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Cheating and the Importance of Academic Integrity

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As long as there have been rules, there have always been people trying their hardest to break, stretch, or find loopholes in them.  This concept is particularly relevant in an academic environment. It is an undeniable truth that there are students who choose to break the rules overtly, by doing things like scribbling answers on their hands before a test, or surreptitiously googling on their smartphones. But there are also instances in which the transgressor is actually unaware of doing anything wrong, or the practice is so widespread or consistently unenforced that it causes confusion or a sense of unfair play when students are singled out for enforcement.  To address this and in an effort to clarify and enforce the academic honor code at AHS, school administrators and teachers have created the Academic Integrity Committee.

Given the rash of recent cheating incidents, including the incident described above, this new endeavor is incredibly necessary. Students need to be reintroduced to the fine points of the academic honor code at AHS, and, teachers and administrators need to enforce the honor code in a fair and consistent way.

It is crucial that the administration clearly elucidates the grey area that surrounds the boundary between academic fidelity and infidelity. This is a goal that won’t necessarily be solved quickly.  However, with active participation between the administration and the student body, it is certainly feasible.  The first step would be to create a specific and explicit set of academic standards to keep the student body honest.  Once this policy is established successfully, the teachers and administrators would consistently follow through with the fair and balanced administration of the policy. Each circumstance of academic dishonesty would be appropriately assessed, and dealt with according to the standards of the recognized and defined honor code.  The punishment should fit the crime, and in no way should be arbitrary.

Additionally, there needs to be a collaboration between administrators and students to effectively diminish the culture of cheating at AHS.  This should include regular communication which would make the honor code more accessible to the student body.  This not only includes the effort of the teachers trying to communicate the students’ obligations, but should obviously also consist of an agreeable attitude from the students and a willingness to decipher for themselves a boundary between right and wrong.

An effective method of eliminating any confusion regarding the logistics of the academic standards expected by the AHS administration might be to provide an abbreviated version of the school honor code on each written test and quiz.  While there is a copy of the current honor code located in the front pages of the student issued Time-Trackers, most students are either totally unaware of its existence, or simply do not utilize their planners. It also might make sense for each student to sign an abbreviated declaration of understanding of the code, acknowledging its content and their agreement to abide by its principles.   By doing this, each student would be successfully informed and conscious of the expectations prior to actually committing any transgression.

The ideal and eventual goal of completely eradicating any sort of confusion regarding the scholastic expectations and obligations required as a student at AHS is a work in progress. While this goal is difficult to attain, I feel that the formation of the Academic Integrity Committee is an excellent step in the right direction, as might be the consideration or adoption of some of the suggestions above.

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