone did...the only reason people think that cheating is so widespread in the magnet is because the people who do it like to brag about it. also, who's gonna lie on an anonymous survey?
  • Indeed on October 5, 2007 at 2:26 PM
    Statistics is Cool!
  • 08 on October 5, 2007 at 5:07 PM
    To mag. blazah:
    75% of statistics are made up.
  • Libertarian 08 (View Email) on October 10, 2007 at 1:44 AM
    Teachers are "depressed, while not necessarily shocked"? The reason their kids cheat is because their assignments are pointless, when will they realize it? Here are the facts relating to cheating:

    Homework: If I could do the homework easily, but it will cost an hour of my time, copying (aka cheating) will save me like 45 minutes. The reason I copy is because doing the homework wouldn't help me learn, the only reason I'm doing it is for the grade. When my goal is a grade, I have no reason making my life easier to meet that goal. Copying is low-risk, magnets are smart enough to vary what they copy enough to not get caught. And even if there's suspicion, there's absolutely no way to prove it unless they are caught in the act, very rare.

    This is a reflection on the work teachers are assigning. I refuse to spend hours of my time each week on busywork, it's a lot easier to work with friends, each do part of it, and copy the other problems. It happens and I for one have absolutely no problem with it.

    I have a problem with cheating on tests. It's not meant to teach you anything, but evaluate what you learned. If you didn't learn anything, yet copy off your neighbor, you are hurting the integrity of the test. But if I can do it, I'll take every edge I can. If I'm expected to get A's (5s for APs) on exams, and I don't know an answer, yet can see the scantron next to me, I'll use that. That doesn't hurt me one bit, but helps me get further.

    There's no way I would have passed the AP World exam without the kid sitting next to me. I did fine on the essays, but all the pointless facts upset me. Yet I'm gonna save taking the class in college as well as look better in the eyes of colleges. I didn't hurt myself at all. Whether I fail it or pass it I know the same thing (which since I'm not going to study history in college I could care less who was in power for China in the 1200s or another useless fact). One way I look better, and since it was easy to do, I did it, and I'll do it again.

    The magnet has increased expectations (from parents as well), a ton more work, and certain teachers who seem to think doing 2 hours of their work every night is important. We're not under pressure to learn anything, we're under pressure to get A's. If we get A's and forget everything a week after the test, do most magnet parents care? Mine do, but I seem to be in the vast minority. But there's more pressure than that. You have college acceptances and scholarships on the line. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars here hinging on our scores for tests, on top of parents who are ready to ground kids who don't get an A.

    To Mr. Stein: I took your stat class last year, you ask what to do about it? I'll tell you. You know how repetitive your homework including assumptions was? You know how your homework took an average of about 5 hours to complete? You could cut back on the busywork. You could make the homework matter. Better yet you could make it optional. I don't think anyone cheated on your tests, homework is only a measure of how much time they're willing to spend doing busywork. Why not make homework optional yet still give feedback on it? That way you have less grading (unless everyone does the hw, in which case you have the same amount), and the kids who need help can get some feedback while you don't waste the kids who don't need help's time. Meanwhile they still have the pressure to do well on the tests, meaning they will have to learn the material. If they need homework to help them, it'll become apparent after they bomb the first test. If they don't need homework to learn it and get A's on your tests, there's no reason to waste their time doing it and your time grading it.

    But I know you don't really care about cheating, you'll continue to assign busywork and wonder why your students cheat.

    There are 2 possible solutions at the standardized tests level. One is simple enforcement. Less kids in one room and more alert proctors. The other is to eliminate this high-stakes testing environment. Instead of tests that will get or lose thousands of dollars in scholarship money and possibly over a million in future job earnings, perhaps colleges should focus more on teacher recs than their grade in the class. But they don't want that, they want a number they can assign to kids. And as long as kids can substitute cheating for knowledge to boost that number, we will continue to do it. If it's tougher to cheat, and the risks outweigh the rewards, we won't do it. If there isn't a huge reward, we won't do it. But when that kind of money is on the line, I and other students, magnet and otherwise, will continue to gain every edge we can. And that includes cheating.

    Oh and to '10 magnet, you don't need a really close personal relationship to know someone plagarizes. Although I may even believe that number (much more copying than plagarizing, and in the magnet making up data, indirect measuring device anyone?). I've been in math classes where at least 20 people would copy off each other. Plagarizing is easy to check, too much risk, but copying is virtually risk free. That's where the cheating happens and it will continue to happen unless teachers quit assigning stupid, pointless busywork.
  • to libertarian 08 on October 11, 2007 at 9:24 AM
    The reason teachers give so many busywork assignments is that they are under pressure from the county to have more grades in the system, especially now that edline is up. They have to keep creating pointless assignments to keep the county happy. Also, if homework is not required, many people who would benefit from doing it will not be learning the material adequately.
  • Libertarian 08 (View Email) on October 11, 2007 at 10:07 PM
    Then they'll fail the tests if they don't learn it. We're in high school, don't you think we can become responsible for our own education?
  • Blazer Alumna on October 13, 2007 at 1:39 AM
    To Libertarian 08:

    Given the fact that you justify cheating, I would question your maturity and your ability to be responsible for your own education. You have neither the wisdom nor foresight to understand that integrity is essential in being a well-respected adult.
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