SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Teachers may not realize it, but high school students know that when a girl rummages through her purse during a test, she might not be looking for a tissue.

She could be sending a text message full of answers to the boy sitting two rows behind her, who has been fiddling around with something in his pocket.

“Kids will always find a way around the system,” said Aaron Barnes, a 10th-grader at Cicero-North Syracuse High School who has seen other students in his classes employ these methods during tests. “I don’t care if anyone else does it. It’s their own fault if they don’t want to get anywhere in life.”

A 2005 study by Duke University’s Center for Academic Integrity reported more than 70 percent of public school students surveyed admitted to “serious” cheating on tests.

Students report seeing schoolmates cheat by text-messaging, uploading information to memory sticks and using music players to record information. But what they observe most often is old-fashioned methodology, such as looking at someone else’s paper.

“It’s less obvious, and there’s less evidence,” said Kathleen Ladenheim, who graduated last month from Jamesville-DeWitt High School in DeWitt, N.Y.

She said the most creative way she saw a student cheat was with a water bottle. A classmate took the label off a water bottle, wrote information on the back of the label, stuck it back on and brought it to a math test.

“If you’re clever enough to do that, you can study for a math test,” she said.

Christine Wilson, a senior at James-DeWitt, said students cheat more often by e-mailing each other answers to homework assignments or reading online summaries instead of the assigned books.

But a bigger problem schools are trying to address is plagiarism: using the Internet to find pre-written essays or cutting and pasting entire sentences or paragraphs from someone else’s work without proper citation. The Center for Academic Integrity says 60 percent of public high school students admit to some form of plagiarism.

James-DeWitt High School Principal Paul Gasparini said he takes cheating seriously. “Of all the indiscretions a student can have, the one colleges really take to heart when analyzing a student’s admissions portfolio is academic dishonesty,” he said.

He said his staff has an approach to solving the problem: Teach students how to use Internet sources properly, instruct them on accepted citation styles and make students “critical consumers of all the information available in cyberspace.”

Teachers can use a popular online tool at to detect plagiarism. Students submit essays or other assignments electronically, and teachers receive a color-coded “originality report” on each student’s work. searches a vast array of previously submitted papers, magazine and newspaper articles, and other material, looking for copied sections, and it alerts the teacher to possible academic dishonesty. It is then left to teachers to decide whether a student plagiarized.

Kathy Spitzer, a librarian at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, said teachers have found the site easy to use and have caught students who have copied work. But she recommends that teachers create tests and assignments that are impossible to cheat on that assess a student’s understanding, knowledge and creativity rather than memorization.

“It’s only going to get worse,” Spitzer said, as cell phones and other electronic devices get smaller and students have access to an even wider array of information. “The answer to avoid cheating is transforming the test. Change the nature of the assessment such that it can’t be cheated on.”


(Mariam Jukaku wrote this article for The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y.)


AP-NY-03-05-07 1806EST

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