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Taking cheating to the bank

Submitted by Kwami K. Kwami on January 11, 2012 – 10:48 amNo Comment

This semester began with a bang as the national media reported on a cheating ring scandal at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif. About a dozen sophomores were accused of cheating on a history exam after the teacher received an anonymous note from another student. The news reports stated that the accused students purchased the textbook publisher’s test bank, which included chapter-by-chapter questions, from and used the test bank to study for the exam.

Upon hearing this story—after I threw up in my mouth—I asked myself, Really? It must be a really slow news day for ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX to all be reporting on a handful of high school students cheating on a history exam. As I turned the television off to go surf the Internet.

Lo and behold, the same story was on the Huffington Post website. So, I read it thoroughly to get the specifics. Afterward, I began to ask myself how using a textbook publisher’s test bank as a study aid could be considered academic dishonesty.

Principal Tim Bryan of Corona del Mar High School told the media that “[I]f you have the test questions in advance, you’re cheating.” But, did these students actually have advance access to the actual exam that their history teacher gave them? If the principal and the teacher can confidently answer yes, then the principal and the teacher have to admit that the textbook publisher is the responsible party for creating the exam and the teacher is merely a disinterested test proctor. If the principal and the teacher advocate that it is the teacher that is the responsible entity for creating the exam, then it is disingenuous to suggest that using a test bank as an extension of the textbook is cheating.

I personally did not become aware of textbook publisher test banks until I became a student at UALR. And, how I became aware of them was by going to the textbook publisher’s website printed on the back of at least one of my textbooks. And, shazam, the test bank was readily available on that website.

“Test banks are usually fiercely protected by publishers and available only when buying sets of textbooks, or to teachers who have teacher identification numbers,” Bryan said. But the operative word was “usually” and I am sure that it was used here in the context of the textbooks specifically purchased for use within that particular high school.

This statement sounds to me more like an admission by the principal that it is the textbook publisher who is writing the exams in this particular history class.

Here at UALR, the Dean of Students defines the academic offense of cheating on an exam as either (1) copying another’s exam, (2) using materials not permitted during an exam, (3) collaborating with another student during an exam, (4) accessing the unreleased content of an exam, (5) taking an exam for another student, or (6) bribing a professor for exam information.

So, obviously, no UALR student could be accused of cheating for studying a textbook publisher’s test bank. Or could they???

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