by Robert Maronic
Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) has a good reputation for educating students in grades K-7. However, cheating on non-Standards of Learning (SOL) testing on school-issued laptops is a chronic problem. I taught Latin at Hidden Valley High School from 2011 to 2013, and took every precaution to prevent cheating but to no avail.
Cheating is a widespread problem at all five county high schools including the 8th grade. I spoke about the problem this spring before the School Board and then the Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately, nothing was resolved.
I believe that RCPS is in violation of Standard 7 (C) (3) of the Code of Virginia, which states that “the standards of student conduct and attendance and enforcement procedures [are] designed to provide that public education be conducted in an atmosphere free of disruption and threat to persons or property and supportive of individual rights” (§ 22.1-253.13:7).”
RCPS has adequate “standards of student conduct” and policies in place for academic integrity. Unfortunately, the central office of RCPS and the administrators at the five county high schools cannot realistically enforce the rules when students take an online non-SOL test or quiz on school-issued laptops. Students can cheat easily, making the “enforcement procedures” in Standard 7 (C) (3) almost meaningless.
The problem is that students have complete access to both their hard drives and the internet during an online test, and it is impossible for a dedicated teacher to watch fifteen or thirty laptop screens from the back of the room while also monitoring for such traditional cheating as crib sheets and smartphones. Students can easily right click on Google, access the Snipping Tool, copy and paste answers, hide a cheat sheet, email passwords, and, most insidiously, program a key to perform screen captures of an entire test or quiz to a Google server without the teacher ever knowing it.
This testing environment is the direct opposite of state-mandated SOL testing, which requires a lock-down browser and other software to prevent digital cheating.
Standard 7 (C) (3) clearly states that “public education be conducted in an atmosphere” “supportive of individual rights” (§ 22.1-253.13:7). RCPS has violated the “individual rights” of honest students who obey the rules or “standards of student conduct” (§ 22.1-253.13:7). Honest students are at a distinct disadvantage in competing against the dishonest ones on the basis of GPAs, class ranking, and academic awards, all of which impact college admissions, scholarships and grants.
There is a de facto system of academic apartheid between the honest students and the cheaters in grades 8-12, creating a non-level playing field in RCPS and a negative “atmosphere” of learning. Like Major League Baseball players during the steroid era, many honest students ask themselves if they should cheat in order to get ahead academically while the dishonest students never ask themselves this question. This is a moral dilemma every honest student faces during the academic year at every county high school and all the other county schools in grades 8-12.
In addition, Standard 7 (C) (3) states that “public education be conducted in an atmosphere” “free of disruption.” Not only is cheating both academically disruptive and morally wrong, it teaches bad “citizenship” — the antithesis of “responsible participation in American society.” RCPS should not be teaching its students to emulate such notorious “cheats” as Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire, Lenny Dykstra and Alex Rodriguez, not to mention Swiss banks, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen. Lastly, cheating certainly does not “foster public confidence” in RCPS, which is one of the five “accreditation standards” of the “public education system” in Virginia.
RCPS has not been in compliance with both Standards 7 (C) (3) and 1 (C) in grades 9-12 since 2007 and grade 8 since 2015. The Virginia Department of Education should conduct an immediate external investigation to ascertain the status of the school district’s state accreditation, and to determine who has been either responsible or complicit in this shameful and preventable academic misconduct. The students, parents and taxpayers in Roanoke County all deserve more integrity and better accountability from their public schools.
Robert Maronic, a former teacher, resides in Roanoke, Va.There are currently no comments highlighted.