Archive for test

To CHEAT or not to CHEAT? That is the question.

Posted in THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by erikball123

cheating

Sophocles would rather “fail with honor than to win by cheating.” W.C. Fields contests that “anything worth having is worth cheating for.” Even Tommy Lasorda quips “Nah, we don’t cheat. And even if we did, I wouldn’t tell you!”

Next week is Final Exam week. Our school’s faculty collaboration network is buzzing about how we should be aware of would-be crib-sheet enablers. We should be cognizant to the fact that the average Faith Lutheran student cradles their iPhone neatly in their hoodie posket next to the pack of gum they shouldn’t be chewing. So shortly after Christmas break and officially into the new year, our first resolutions include rounds of that tried and true game: “Name that Cheater.”

Kinda discouraging.

Granted, Faith Lutheran has the benefit over the average public school of having primed paint on the walls and a nicely designed iron gate between the road and the students’ neatly parked SUVs and BMWs. We’re cozy…and those padded walls that keep us warm when there is a draft, and sheltered from the evils of the world are also the same walls that are sometimes so tall, that we forget that there is another side to them.

An alumni recently visited me and made the comment about how college is SO different than she ever imagined. I inquired how. She said that people there don’t care so much about stupid things like the girls at Faith did when she attended school. I delved further. “You know…their hair. The brand they wear. What type of phone, what type of car. They just don’t care what other people think.” She said that at first it kinda turned her off of the whole college scene. But after a while, this forced independence was nothing more than…well,  refreshing. Apparently the “alternative to the public high school education” wore on her and she never knew just how much so until she left the nest.

Perhaps it’s a good problem to have, to be too sheltered.  I can imagine the side effects, however. I mean (and with all due respect) take EVERY home-schooled student you’ve ever met. They’re either brilliant and highly functional, above-average, thoughtful individuals….or they’re awkward, antisocial wallflowers that never break out of their shell.

Back to final exams. I don’t like ’em, truth be told. First and foremost, I have A.D.D. I’m diagnosed, I take medicine, and I’ve learned to live with and love my disorder. I find myself harnessing the creative outpouring of thought that approaches my everyday from a vastly different perspective than most people….and I LOVE that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would say that it is the reason why the conventional testing situation is hard to approach by me. But, just like a theatrical audition is never anything more than a subjective means by which to determine a cast… taking a test an effective way of evaluating ones scope of understanding? Hardly, I would argue. (That is unless you testing ones ability to regurgitate facts.) I suppose a separate posting on that topic would be appropriate.

Our school requires final exams. I’m fine with that. But I’m not fine with the fact that we live in a world (or in my case work in an environment) where cheating is a problem. There’s always going to be unfair advantages. Always. But, for the majority of students, getting caught cheating on the final would garnish not nearly as much punishment as getting a failing grade for the semester. So, the risk is low enough to consider that tiny crib-sheet.

Blind texting, selling answers off of last-year’s exams…stolen exams….crib sheets. I’ve hear of some pretty interesting cheating methods. (Hiding answers under a large band-aid on the arm. Writing the answers on the bottom of the INSIDE of a Starbuck cup…and putting a shallow pool of liquid in the cup so that on the onset, all appears normal. But when the student takes a “drink”…they’re staring at the answers. Pretty slick!)

I can’t help but think that we’re approaching the cheating issue in a counter-productive way. What is cheating all about anyway? Break it down. Students want a “good” grade. Why don’t they study? Maybe it’s easier that way. Maybe they’re lazy. Maybe they’re uninterested. Perhaps bogged down. Perhaps family expectations create an overbearing stigma. Whatever the reason…we need to set up a cross fire of dialogue with our students about that cheating is really about.

It’s NOT about the test or the class…or the grade. It’s about the student’s character, integrity, morals, and personal self-worth and expectations. On top of all that, and most importantly, God doesn’t want you to cheat. I would rather take an honest D- over a cheated A, any day. (To paraphrase Sophocles.) But kids don’t work that way. They have a hard time thinking past their own noses.

I was the same way. I totally cheated in high school. (I wrote the answers to the test on the FLAP of my high top Chuck Taylors and sat cross-legged on the floor to take the test. Easy access.) Yeah…totally got caught. At the time I recall freaking out and my heart beating hard. I was taken to the principals office…got a Saturday detention and received a zero on my exam. Sucky. But, today…looking back….I can’t even recall what CLASS it was in. I knew it was a Math class of some kind, because it was Mr. Kastle that busted me. But, it’s amazingly insignificant NOW in the big picture. I remain ashamed that I did that. That’s not the type of guy I am. I don’t cheat. I don’t take the easy way out of anything. And that moment still weighs heavy on my heart as a time I KNEW what was right and wrong…and I fell short.

So, the question remains…how to you effectively impress upon a student that the true reason to attempt an honest final exam has nothing to do with right or wrong answers….but rather, their character? How does that talk start?

I suppose that conversation in a private school would be different that, say at an inner-city, public school. Most students carry their “get out of jail free” cards with them everywhere at Faith Lutheran. Parental bail outs are common and holding their students accountable is becoming less an option in order for these proud papas and mamas to save face. From the student’s perspective, the consequences after getting caught are not great. Their approach to the standardized  (and mediocre) means by which to effectively evaluate a student’s knowledge retention….is just as “everyday” as sneaking onto the Internet after mom and dad go to sleep to chat with their 24 year old cyber-boyrfirend/girlfriend. It’s super easy. It’s also super scary.

Impressing the importance of a student’s SELF-WORTH with regards to their character is not an easy thing to do. They already hate the amount of homework you assign them! How about this:

Leviticus 6:  1 The LORD said to Moses: 2 “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, 3 or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do- 4 when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, 5 or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering.

Oh no…he didn’t go Biblical!

As teachers, if we DON’T share with students that final, all encompassing reason for NOT cheating….as parents, if you don’t reinforce with supplemental consequences that same philosophy…cheating will always be a huge problem. WHY? Because it’s too easy and the risk of getting caught is too small. Enron officials cheat and it’s a scandal. Celebrities cheat and their faces are on every magazine and television in the country. Students cheat…..they get a slight slap on the hand….maybe. They’re not scared.

There not way to express to students that the ULTIMATE TEST is the test of Faith, and I’m sorry….but there are NO pockets in your heavenly robe for blind texts and crib sheets.

“He’ll cheat without scruple, who can without fear.” – Benjamin Franklin

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What are We Worth? A. Something B. Nothing C. Bunches D. None of the Above

Posted in THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2008 by erikball123

Officially, this is my first on-location blog! I’m literally standing in the Student Center cafeteria at Faith Lutheran right before lunch, listening to the scribblings and growling stomachs of the 9th grade future leaders, as they complete their PSAT test.

I watch these sharp as tacks….bright as bulbs….self-proclaimed (in some cases) under-achievers as they hurl themselves at these standardized booklets and fill-in-the-dot sheets….and I wonder if they are really “here.” You know what I mean. Either you’ve “dealt with” or “been” one of those students who checks out the second the room falls silent. The occasional volleyball player takes a a glance up…so that she can concentrate on how to find the area of the triangle. The lack-luster wrestler shifts so that he can get a better look at Suzie, who is sitting two rows over. It’s hilarious. People-watching…that’s what I’m here for folks! But, really…is standardized testing the answer? Are the definitive conclusions to WHAT WE KNOW going to be discovered through structured involvement in a testing process that forces students out of the classroom for an entire day and into a 30 page booklet?

My argument is this: We assume that dead silence in a “controlled” environment is the key to ideal performance conditions. How ludicrous. Football players need to “pump up” before a game. Boxers need sound advice from their coaches and taped-up wrists prior to a fight. Ballet dancers need a bunch of stretch time. What to test-takers get? A nice, hard lunch table….dead silence….and a 10-minute break to enjoy their stale muffin. And we huff over an our ranking in the percentile. Sheesh.

I teach performance-based classes. I’m a drama teacher for crying out loud. Why can’t we measure the breadth of a students knowledge based on performance? Not an easy thing to propose, yes, I know. But, isn’t that part of the problem? Do we all too often take into consideration HOW we do things instead of WHY we do things? I think a YEAR-LONG observation of what a student DOES with what they’ve learned, would be a good standardized test. Talk about a crazy task….but that would certainly be getting to the root of testing what students know…am I right?

Being able to regurgitate information is not enough. Who cares WHAT you throw up….but do you know WHY you threw up?!

These poor, poor students. God love ’em. With their pairs of #2 pencils….their graphic calculators. (One is pink and bejeweled. Props to Hillary.) I wonder what will happen to these students. I wonder if they’ll grow up to be nuclear physicists, or oceanographers, or lion tamers, or hippies….or whatever! No one knows. There is a wealth of personality, creativity, freedom, and LIFE in this room right now. They don’t know it yet, but these freshman….they’ll be someone, someday.

It’s in God’s hands.

First choice of college…second choice? Who knows…but I guarantee the vast majority aren’t thinking about that when they’re trying to meet the 6-8 sentence quota for the short answer section of the English essay.

Some are done already. They’re looking at me. Hmmm. They shouldn’t be done so soon. Funny. From the looks on their faces, they know that. They know they could have concentrated harder. ….And yet. I don’t know that I don’t blame them.

Can paper and pencil and a morning of filling in tiny dots be what determine one’s worth? Arguable.

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