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How will PAUSD high schools prevent cheating this fall?

Original post made by Curious Parent, Community Center, on Jul 25, 2020

I'm curious how PAUSD is planning on enforcing its honor code on tests during remote learning. Even if all tests are open-book, it will be remarkably easy to cheat using google, texting with friends, etc.. While cheaters will always find a way, I would hate if it were so easy that everyone else feels at a huge disadvantage for following the rules.

My understanding is that there are products out there that will do a decent job of preventing cheating. However, these products cost money, possibly require upgraded hardware on students' computers, and most importantly expect some degree of intrusion into the students' privacy. Clearly, the decision about tools to avoid cheating should be made at the district office and not by individual teachers.

So does anyone know what PAUSD is planning?

Comments (12)

4 people like this
Posted by Learning focus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:33 pm

The answer is self-directed learning. You quite literally can't cheat. No more hamster-wheel-based education!


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 27, 2020 at 11:42 am

Wasn't there a discussion of having tests in classrooms with masks and distancing? That would be the only way to prevent cheating.

Being a public school, it's doubtful we can have online proctoring due to equity issues. Although colleges have online proctoring. Even with proctoring, someone can take a photo of the questions.


2 people like this
Posted by Curious Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 27, 2020 at 4:22 pm

@Paly Mom,

We can't let perfect be the enemy of good. While it may be impossible to prevent all cheating, there are products/techniques/tools that make it more difficult. For instance, I believe Blackboard has ways that automatically randomize the test questions and limit the ability for students to go back. Sure, there are still a million ways to cheat, but it's much better than nothing. I'm not necessarily advocating for Blackboard, but I would like there to be SOME policy and training in place that teachers should use for tests.


8 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 28, 2020 at 1:00 am

Some kids are going to cheat. They cheat in a regular school year, and they're going to cheat even more easily this year. I don't think that cheating prevention is high on the district's list of priorities, even in a regular school year.

I suppose kids could be asked to print out the test, hand write their answers while we watch them via video on Zoom and then take a picture of their completed test and upload it. But that would require that every single student has: a printer, Internet, a computer or Chromebook, and a phone with a camera. I think perhaps this will be a year with fewer traditional assessments and more presentations and projects. My solution is not to give any tests or quizzes this year. Kids can demonstrate competency through presentations and essays, maybe timed written responses.

Even more important than academic honesty, how will we distribute books and materials to students? I wish the administrators and Board were focusing on these issues rather than on trying to fight with the teachers union about safe working conditions. It's time for us to move on to how we will serve students remotely and ensure that they learn this year despite the very challenging circumstances that all of us are in.

For those concerned (rightly) about equity (cheating is an equity issue as well) during distance learning, perhaps they can contribute to PiE to get lower income students equipped with the necessary tools. I think having access not just to Internet but also to a printer is very helpful, especially for students who struggle in certain areas.

Sorry to change the subject a bit, but cheating is at the moment such a small piece of the puzzle we must solve.


8 people like this
Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2020 at 6:56 am

@Teacher
(Lots of “Heart” emoji’s). Thank you. More projects instead of tests will probably reduce kids’ stress, too.

As parent of a profoundly gifted child whose major LDs were not assessed until very late, including after graduation, and who could have been helped earlier (OT from elementary that was buried; I can still hear the subsequent elementary and middle school teachers chastisements to me that could have been read right off a diagnostic list if they’d either had any training or stopped to consider that said student wasn’t being willful or lazy). The district still does an abysmal enough job with 2e kids and major LD assessment and support that timed written tests are NOT an equitable answer, though.

I hope the district will be communicating specifics of how it intends to incorporate best remote learning practices (and reserve precious efforts to provide safe on-site time for social interactions like clubs).


14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:05 am

Paly math and sci and history teachers have used the same tests for years and they are insecure and on yahoo groups and AJ tutoring.They do not match up with content delivered.

Tests should only be to for the teacher to see what to reteach and only projects and homework should be graded.

Tests have caused kids injury and stress and generally are misused.


3 people like this
Posted by Curious Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:28 am

@Teacher wrote:
"I suppose kids could be asked to print out the test, hand write their answers while we watch them via video on Zoom and then take a picture of their completed test and upload it. But that would require that every single student has: a printer, Internet, a computer or Chromebook, and a phone with a camera. I think perhaps this will be a year with fewer traditional assessments and more presentations and projects. My solution is not to give any tests or quizzes this year. Kids can demonstrate competency through presentations and essays, maybe timed written responses."

I think this is exactly what I'm concerned about. There are certainly best practices for how to do online evaluation, and it shouldn't be up to each teacher to make up their own rules about how to do testing. I'm no expert, but there are tools out there that are far, far better than any ad-hoc approaches. This would take one hour to train the teachers and it would make the lives of teachers administering tests easier, not harder. I hope the administration will spend the time to train the teachers.




6 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:17 am

Writing writing writing! Back to the basics!


13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Well, they have not controlled cheating in person for the last 20 years.

Also, this whole online thing is a farce because kids are not all innocents. If you think they are all sitting home doing online work, you are silly. They get answers, share answers, do the tests together and then do what they want, which is fine, but do not think that the older teachers should be so naive and trusting that kids all have not been to parties and the beach in groups and then have hybrid classes.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2020 at 4:50 am

And it's going on at CAL and Stanford as well.
Especially in the CS classes for some reason.
And the foreign students from Asia are big clients of the many unscrupulous online websites which supply ghost paper writing services.

Seems ridiculous that people spend so much on education only to cheat their way through.
Heck, I received a B- in second semester engineering physics because I had a heavy load of other courses with labs (so basically double the number of midterms and finals) and did not have the time to dedicate to the required lengthy technical write ups on my lab work.
I now feel that I should retake this physics course simply because I was not able to put in the required work to get my usual grade of "A". Guilt.
Back in the 80's-early 90's- we did not have lab partners.
Nowadays, the the students are grouped to save money.
All my labs at Stanford had to be set up by myself, conducted, and written by yourself. No possibility of cheating, and honestly I never heard or witnessed any cheating at Stanford or in any grad course I taught.
I feel that these colleges are charging a fortune for courses, and the students should be allowed to do their own work. It would eliminate a lot of cheating.
I know we are talking about high school, but things are not wildly different.


5 people like this
Posted by ney guy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2020 at 9:30 am

The true answer is that "students" should not have to be placed in this situation to start with. We have given the "teachers/schools" the easy way out of performing performance evaluations. I was shocked to go into higher education to learn how many "professors" recycled tests from previous years. Also found it highly interesting that these were for sale as well. Who is the smarter in this situation. Riddle me this?

There is no right way to "test" kids remotely, sorry, I have seen those video tests, and yes, even those can be gamed (though its hard to do).

Last spring, my middle schooler was actually "graded" and received comments as "not invested in learning" , "not participatory", guess what, he came to me and I taught him prior to his mandatory once a week "check-in" with you, in which he had nothing to ask of you. Oh, and when challenged by me, the teachers referred to his "record" of not spending enough time in the "lessons"! Glad to see the transparency here, did not know we had to game the amount of time spent in the google classroom browser per page. BTW, our summer project was designing a tool where he could answer the questions, then go back, and have the computer spend hours taking its time in the "lesson". Guess who wins now!

So what did my child learn here?

1. He is being watched and tracked.
2. There are criteria he is being judged on that is not known to him or parents.
3. "teachers" are looking for ways to lower his grades, vs. assist him with progressing.
4. Remote "learning" tools are to be viewed suspiciously.
5. We had a fun time developing a software tool to "solve real world problems".

but worst, is my fear that he will now see all of this "school" as a waste of time, with a focus on everything but actual education and learning.


3 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:35 pm

Student is a registered user.

Paly has these Chromebooks with programs that they installed for timed proctored testing. Essentially teachers can assign a Schoology exam but they have to enter some code in the proctored system in order to enter the test. The exam will have a timer on the bottom and the screen is locked so you can only stay on that page. Obviously students can still use phones and talk to people but it's up to students whether they want to learn the material or not.


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