Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

Burgundy's former school, Clear Lake High School, has been hit with a pretty big cheating scandal. It appears that about 200 seniors were caught cheating on their English IV semester exam. The result is that all the English IV exam grades have been voided, and students have the option to retake the exam or to have their grades calculated without the exam grade. Because the semester exam counts for 20% of the semester grade, this is a significant decision. Basically, by cheating on an exam the students otherwise would have failed, the students have ensured their GPAs won't be impacted at all by the grade.

Now according to the article linked above, it appears that the district still is investigating and has not decided yet on punishment. However, I don't understand what the delay is. From the CCISD Student Handbook, which students must sign every year certifying that they have read and understand the rules:

Academic Dishonesty will result in academic and/or behavioral consequences.
A. A grade of zero will be given on the work involved, and the grade of zero will be averaged with the other grades.
B. The building principal will be notified of all incidents of academic dishonesty. C. Other actions as determined by building principal such as assignment to In School
Suspension (ISS). (Page 68 of the Parent-Student Handbook from the website)
I don't understand why there's any confusion about what to do to the students caught cheating. They cheated. They do not deserve to choose not to take the final exam. They deserve a zero averaged into their semester grades. Yes, that impacts their college acceptance. Yes, it's a harsh penalty. And yes, they understood the risks when they decided to engage in the behavior. Voiding the final is not a punishment; it's a reward.

For example, take my daughter's Pre-AP Physics class. Her first nine weeks' average was an 82. Her second was an 86. Unfortunately, her semester exam was a disaster, and she earned (after many hours of hard work and study) a 76. This brought her semester average all the way down to an 82. If we could void that exam altogether, her semester average would be an 84. While this seems insignificant on the surface, Burgundy's GPA literally is within hundredths of a point of being in the realm of Ivy League eligibility, and the difference between her average without and with the exam is .2 GPA points. That matters.

I think CCISD has several reasons for its apparent leniency:

  1. CLHS has an Exemplary rating, making it one of the best schools in the state, not just the district. Handing out 200 zeroes would significantly impact the school's overall competitive performance statewide. I'm not certain whether the Texas rating system impacts a school's budget allocation, but  I think it does, and everything comes back to the money, honey.
  2. CLHS has the highest concentration of moneyed families in the district. I swear to God, I am not exaggerating when I say that the parking lot at that high school has nicer cars than the parking lots at NASA. Parents with money have influence; I learned that firsthand.  I just did not have the money to compete, to hire a lawyer, to campaign at the district level for action. I didn't have the money to run in the right circles to get people with power to give a damn about Burgundy's situation. The school and district administrators will be hurting their own and their friends' kids, and heavens, we can't have that.
  3. CLHS is a high-pressure, extremely competitive environment. Giving 200 zeroes to seniors who won't have time to recover their grades will wreck some students' college aspirations and plans. Moreover, it will reduce the admissions rate that the school enjoys to some of the best universities in the nation, and students like Burgundy suddenly will be able to compete with the kids at Lake. Oh, the horror.
Frankly, none of these are compelling reasons to void the tests and let the kids choose whether to retake them. If they live in a world where they don't have to be responsible for their own actions, well, we're all screwed.

In closing, let me say this. If you really want to be fair, CCISD, why don't you reward the kids across the district who didn't cheat? Who studied hard and did their best? Why don't you let the kids who actually took responsibility and did not cheat either drop or retake their lowest semester exam? Oh, but we can't have that. Everyone here gets what they deserve. Unless they have money, apparently.


  1. That is absolutely disgusting! I'm sorry that is happening...

  2. I think the moral of the story is that when kids want to cheat they need to get 199 of their best buddies to cheat with them.