This article originally appeared in SLJ’s Extra Helping.
A whopping 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating, a Rutgers University professor reports.
"There’s a fair amount of cheating going on, and students aren’t all that concerned about it," says Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at New Jersey-based Rutgers.
The professor has been surveying cheating practices among college kids for 18 years and high school students for six years. He says he’s surveyed 24,000 high school students in 70,000 high schools, grades 9 to 12. His findings? Sixty-four percent of students report one or more instances of serious testing-cheating, which include copying from someone else, helping someone else cheat on a test, or using crib notes or cheat notes, McCabe says.
The professor’s findings, however, don’t explore cases in which students told classmates what was going to be on a test, because “that’s something that students don’t consider to be serious," McCabe says.
Plagiarism may be another practice students don’t consider to be serious. Some 58 percent of those McCabe surveyed acknowledged "one or more instances" of plagiarism, ranging from downloading an entire paper to "cutting and pasting" online publications and not crediting the source. "They seem to know what [plagiarism] is," McCabe says of his young respondents, "but they raise some questions about where that line is that actually crosses into cheating."
Over the years, the incidence of cheating has been fairly steady among high school students, with a small increase only in plagiarism, McCabe adds. He also describes the creative methods he’s seen along the way. First there’s the now-common "water bottle trick," where students detach the bottle label, write in their cheat notes, then paste the label back on. The water then magnifies the cheat notes.
McCabe goes on to describe another instance where a teen hacked into a school computer to illegally add money to his and fellow students’ lunch accounts. A third story includes the one about a student who hacked into a teacher’s computer account to obtain a copy of the upcoming biology exam. "He only got caught because he was so proud of what he’d done, and wanted everyone to know,” McCabe says.
McCabe and his colleague Daniel Katz, an education professor at Seton Hall University, are preparing to publish their research in an academic journal.