For many, time is crucial during school evaluations. An extra minute can mean a couple more percent, which to some is life or death. Getting a good grade on quizzes and tests can be the difference between getting into University or not. As a grade 12 student at an Ontarian school, you are pressured to study hard and get competitive grades. Many students find this relatively easy, while others struggle deeply to pass some of the more challenging courses. In order to improve one’s chances of getting into University, it is fairly common for students to resort to cheating on their evaluations.
I think that our school system would like to think that all students are receiving a pretty much equal playing field. However, I know for a fact that countless students think differently. As a student, you are almost fully relying on your teacher and the curriculum. Since teachers are humans, they test differently and teach uniquely. Obviously, some are better than others at explaining concepts and making ideas clear. In my opinion, that is completely fair — for now. Nonetheless, something I do not understand fully is the immense difference between the evaluations within the same course. For example, some courses taught in the same semester by different teachers have ridiculously different evaluations. I do acknowledge that sometimes teachers emphasize different things. It doesn’t make sense if one class is being tested with a one-page open-book unit test and the other class is being evaluated with a 7-page closed-book unit test. How could students be accurately evaluated on the same content if the level of difficulty of the evaluations is drastically different?
As it has been for centuries, cheating is a factor that prevents complete and utter accuracy when it comes to testing a student’s level of understanding. The most common method of cheating is to peak at someone else’s work on an evaluation or plagiarize. Something that I have recently been told about is getting extra time on evaluations. Many students are granted extra time on the basis of having an IEP or being ESL. An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan and is a “document that is developed for each public school child who needs special education”. I am not arguing that IEPs are negative, I actually think they are vital for quality education.
This year, more than one person has asked me why I do not just “buy an IEP”. At first, I did not know what they were referring to. Buying an IEP? You can do that? I asked each of them to explain to me what they meant, and all their responses were unanimous. They said that if you go to a “phycologist” they will be able to easily find a reason for you to have an IEP, and thus have extra time on evaluations. At this point, I am not sure whether these students have a misunderstanding of the situation or if this is really happening.
What struck me most, though, was not what I was hearing, but why I was hearing it. ‘Pressure’ is a word that is used daily by students. Although cheating is not honest or morally right, it is not entirely the student’s fault. Cheating has been normalized since we entered preschool. We see cheating appearing on the news and in the media, in our vocabulary and in our education system. On top of that, adolescents and children are vigorously tested. It is common knowledge that teachers do not trust students; they stare over their paper and tell horror stories of people being named as “cheaters.” I think trust is one of the most significant values that is overlooked when discussing cheating in school.
After almost every evaluation in my Advanced Functions class this year, a white Markbook sheet would be hanged on the wall with details on every student’s grade and academic results. Beside every mark, there was your student number and your overall ranking in the class. For me, it was hard to feel valued when you are literally represented by a 9-digit number. Almost every teacher I have ever had has said: “do not compare yourself to others.” I could argue that it is very difficult to not differentiate yourself from others when you are visually ranked based on others performance.
One can only assume that teachers think that when your mark is presented like this it is completely anonymous. I have vivid memories of students standing up staring at the sheet trying to figure out who is number one, and which sad soul has the lowest mark. They always do.
It has become so clear to me that If schools want to actually test students properly, something needs to change.