Cheating. Don’t say, “Not MY child!” 

Let’s have a chat about cheating. Do Christian students, working through a Christ-centered curriculum that emphasizes godly character, like the PACES do, ever cheat?  Ummm,  yes!

First of all, what exactly do we mean by cheating? Cheating is not some big, elaborate plan whereby students buy their own scorekeys off the internet or share answers with each other via cell phone (though I suppose that may happen). Cheating is simply a student taking an answer he didn’t come up with by his own effort, or earning a grade that doesn’t reflect what he has actually learned. This happens in the ACE system most often by sloppy scoring habits, easy access to PACE and test ScoreKeys, and very little supervision or accountability.

A new school year may start with good procedures in place, plenty of accountability and supervision, and high expectations of working consistently through the curriculum. But by late in the school year a student may feel under pressure because he’s behind where he should be. Mom might be pre-occupied with the younger children and other responsibilities. The temptation to copy answers rather than dig to find them or solve to get them becomes too great to resist. There may be many different rationales that students come up with to justify their cheating, but let’s agree that it is indeed cheating and it is wrong.

I just dealt with a student who wanted to transfer into our school, but he admitted that last year while homeschooling he had gotten into the lazy habit of leaving lots of blanks in his PACES and then copying answers from test keys to make it look like he was passing the tests his mom was grading. His conscience finally bothered him so much he had to confess to his parents, and then agreed to go back and basically redo half the school year worth of work. That was a painful lesson, and I’m glad he came clean, and has grown in his character through this. But it would be better to prevent that from happening.

A few years ago a very dear and godly homeschool dad came to me for help with his daughter’s struggle with math. In digging into the problem we found that the root was her cheating in scoring. Thankfully that dad dealt seriously with the character issue – which is more important than the gaps in math understanding. We deal with cheating every year in our Christian school. It’s not uncommon, especially in the mid- to later weeks of the school year.

Here are some observations about ACE Cheating

  1. Children have a lazy and sinful nature – don’t be shocked.

    Students are always looking for ways to take short cuts. Their goal is often just “to get ‘er done” not necessarily to learn it well. They probably are not considering it “cheating” in their way of rationalizing it, but it is wrong nonetheless.

  2. Score keys should be kept under close supervision.

    I am amazed every time I find out that parents allow their children to do their PACE work with the score keys laying nearby. That is too great a temptation. They should have to come to a supervised area to use the scorekeys and then return to make corrections.

  3. Scoring should be done with a red pen – no pencils allowed.

    There’s a mental psychology that I believe takes place in the brain when a student has to actually mark an answer wrong with a red “X”, then correct it and rescore it. It is like hitting a “reset” button in the brain! There’s also good research and brain science that concludes it is better to score very soon after completing a day’s work in order to get immediate feedback and not “learn” the wrong information.

  4. Parents should periodically audit their child’s scoring.

    Double check that they are being thorough and careful. Have consequences for scoring violations. Some parents prefer to do all the scoring. That’s not a bad idea if you have time to do that, though I do suggest you gradually train your teens to be more independent and do their own scoring with you checking up regularly.

  5. PACE tests should be under lock and key along with the test keys.

    Tests and keys are “Top Secret” as those tests are your only way to confirm if your child is truly learning and mastering the content. A low score should be taken seriously as an indicator of a possible scoring problem or cheating issue.

  6. Treat cheating seriously.

    It is a character issue that needs to be dealt with. Get the principal (dad) involved right away. Here are some talking points I use when counseling students:

    • If wrong answers were not marked wrong: “You will remember the wrong answer, and then when you see it again on a PACE test you will get it wrong and might fail the test.  Be careful to check it thoroughly when you are scoring.”
    • “When you indicate that you have finished scoring a page and everything is correct, you are promising me (one hand on Bible, the other in the air) that have scored carefully and are daring me to re-check that page. If there are errors on that page that you missed, then you have in essence lied to me by saying it is all correct.”
    • When students try to excuse themselves by saying they just weren’t careful, I remind them that this is a matter of trust. The PACE program is built on being able to trust students to fulfill their responsibilities carefully. Life itself and all the various relationships of life are built on trust. It is care to detail that can erode that trust.
    • There are some Word Building or English pages with columns of singular possessive, plural, and plural possessive forms of words that some students find very hard to grade. Other challenging assignments to grade include pages of labeling and diagramming, or charts of verb conjugations. I try to be understanding of that and if I know they struggle will offer to grade that page for them.
  7. Stay connected with your student.

    As parents we dare not get too disconnected from the day to day work our teens are doing in their PACES. While they can work independently, they still need our daily supervision and accountability. Don’t let them go on “auto-pilot” – they need you in the cockpit checking up on them even though their hands are on the wheel. Remember, teens don’t do what you EXPECT – only what you INSPECT!

[Disclaimer: The student pictured above was not a cheater! She was a very sweet young lady who graduated from our school in 2016.]


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