the Z grade will haunt the cheater’s transcript

University of Central Florida gets serious about deterring cheating.  The University says that this move is a part of an effort “to increase the quality and standards of degrees earned at UCF.”

More than a year removed from a cheating scandal that involved 600 students and one professor, UCF has begun identifying undergraduate students who have been caught cheating, and students can be penalized by indicating academic dishonesty with a “Z Designation” on the student’s official transcript.

Reading UCF’s website on this Z grade policy, the Z grade tells the students that the institution means business.  Of course, it is only effective to the degree to which faculty actually report suspected cheating incidents.  The students do have a process to have this designation removed but it seems that the burden of proof will fall on the student.

Based on my experience in working in higher education, I know how difficult it is to bring about this kind of change to a campus.  It’s huge.  I can’t even begin to fathom the kind of work, the leadership, and the effort on the part of those championing that must have gone into making this change.


you go, fulton!

This news makes me happy: “Fulton school board votes to strengthen cheating policy.”  Fulton County is in Atlanta, Georgia.

I particularly like this passage:

The revised cheating policy prohibits students from using the Web or cell phones to gain an unfair advantage in their school work. It also defines cheating as “fabricating data, signatures or resources, providing or receiving test questions in advance without permission and working collaboratively with other students when individual work is expected.”

I try to define “less than honest” to include all of the above. I think they should probably include something about the use of electronic translation devices in language courses as well as misrepresenting or misusing data (information) as forms of “less than honest” work.


what are we supposed to say to this guy?

I post this with some hesitation, because guys like this scare me.  Also… because I am certain that I could not win this argument with this guy.  Still, I think withholding information is not ethical, so I will share it.  Please read it – and tell me… How would you respond to this writer?

This is what I said:

I think you do make an excellent point that the education system today (in general) needs major overhauling. We teach the same way we’ve been teaching for over a hundred years. I totally agree that the system encourages cheating behavior.

Having said that, writing is writing – and there’s no job and there’s no lifestyle that does not require writing. Just look at yourself. You could not do “this” without your wonderful writing skills. Like parents are responsible for making decisions for their children who do not yet know better, educators (as experts of learning and pedagogy, not of content, like economists for instance) have to sometimes make students do things – like taking a writing class.

Of course, as a writing teacher, I am somewhat biased. When I see that the majority of my students who come into freshman writing class leave as better writers… that’s job well done on my part and also on the part of the students. So, this so-called “shadow scholar” is a just a spit in my face and the faces of all of those students who write, who take writing classes (even if they’re forced to take it), and become improved writers (certainly not perfect but certainly better).

The euphemism is funny – “shadow scholar” and the fact that you have a euphemism (because I think most people will agree with me that it’s not a TRUE linguistic representation of what that work/job entails) suggests something… “less than honest”. But then again for an economist, perhaps honesty is not so important. Of course, when you view through the lens through which you see everything (based on your school of thought) maybe there is no room for ethics. But I do hope that you realize that your lens is one lens – and that there are many out there. In fact you yourself have many lenses, I’m sure.

As someone who is in the trenches and shares your views about the overall need for radical change in our educational system, I am very offended by what seems to be an attack on people like me. Even if you don’t mean it that way… that’s how it comes across. I almost want to say “You don’t know jack.” But I won’t.


good advice from 21k12

This guy, Jonathan Martin, could not have said it any better. It’s like he’s been reading my mind in the last 8 years I’ve been working on promoting academic honesty.  I’m in COMPLETE agreement with his four basic advice:

First, Promote healthy school culture and authentic learning.

Second,  Teachers matter enormously, and can have a huge influence over whether their students cheat by their pedagogical choices and styles.

Third,  we can help make the learning goals transparent.

Fourth, make integrity expectations explicit.

Fifth, Design less cheat-able assessments and assignments.

In the next few days, I’d like to comment on each of these… but for now, I just had to share the link to the article right away!

One of the comments in response to Martin’s article (as reported by Cory Docorow for boingboing.com) said

parents who demand standardized testing and “measurable” rote learning also instill a culture of cheating in their children at home.  Count on it.


high school journalism tackles cheating

Lately, I’ve been very intrigued by articles on cheating and academic honesty that appear in high school student newspapers.  You can do a quick Google search with phrases like “cheating in school” and click on “news” – yields many interesting articles.

Here’s the most recent one I was happy to come across written by Bobby Cherry at Quaker Valley High School.  He titles the article, “Technology makes it harder to curb cheating in school.”  Here’s a bit from the introduction:

More than 35 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 with mobile phones have used the devices to cheat in school, according to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media — a nonprofit advocating group focused on kids.

More than 50 percent of those surveyed said they have cheated using the Internet.

I’m happy to see that this is a topic of discussion in high school journalism. Good job, Bobby Cherry!


integrity #1

In my leadership class, 24 emerging leaders were asked “What are the 10 characteristics of effective leaders?”

We brainstormed and came up with a list of good 40-50 words.  Lot of great words like…

  • inspiration
  • communication
  • vision
  • problem solver
  • supportive
  • creative and innovative
  • openness
  • confident
  • competent
  • charisma
  • reliable
  • responsible

Then, we voted for our top ten.  And guess what came out as the top.

INTEGRITY.

Do you year that, young students? INTEGRITY is the number one quality and characteristic that you will need to demonstrate, hone, and develop if you want to be in any kind of leadership role in your future.

INTEGRITY.

Many others agree with this.

“Top 10 Leadership Qualities”

“Leadership and Integrity”

“Leadership in the Worksplace: Importance of Integrity”

INTEGRITY.


the hoover institute and a high school senior agree…

The Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace  (Stanford University) published this wonderful article, “The Death of Honesty” by William Damon.  The article is an excellent discussion of why honesty is actually important in human society.  For instance:

When we no longer assume that those who communicate with us are at least trying to tell the truth, we give up on them as trustworthy persons and deal with them only in a strictly instrumental manner. The bounds of mutual moral obligation dissolve, and the laws of the jungle reemerge.

Then, a student, Zachary Slayback, wrote an article called “Instilling Honesty” in response to Damon’s article.  He says he wrote an article for his school paper discussing this subject matter.

Officials at the school did not believe that the subject was one for publication and did not submit the article. My rebuttal is as follows: how can we wish to correct a problem if we refuse to admit that it is a problem?

I did my homework on Zachary and while he and I may not be on the same political spectrum, we very much agree on one thing: The need for schools to be consistent, coherent, and transparent (Damon’s words) when it comes to dealing with dishonesty.  (I do acknowledge that I have not seen the actual article that Zachary wrote for the school paper, and so I don’t have all the information, of course.)

Zachary’s article in Daily American: Somerset County Newspaper, however, is a good one.  If you are a student, I hope you will really hear what he is saying. If you are faculty, I hope you will really hear what he is saying and encourage your students to read his article (and Damon’s article).

As long as there are young people like Zachary on this issue of honesty, I am hopeful for our country.