USA Today’s Testing the System series continues today, with a look at how clear oversight, better assessments, and new sources of information can help prevent cheating on high-stakes, standardized tests. Yet, there’s one group that may be the most overlooked buttress against cheating: students.
Earlier this week, a former principal reminded me that in many cases where cheating is detected, it’s the students who report the unethical behavior (this is consistent with USA Today’s reporting). The principal went on to make an excellent point: Building a school culture that discourages cheating and helps students value hard work is one of the most important defenses — because the students themselves reject the cheating. And, even more importantly, when educators lead and model this type of culture, individual administrators and teachers are much less likely to cheat themselves because of the cognitive dissonance between cheating and what they are modeling/teaching. In other words, fewer educators will deceive themselves into thinking that they are just trying to help their students or their school. Also, they won’t accept or overlook questionable behavior.
Yet another reason why, even as we strive to improve the incentives and systems that can enable cheating, it’s first and foremost critical to always establish that cheating is not acceptable.