Rutgers study finds extensive cheating

Internet found to present difficult moral choices for high school students


NEWARK, N.J. - A recent study of 4,500 students at 25 high schools across the country reveals high levels of cheating among high school students. It also suggests that the Internet and other technologies are presenting difficult moral choices for students.

The study was conducted by Rutgers Faculty of Management Professor Donald McCabe, a leading national authority on the subject of academic integrity.

At the high schools surveyed, three-quarters of the students responding (74 percent) admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on a test or examination (e.g., copying from another student on a test or exam or using unpermitted crib or cheat notes) and almost three-quarters (72 percent) acknowledged that they had engaged in plagiarism on written assignments or submitted work done by someone else.

An additional 23 percent of the respondents self-reported less serious forms of cheating (for example, collaborating with other students on an assignment when the teacher asked for individual work and turning in work on which their parents did most of the work).

Role of teachers

Another area of concern in this study, according to McCabe, is the fact that almost half the students (47 percent) believe that their teachers sometimes ignore cheating that they observe in their classrooms.

Many students (26 percent) believe teachers simply don't want to deal with, or be bothered with, the bureaucracy involved in reporting suspected cheating.

Other explanations offered by students for faculty reluctance to report cheaters included: they don't care (11 percent), they like the student or the student is an athlete (8 percent), or they feel sorry for the student (6 percent). Some students suggested faculty members don't address cheating because "they're cool."

The Internet is introducing a new dilemma for students, and over half the students responding (54 percent) indicated they have engaged in some level of Internet-related plagiarism.

While McCabe's data suggest that the number of "new" cheaters created by the Internet is not large, they do indicate that those who are using the Internet inappropriately are doing so frequently.

And the number of choices available to students is almost endless, including online Cliff Notes, homework help sites and chat rooms, the purchase or exchange of papers, and hacking into school or teachers' computers to get tests ahead of time or to change grade records.

One enterprising student told McCabe, "Kids from our school have a Web site where you can find any answer for any book that is used at our school."

Becoming `normal'

McCabe believes that one of the of the big problems in addressing the issue of student cheating is the fact that it has become so common that, as one student suggested, "It's starting to become `normal' in some cases."

Students talk about the pressures their parents, teachers, and the college admissions process put on them and they often see no other way out, especially when they see so many other students cheating.

Other major findings in McCabe's study include:

About a third (32 percent) of the students participating in this project indicated the major reason students cheat is because they are lazy, don't study, or don't prepare adequately for class. Almost another third (29 percent) suggested students cheat either to simply pass a course or to make sure they get good grades.

Students at the 11 private schools participating in this project consistently reported lower levels of cheating than students at the 14 public schools participating.

There were few differences in the level of cheating reported by male and female students.

In a comparison of the public schools participating in this project, lower levels of serious cheating were found among students in the Midwest compared with students in the Northeast and in the West.

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