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To Catch a Cheater


Dennis Fermoyle, speaking From the Trenches of Public Ed., is preparing for the school year by developing a new no-tolerance cheating stategy to punish students with wandering eyes.

This year, I am seriously thinking about adopting what would truly be a no-tolerance policy for cheating. If I can get the approval of my principal (and that's pretty iffy!), and if I have the guts to go through with it, any student that I catch cheating in any way—eyeballing on a quiz, copying an assignment, using a cheat sheet, you name it—will get an F for the marking period.
My policy in the past has been to give cheaters a zero for whatever it was that they were caught cheating on, but I'm convinced that's not enough. What's a zero on one assignment or quiz when you've gotten away with it ten or twenty times? Cheating has become a part of student culture in schools throughout the nation, and I'm convinced that part of the reason is that we are too lenient.

The threat of false accusations and negative parent reactions has Fermoyle second-guessing his all-or-nothing stance.


I teach in a school for SED students. Each year that I have tried to give a test (mulitple choice, objective answer or matching I have caught someone cheating usually right in front of my face. This year I had someone use the teacher's manual to copy word for word text answers to assignments he did not need to do. It was the second time he had done this kind of thing and the second time he had gotten caught by me.

The issue becomes not only that the child has cheated but getting parents and administration to back up a policy regarding cheating... so....
now I give open book tests and essay answer tests for which they can use their notes. In most cases they have not read the material so it really becomes a test on several levels,( first because they have not read the materials over which they are being tested second becausethey have not been paying attention so they do not know where to find the materials we went over and discussed page by page and finally because they do not have notes, or good enough ones to use.
The essay questions allow use of notes and text but require abstract thinking through inference or application, mulitple usage of facts to support arguments, etc. Again this type of test becomes one of many layers. Those who cheat usually copy exact phrases from their neighbors.
This series of actions has saved me hours of listening to denials because the student(s) do not want to face the consequences of their actions,discussions with administration which does not want to battle with the parents and peace of mind.
When I catch a cheater I consequence both the cheater and the one who allowed it by failing them both on the assignment or test. This policy is announced over and over again....I also reference on each paper who the other party was by saying that "this looks exactly like so-and-so's circling the part(s) that are the same. I usually get no comments back. Making a copy of the papers is also important in case the issue comes up later.
Best wishes in using your policy.

Cheating is a problem at our school as well. My focus is to make it very difficult to cheat, thus reducing the need to discipline. I always have multiple versions of tests, using different questions as well as scrambling them. I also ask for higher order thinking with essay and short answer tests which truly give a better idea of what students know. I think if cheating were not very accessible, it would happen less often.

dseifert--you must be very proud of your ability to get over on your students. It is clear that you have not only prevented cheating, but you have the clear evidence that none of your students has learned anything in your class.

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Recent Comments

  • Margo/Mom: dseifert--you must be very proud of your ability to get read more
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