On March 18, Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology teachers Melinda Mattes and Chris Farina gave the administration a list of students who are suspects for cheating on the free response portion of a unit test.
Mattes and Farina speculated that cheating specifically through sharing the free response test occurred on the Unit Six exam two months ago. However, unable to ascertain this and unsure how to deal with the issue, Mattes and Farina pardoned the suspected dishonesty with a mere warning addressed to all AP Psychology classes.
“We chose to believe that there weren’t a lot of people involved,” Mattes said. “Sometimes students make the wrong decisions due to environmental factors and we tried to appeal to the humanity and the goodness that I still believe is in all of us”
According to Mattes, she sympathizes with the stress that many students face and as a teacher, she tries to remove some of the factors that contributes to that stress such as a different and slightly more lenient grading scale than the standard one used across most classes. However, she acknowledges that it is impossible to remove all of those stress-inducing factors.
On the Unit Eight exam, the most recent AP Psychology exam, the sharing of free response test prompts was made obvious due to an unusual correlation between multiple choice and free responses test scores. Some students who scored below average on the multiple choice section of the exam received high free response test scores, despite having a noticeably more difficult prompt.
“We don’t consider it cheating to go back and look through old free responses and we actually mention the website,” Mattes said. “What’s not okay is if [students] have a little bit of insight or information because with these, you get passed a couple key words and you Google it and get one hit.”
While the free response prompt was a College Board released prompt from an old AP test, and thus accessible on the Internet, passing the information to focus the studying was not tolerated.
According to Mattes, an evident distinction was noticed between those who cheated willfully and those who didn’t at all but merely stumbled upon the free response as part of their studying.
Mattes and Farina gave students an opportunity to step forward but a slim number did so. As a result, the administration is now involved in dealing with the consequences for these students, which are to be determined for each student depending on how meetings with the students go. However, according to Mattes, action will be taken whether it is receiving a zero on the exam or reporting the incident to colleges, out of fairness to the other students in the course.
“I was surprised and disheartened by how many [students] it was but at the same time I was affirmed at how few it was,” Mattes said.
Furthermore, Mattes believes that bystanders who witness cheating yet remain idle about the situation contribute implicitly allow cheating to persist across departments as well.
“I’m disappointed at those who have witnessed all year cheating and just sit around and roll their eyes rather than doing anything about it,” Mattes said. “The culture doesn’t come from admin or teachers. We’re part of it, but it’s the students and the community as a whole.”