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.


cheating in college WILL catch up with you

Unbelievable.  A police officer went back to college to get his BA in order to get promoted.  Then it turned out that he was cheating to get his coursework done.  He had other people – some people that he supervised – doing his homework for him!

In a letter from Sheriff Johnson delivered to Hughes on Wednesday, he was told that although he obtained his college degree from Daytona State College, “due to your actions in obtaining the degree … it will not be considered as fulfilling the educational requirement for any future promotional opportunities.”

Those actions, according to Internal Affairs investigators, included having Sheriff’s Office civilian employees do Hughes’ homework and papers online and submitting it to the school as if he did it.

Hughes enrolled at Daytona State College last summer to get his bachelor’s degree and was taking Spanish I and II classes with accompanying lab work. To get the schoolwork done, Hughes had three civilian employees help him, while on duty, with college course work, investigators said.

The cheating officer has been demoted and suspended but remains on payroll.

“Brodie was working on his bachelor’s degree in the hopes of seeking promotion to captain,” Davidson said. “The department won’t be accepting the degree as fulfilling any future promotional educational requirement because of the documented actions he engaged in while obtaining the degree.”

Thank you, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office (in DeLand, FL), for taking this seriously.


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.


not just an american problem

This is an editorial by Prof. Dr. George Kanyeihamba of Uganda, warning educators and parents about the dangers of the dominant culture of education in that country.   It appears that in Uganda, publicizing the names and faces of students who are star academics is a common practice.  Professor Kanyeihamba sees potential problems with what he calls “popularity contest.”

Reports indicate that in some schools, cheating and instructing pupils how to answer questions on actual papers are common and they occur before the actual examination questions are opened on the appointed day. Incidentally, in reference to my other relative who had to drop out of the school, I later questioned him as to why he failed so miserably when he had been a star performer in the primary school leaving examinations.

He confessed that teachers had ‘mysteriously’ got hold of all the examinations papers and wrote the answers in revision classes and all those who attended obtained grade ‘A’s regardless of how hopeless they had been performing in class and homework.


a school that cheats…

Claremont McKenna College in California is accused of inflating their incoming students’ average SAT scores for the past six years. Yikes!

But the numbers might have been enough to affect an otherwise tied position on the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of colleges. Claremont McKenna was ranked the ninth-best national liberal arts college in the magazine’s most recent survey, up from 11th the year before.

How am I supposed to preach to student to NOT cheat, to do their best and just be honest… when so many people and so many entities/institutions cheat around us?

Then there are others, instead of becoming discouraged with this news, can write an encouraging article in response to discoveries of cheating.  Dan K. Thomasson writes in Korea Times:

What everyone should realize is that this is a commercial enterprise. U.S. News began its ratings years ago to keep up in the news magazine competition, where it ranked third behind Time and Newsweek. Americans love lists, and the magazine began devoting more and more effort to telling college-bound students and their parents which schools were the best in every aspect. Ultimately, it dropped out of the weekly print business altogether but maintains its name and viability with this enterprise.

I especially like this part of the editorial:

The only really accurate measurement of a college’s standing lies in the success of its graduates ― and that depends, to some degree, on the collective pedigree and dedication of the actual teaching faculty, not just those high-priced big names that come to hunker down and do their own thing in a rarefied atmosphere.


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.