Thursday, December 31, 2009

Help Your Children Experience Greater Academic Success in the New Year

It’s a New Year and a new semester, so what can you do as a parent or guardian to help your children experience greater academic success in 2010? Following are three important principles which you can apply in your home, thus in your children’s lives.

#1 Students perform best academically when they know WHY they are working hard and why they should study daily. They must have goals set in order to know the purpose of their efforts. Living with INTENT is important to success in all areas of one’s life. Without intent, there is little direction, and with little direction, there is no target at which to aim. If one intends to only pass a class, this is likely what he/she will do. However, if one intends to make an “A”, there is a higher likelihood this will happen. Teaching our children to live with PURPOSE is just as important as working with ambition. Being ambitious involves working towards one’s self-fulfilling pursuits; whereas, living with purpose involves working with a broader scope and for something larger than one’s self.
Therefore, discuss with your children the importance of goal setting and living with intent. Help them discover what their strengths are and where their interests lie. Enable them to understand there is a world beyond themselves and their actions and decisions impact themselves AND others.

#2 Set a positive example of discipline and consistency for your children as it pertains to their school work and other areas of their lives. Remember, they mirror your attitudes and actions! If you find yourself being frustrated with their lack of academic priority, you must examine the messages you may be sending them about their education. For example, if you openly criticize a teacher whether warranted or unwarranted, it provides an excuse for them to not work up to their potential. They will likely blame the same teacher you are criticizing for their lack of success, rather than accept personal responsibility. If you tell them they must earn the privilege to participate in sports by working to their potential, and then they don’t, and you allow them to participate anyway, you have sent a message that sports is more important than their education. The discipline your children develop and demonstrate in their academics will “spill” over into other areas of their lives. The most disciplined students are usually reliable, responsible, and respectful in the classroom and even in their communities and involvement with others outside the realm of their academics.

#3 Set parameters; i.e., rules, for your academic expectations and clear consequences for their lack of being responsible, and then adhere to these parameters. Children need discipline and boundaries. Having these provides a sense of security for children, while developing their own ability to rationalize and problem solve. Expect that they will step out of the boundaries you have set at times as this is a normal part of development; however, they need you to stop them if they step outside of what is considered the safety zone. Teenagers have actually shared with me that they were grateful their parents did not allow them to make bad decisions and demonstrate poor judgment because, if left to follow their own inclinations, they would have and then suffered the consequences! Remember, the frontal lobe of a person’s brain, which is responsible for decision making, judgment, and problem solving, does not usually fully develop until one reaches his or her mid 20s!

I hope 2010 is a most successful year for your children as they live with greater intent, set academic goals and priorities, follow your example in action and attitude, and adhere to the parameters set in your home regarding educational priorities and expectations! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For Educators: Ways to Curtail Student Cheating

This is the concluding blog in this series on student cheating and is intended for the educators working with students in our community.

*Create an honor code with student input so they are invested in it.

*Make it clear to students that cheating is unacceptable, and have them sign a document that says they have not cheated.

*Discuss academic ethics early and often.

*As a faculty, agree on the penalties and the process that will be used to implement them.

*Involve parents in the discussion at the outset of the policy formation.

*Make clear what the penalties for cheating will be, and then, implement the consequences upon all violations.

*Seriously punish cheaters according the academic integrity policy.

*Use websites in which teachers can upload student papers to check for plagiarism.

*Give original and unique assignments that cannot be plagiarized, obtained from a website, or borrowed from a student doing the exact work.

*Assign individualized assignments in order to help curtail inappropriate sharing of students’ work.

*Reinforce quality performance by showcasing student work and conducting conferences with students about their assignments so that teachers can ascertain how familiar a student is with the concepts presented in the assignment or on the test.

*Require that students show all work, including initial references, notes, drafts and subsequent revisions.

*Make sure that they understand that a completed assignment contains all of these elements of the task, and give credit only for presenting only a final product.

*Use essays that test students thinking and communication as well as their mastery of information.

*If students suffer from very poor writing skills, allow them to dictate their work if it is being assessed primarily for content mastery.

*Create multiple versions of tests to make purloined answer keys useless.

*Do not give the same test over and over again.

*Separate students during testing so they cannot view each other’s papers.
*Develop multiple modes of assessment so student’s grades are not determined primarily on tests.

*Ban electronic devices in testing rooms.

*Do not allow students to bring PDAs and cell phones into the test room.

*Despite the lack of concrete statistics on the prevalence of MP3 cheating, institute a blanket ban on these devices being present in the classroom.

*Combat plagiarism by using a scanning service such as TurnItIn. com. Students are instructed to turn each paper in to the service, which uses a computer program to scan it for instances of plagiarism by comparing it against all published materials and previously submitted papers in the company's database. Any phrases in common are highlighted for the teacher to see. According to the company, significant levels of plagiarism appear in 30 percent of papers submitted.

*And finally, teach students solid study skill strategies to create in them greater independence and self-reliance that take away some motivations to cheat. Good study skills are the key to academic success!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Types of Cheating and Why Students Cheat

To expand on last month’s article on disturbing facts about student cheating, this month I will focus on the types of cheating and why some students cheat. Next month the focus of my article will be on the consequences of cheating and intervention methods for educators and parents to utilize in order to greatly curtail the incident of student cheating.

Types of Cheating

Copying homework of other information from another student

Plagiarizing by downloading information or entire papers from the Internet

Cell phone cheating by text-messaging answers to other students, taking a picture of the test and e-mailing it to another student, or downloading information from the Internet

Getting test questions, answers, or a paper from a student in a previous period or school year

Bringing a permitted graphing calculator into a test loaded with answer material which was previously input into the computer portion of the calculator

Recording answers before tests with MP3 voice recording devices.

Downloading cheat sheets onto the music players and hiding them as song-lyric text files.

Instant Messaging while completing homework is a way of dividing the work amongst each other to insure it all gets done

Why Students Cheat

They see it in every facet of life: politics, business, home, and school

Collaborative or team academic environments like the Internet are making the definition of cheating even murkier.

Pressure to succeed in a highly competitive world

Some students such as those with a high GPA are under so much pressure to maintain high grades and get into the best colleges and are smart enough to figure out how to cheat without getting caught.

There is an attitude by teens of ethical relativism and rationalization of whatever actions serve one’s immediate needs and purposes are justified

Young people have no real perception that activities of cheating on the internet have an impact in “real world” situations

Teens are disconnected in regards to ethical behavior and downloading or sharing music.

It is accepted as a normal part of school life.

Athletes must maintain a minimum GPA to stay on the team

Major male sports seem to be spawning a win-at-any-cost mentality that carries over into the classroom. Athletes understand the minimum GPA factor and the time management issue of fitting studying in amid the practices and games so they often succumb to cheating because there is a mental attitude that it is not that big a deal.

So many of students’ friends are cheating that they decide they would be odd if they were not doing so, and also tend to believe that if they are the one honest student, they are going to get the lower grades or the lower test scores. They have adopted a “cheat or be cheated” attitude.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Say It Isn't So! Students Cheating in Our Schools?

Recently, the media reported on the percentage of students who are cheating in schools in order to receive their desired grades. As an educator, this was an alarming report to hear, so I began to research for more information on this topic. So much information was located that it is impossible to include it all in this article. Therefore, the topic of American students cheating in schools will be presented in a series of articles.

Following is a sample of the information located on this topic from many scholarly sources. Additionally, websites such as and provided informative survey results.

Interesting and Shocking Facts According to Many Recent Surveys of Students

  • 60% of students admit to cheating on a test during the past year
  • 33% said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.
  • Of high achieving A/B high school students who plan to attend college, 80% admitted to cheating to get to the top of their class
  • More than half the students surveyed said that they do not think cheating is a big deal
  • 95% of cheaters say they were not caught
  • 38% of students believe it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize or lie in order to succeed.
  • 24% of the teens think cheating on a test is acceptable at some level justified by their personal desire to succeed.
  • 80% of honors and AP students cheat on a regular basis due to the pressure to succeed.
  • 37% of male athletes and 20% of female athletes surveyed said it was proper for a coach to instruct a player to fake an injury. 43% of boys and 22% of girls surveyed said it was proper for a coach to teach basketball players how to illegally hold and push. This type of coaching leads to student cheating in the classroom.
  • There is widespread use by high school and college students of the drugs Adderall and Ritalin, normally prescribed to people diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Students without the disorder find them easy to obtain legally or illegally from students sharing their prescription or selling pills for profit. Some college students will trade marijuana for Adderall!
  • The use of stimulants is on the rise in high school, and more and more kids are using them to take the SAT.
  • According to one study, less than 2 percent of all academic cheaters get caught, and only half of them get punished. So, there is almost a 99 percent chance of getting away with it.