By: Diana Tang and Shaun Robinson

In a school district where points and percentages seem to be the only things that motivate students, convenience often takes priority at the expense of valuable learning.  There is perhaps no better example of this here at North than at the intersection of homework and cheating.

Let’s be frank: sharing and copying homework is so ingrained in the culture of North that most hardly think twice about it.  Between texting someone pictures of a worksheet or furiously scribbling down answers in the library at lunch, students share answers to homework as freely as they do gossip.  As the district is in the midst of rethinking the school’s homework policies, drawing inspiration from those in similar school districts like Palo Alto, this issue cannot be ignored.

Admittedly, cheating on homework is against school policy, and it is not fair to excuse students from the poor decisions they make.  There will always be those who take advantage of the system, and sharing answers with other students is a choice—albeit the wrong one.  But at times the current homework system and mindset can push students over the edge to make the choice to cheat.

So what can we, as a school, do to change a mindset of cheating?  Consider most universities, where honor codes are strictly followed and cheating is a rare occurrence.  What is the difference between following the honor code of a high school, and that of a college?  One of the biggest disparities is perhaps a difference attitude.  In college, with no parents looking over their shoulders, many students are self-motivated.  They take classes that they’re truly interested in, and realize that cheating to get points on one homework assignment will most certainly lead to the loss of points on a test or quiz down the road.

What’s more, many colleges and universities implement strict policies to prevent violations of academic integrity.  When the deterrent is getting kicked out of an institution you’ve worked so hard (and spent so much money) to be at, cheating doesn’t seem to be an option.  Although we are a public high school which would find no good in kicking students out of our education system, we can still implement a stricter cheating policy and make sure that the way that teachers address this issue is uniform across the board.  Whether it be meeting with parents or having a permanent mark on a school record, teachers must actively keep an eye out for cheating on homework, because no student starts their cheating career by stealing answers to a test; it starts with the little things, like copying homework.  And soon, this seemingly harmless action evolves into larger-scale cheating.

In reality, it’s not that students at North don’t want to learn.  Instead, the effort that students put into assignments will reflect how meaningful they think the assignment is, and students are often perceptive enough to realize when assignments are just busy work.  And if teachers believe that the intent of an assignment may be misinterpreted by their students, it won’t be hard to go out of their way to explain the significance of the homework and its potential impact on performance on other assignments.

Giving more meaningful assignments that focus on the development of skill can be the first step toward changing the infectious attitude of cheating at North.  It is up to the new homework policy to help students—and their teachers—realize that it shouldn’t be about the answers, but the steps taken to reach them that should be of the utmost importance.

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