CHS: Cheaters Have Success?

CHS: Cheaters Have Success?

“The cheating is out of control.”

Math teacher Lois Cohen said this when describing the academic dishonesty that has spread throughout the halls and classrooms of CHS.

Cheating is prevalent at CHS, with as many as three separate instances of cheating occurring in the span of one month this year. One aspect of cheating that makes it difficult to combat is that definitions of cheating vary.

According to Spanish teacher Stacey Steele-Yue, the definition of cheating ranges from the simple level of glancing at someone else’s answers to full-blown copying someone else’s work.

What about discussing the level of difficulty of a test with a student who hasn’t taken it yet? Is that cheating?

According to an Observer survey, only 3.9 percent of students said that discussing an assignment’s level of difficulty with another student is considered cheating.

“[Talking about the level of difficulty of a test] is borderline cheating,” social studies teacher Chrissy Carlson said. “It definitely can be considered cheating, but I do not think that when students do this they do it to give the other student a helping hand. Sometimes, I think they say it to clear their heads.”

There is no sole reason for why people cheat as many people cite both internal and external factors for the roots of their motivation.

Psychological Factors

Renowned psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg, theorist of the stages of moral development, argued that cheating is a moral issue. It is purely dependent upon our moral development, stating that the more advanced we are in our moral development, the less likely we are to break social rules and cheat.

According to the Observer’s survey, 75.6 percent of students believe that cheating is morally wrong.

While the numbers suggest that most students view cheating as immoral, the actions of students would suggest otherwise. Is this due to, as Kohlberg would argue, a lack of moral development? Or is it more a question of the environment at CHS?

Situational/Environmental Factors

While some might say that a student’s lack of morals leads them to cheat, others would suggest that the situation and environment that students are in forces them to cheat in order to feel as if they are keeping up with the high expectations placed upon them.

“There is no doubt that there is a lot of pressure on students to achieve academically here,” social studies teacher Adam Field said. “However, it’s only some students that make the poor decision to cheat and that is never an appropriate response.”

This sentiment not only is felt by teachers, but also by students.

According to the survey, 81.9 percent of students feel that the general competitive nature of CHS is a primary motivation for them to cheat.

“The competition here makes it hard to get a bad grade and not feel bad about yourself,” senior Olivia Shannon said. “I feel like the teachers also contribute to the competitive environment by teaching to the tests and not changing tests from previous years.”

While there is no excuse to cheat, it is worth noting that the high academic pressures placed on CHS students by themselves and by higher academic institutions has led them to deflate the value of any grade other than an A by considering anything lower to be unacceptable.

“A lot of students have this understanding that they need straight A’s to go to college,” Carlson said. “Some students have been led-maybe by parents, maybe by the school, maybe by teachers- to think that you have to have perfection to go to college. You certainly don’t need a perfect 4.0 in order to get accepted into a university.”

While the environment at CHS is impressive and demands excellence in order to maintain its sterling reputation, it is only influenced by the high demands of prestigious colleges around the country.

College Factors

The purpose of high school is to prepare students for college. Yet, while schools continue to strive to better prepare their students, colleges continue to decrease their acceptance rates. Consequently students are pressured to do extraordinarily well, a standard which some students see as impossible to achieve without cheating.

According to Ivywise, a college advising site, since 2005, many schools have had their acceptance rates drop, one of them being Northwestern University. Its 2014 acceptance rate of 12.9 percent is 20 percentage points lower than its 2005 rate of 33 percent.

This downward trend is only making the selective schools even more selective, which many students see as motivation to cheat in order to earn the scores high enough to be considered for these schools.

“Especially at a highly academic school, sometimes colleges are expecting a little too much out of kids,” Steele-Yue said. “Sometimes, it’s impossible to do all of these seemingly necessary extracurricular activities and still have time to do homework and to study for the four tests tomorrow. Students need time to sleep and just live.”

The external pressure placed upon students to achieve nothing short of excellence is a symptom of the competitive nature of college admissions. It is this competitive nature that may lead students to instinctually do what they need to in order to survive the impossible demands of colleges: cheat.

“Our culture, with its general obsession with success as opposed to a desire to solely learn, is what drives students to cheat,” English teacher Mary Dempsey said.


There are many ways that students, teachers and parents can help alleviate the stress and combat the cheating epidemic.

“While I am not sure if there is a finite solution, changing the way that material is presented could lead to a solution,” Dempsey said. “If we made it more about process versus product, maybe students would be less inclined to cheat.”

While some teachers believe that changing the atmosphere in the classrooms will help to reduce the problem of cheating, others believe that the root of the problem comes from the ethics of each individual student.

“Teachers can talk to the kids about integrity and morality and ask them, ‘What’s integrity?’” Steele-Yue said. “For myself, I always question whether I can look at myself in the mirror and feel proud of myself today.”

Other educators believe that by warning students of the negative consequences, they can dissuade students from partaking in the risky behavior.

According to Principal Joan Benz, having students know the consequences of their actions is important, and outlining the negative consequences of cheating may discourage students from doing so.

In addition to this, administration has begun to make efforts, such as Sources of Strength, to help students understand that they are important in hopes of discouraging them from cheating in order to increase grades.

“A source of strength is knowing that you are important, whether you are an A-student or a D-student,” Benz said.

According to Benz, she hopes that if students always know they are important and that they matter, they will not cheat to gain any academic advantages.

Despite these efforts, students think that other methods may help them to not cheat.

“Mandatory study guides would force us to not cheat since we would have to study,” said senior *John, who asked that his real name not be used. “Also, having less work before quizzes would help so that we are not loaded with work and have the opportunity to study.”

According to senior Souki Gonzalez, teachers can make a more flexible test schedule and have an easier curriculum so that students are less stressed and more concentrated on learning rather than getting the good grades.

While some students think that teachers can help stop cheating, others think that it is up to administration to ultimately stop the academic dishonesty.

“Strict enforcement of a non-cheating policy would help to stop cheating,” junior Jacob Storch said. “If a student were to be suspended after having been caught cheating. I think that other students would be afraid to cheat after someone gets suspended.”