My daughter took a Regents exam as an 8th grader. She said that during the test, the teacher accused two students of cheating, escorted them out of the room, and took their papers. My daughter said that she had noticed them cheating, The assistant principal was called in, and she returned the test papers to the kids, and let them continue taking the test. Why were those students allowed to continue the exam? My daughter said, "If they do not punish those cheating, then everyone will start cheating because there are no consequences." She is right. Why did the school allow this to happen?
Very upset mom
Dear very upset mom,
Cheating is not fair to anyone – it harms kids who are not cheating and kids who received the information even though they did not want it. There are a variety of consequences for students who cheat which are spelled out in the Education Department's Discipline Code. This week an incident of cheating on the Regents exams involved up to 90 students at Stuyvesant High School. The DOE said it was working with the school to come up with the "correct disciplinary action."
According to a DOE spokesperson, New York City schools follow the state policy outlined in the 2012 Edition of the School Administrator's Manual, Secondary Level Examinations. Surprisingly, what your daughter describes as happening, turns out to be more or less what the state regulations call for. Here is an excerpt:
"Students must not be permitted to obtain information from or give information to other students in any way during the exam. If, in the opinion of the proctor, such an attempt has occurred, the students should be warned that any further attempts will result in the termination of their exams. If necessary, the students should be moved to another location. In order to allow for all possible outcomes of procedural due process, the student should be allowed to complete the exam. If the steps described above fail to end attempts to obtain or give information, the principal should be notified immediately and the students' exams terminated. At the conclusion of the exam, all suspected acts of fraud must be reported to the principal."
Now, what the principal does after the exam is key. Commissioner's regulations (Section 102.4,) stipulate that students who, in the principal's judgment, have tried to get help or been given help or otherwise committed fraud during a Regents exam will not get a score on the exam. The question is, did the principal investigate the incident? Did she question the teacher and other kids in the class? Did she determine whether the students were cheating? If so, did she inform the rest of the class the outcome of the investigation?
For those who witnessed the incident, it seems to me that there should have been some way to explain how this played out. It is a sorry lesson to kids who saw a seemingly mild response.
If the principal determines that the students were cheating, she must report the incident to the State Education Department Office of Assessment, Policy, Development and Administration. Furthermore, security violations must be reported immediately to the Special Commissioner of Investigation (212) 510-1500, to the State Ed. Department at 518-474-8220 and to the school's Children's First Network.
If you want to pursue this further, you might follow up with the principal, or those departments to see if an investigation was done or is underway.
This post was updated on June 27, based on a DOE statement that a student at Stuyvesant had not been expelled, as earlier reported.