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Poll Spurs Beverly Hills High to Zero In on Cheaters

May 29, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Eighty-five percent of the students questioned in a recent Beverly Hills High School survey admitted to widespread cheating that ranges from copying homework to stealing or purchasing copies of exams.

Beverly Hills High School Principal Sol Levine released the results of the survey at Tuesday night's school board meeting as evidence that a new policy is needed to control cheating. He submitted a sample policy developed by teachers, administrators, parents and students, and asked the board to review it.

"Our first responsibility is to acknowledge that we have a cheating problem," Levine said. "Clearly, cheating is a problem in our school, and now we have to determine what to do about it."

15% of Students Were Honest

Nearly 250 students took part in the confidential survey last fall. Fifteen percent of those questioned said they never cheated during the previous school year. Fifty-four percent admitted cheating between 1 and 5 times, 13% of the students said they cheated 6 to 10 times, 10% of the students said they cheated 11 to 15 times, 2% said 16 to 20 times and 6% said more than 20 times.

In the survey, the students also identified the forms their cheating took: 29% said they copied homework, 9% said they used cheat notes in an exam, 25% said they received advance information about a test, 4% said they had a copy of an exam beforehand and 2% said they turned in papers that someone else wrote. Seven percent said they used some other form of cheating not mentioned in the survey.

"I'm not surprised at the statistics," school board President Frank Fenton said. "There is pressure to succeed at all high schools, but particularly in Beverly Hills for students seeking to get into major universities.

"The pressure is not only from parents, but from peers as well. It's really unbelievable to hear some Beverly students walking around saying 'I got accepted to Brown or Harvard. Where are you going?' "

Levine said that the problem of cheating is not unique to Beverly Hills High School. "It is a national problem," he said.

Last month the state Department of Education released the results of a separate statewide survey of 2,265 high school seniors which produced similar results. Three-fourths of the students in the state survey admitted cheating on tests. Ninety-seven percent of the students said they had seen other students cheating on tests. The surveyed students said that cheating is common, comes in a variety of forms and is rarely frowned upon.

Students Understand Why

None of the students interviewed at Beverly Hills High School were surprised by the results of their local survey. They agreed that cheating has become a problem, but said they understand why students resort to underhanded means to get a good grade.

"I know that cheating is not good," said Laura Sadoff, an 11th-grader. "But students are under a lot of pressure because colleges don't look at you unless you have the right grades."

Robert Kurtiz, a senior, said he had noticed that many students are not "getting grades for themselves, but for their parents."

Gary Fenton, a senior and son of the school board president, said he did not think it is pressure, but laziness that causes students to cheat. "If someone comes up to you and offers you a test that will save you five hours of studying, you'll take it," he said. "Most students would prefer to have the answers in front of them than to have to study."

Jason Barry, another senior, said that most students believe there is a reluctance on the part of school officials to act too severely against cheaters. "Most people know that in high school if you cheat, you are going to get a second chance. So they take advantage of it," he said.

The proposed policy would set "clear guidelines" to reduce cheating, Levine said. The policy is strict, he said, but it also takes under consideration the fact that "we are dealing with human beings who make mistakes and we have to provide the opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes."

Cheating is given a broad definition under the proposed policy, Levine said. Not only would the student who is caught be considered guilty of cheating, but so would the student giving him the answers.

The policy defines cheating as using notes during an exam; obtaining an advance copy or information about a test, or submitting a paper or project which is not the student's work. Students caught cheating under the new policy would be automatically given a failing grade for their exam; the student's parents would be informed; the assistant principal notified and counseling ordered.

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