Some 60 Revere High School (RHS) students have been caught up in an exam scam that was perpetrated through text messages – the first large cheating controversy at RHS in quite some time.
Some 320 total students took the compromised exam, and 60 are alleged to have cheated.
Teachers and administrators have been working diligently over the past week to identify students who appear to have cheated on the junior physics exam, and they believe that they have identified most of the obvious participants. Ironically, administrators said that most of the students are honors students, and some will possibly be barred from participating in academic honors organizations next year.
“We’re not sweeping anything under the rug and we’re addressing the issue,” said Dakin on Monday. “We’ve got some work to do with these kids about what is right and what is wrong. I just hope when parents see the evidence that they will have strength enough to accept that their children can make mistakes.”
Dakin said letters went out last Friday to parents, and there would be a chance for students to appeal the decision. However, Dakin said that the case is pretty solid.
“I think when parents see the concreteness of this, if they are objective, I don’t see how they would object,” he said. “It seems like a tight case to me.”
The situation unfolded last Monday, June 20.
Several juniors in the physics courses took a standardized physics test that was multiple choice. The test, Dakin said, is the same for every student that takes physics and it is one that is used as a final exam for students and an evaluation tool for teachers.
The test accounts for about 20 percent of the final grade in the class.
Dakin said that when running the test through the computer grading system, the software determined that the test had been compromised and there was a pattern of answers that suggested cheating.
A full cadre of teachers and administrators poured their efforts into the situation and uncovered 60 students that had identical wrong answers – so much so that it was statistically improbable that a coincidence existed.
“It’s a situation mathematically that if you punched the probability into a calculator, it would send it off the screen,” said Dakin. “It is statistically improbable that this is a coincidence.”
Once that was discovered, school officials talked to a number of the students – some of them who were in the Top 10 of the class – and it was determined that something was amiss.
Dakin said several students told them that someone had taken pictures of the test with a cell phone and then texted those pictures to numerous students. Those photos were followed up with a text that contained answers to the multiple-choice test.
“Teachers are of the notion that this pattern is not random and the exam has been compromised,” said Dakin. “Eventually, all those who had that pattern ended up getting a zero on the exam and the exam is about 20 percent of the semester grade. It was an automatic zero.”
Dakin said that there is currently a big debate at the high school about any sanctions next year as well. Dakin said it will probably have an effect on the National Honor Society (NHS) next year.
“Some of these are honors kids and it’s a very dishonorable thing,” he said. “So, it might compromise NHS for kids involved. I wouldn’t be surprised when they send out the letter if that isn’t discussed.”
Dakin said he hopes the outcome is a very good learning experience.
“These were good kids who made a stupid mistake,” he said. “Hopefully they learn from it and they don’t repeat it. If they were to make this mistake in college, they probably wouldn’t be coming back. Something like this could compromise a good job in the working world.”
Dakin said that while students are ever-adding to the technological gadgets that they possess, so too is the school system.
He said they invest a lot of money in technology and software to identify cheating and plagiarism.
He said the software used in the this case is known as ScanTron and identifies clear cases of cheating and compromised exams. He said they also have software that scans written work – such as essays – and identifies the probability of plagiarism.
“We work very hard to try and keep ahead technologically,” he said.