Thursday, July 19, 2018
Education

Honor code considered at Sunlake High to curtail cheating on AP exams

Pasco County's Sunlake High School expects to adopt an honor code for students in its Advanced Placement courses in the fall.

With the concept, still in the planning stages, students would have to affirm in writing that they have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on their tests, and that they have not tolerated others' use of unapproved help.

Principal Michael Cloyd said he wants to especially make clear the third part — about looking the other way while others cheat.

"That's what some our kids lost sight of," Cloyd said.

He referred to a recent incident that prompted the action.

In that case, a student who took AP psychology last year while attending Land O'Lakes High School took a photo of the course final exam, which is shared by several schools. The student, who now attends Sunlake High, shared the exam in a group chat with about 20 Sunlake students taking the course this year, Cloyd said.

Some used it to prepare for the test, he said. Others said they never saw or used it.

"There's a whole range of folks' involvement," he said.

No names are being released.

Because the teacher had no proof whether the students cheated, he allowed them to take an alternate exam. Some did better; some did worse.

Some of the teens served in the student government. They were placed on probation and assigned additional community service.

Several were also members of the National Honor Society, which includes character as one of its key pillars. Cloyd said they were offered the option of resigning from the society or facing a faculty council, which would determine their fate.

Five appeared before the council and were dropped from the society, Cloyd said. Three of the five appealed the decision to him.

The only student to face disciplinary action under the district's academic integrity rules was the student who provided the test in the first place.

Cloyd said it was in many ways easier to deal with the students who took specific action with the test material than with the ones who just looked the other way. He said he is hopeful the adoption of an honor code will help.

"We have not emphasized enough to let people know they have to do something about it if they hear about others" who are cheating, he said.

DRESS CODE: A summer ago, two Pasco County schools won approval to temporarily implement stricter dress codes.

Hudson Elementary School required uniforms of blue or red collared shirts, and blue or khaki pants, and even went so far as to provide shirts to every student. Ridgewood High School didn't impose a uniform per se, but it tightened up on the items allowed in classes.

Ridgewood's plan ran into instant complaints from some students and parents. It generated protests, and the administration was later found to have ignored early surveys showing opposition from the start.

And now it's over.

The school has since gotten a new principal, who has informed the superintendent's office that he will not be asking to extend the pilot program. Ridgewood will return to the general school district dress code in the fall.

Hudson's effort, by contrast, proved a success. It faced a small amount of wariness from parents concerned about costs. But the administration smoothed over most worries during early presentations. It also had an opt-out clause, unlike Ridgewood's plan.

After a year, principal Dawn Scilex reported that just four families opted out, and she said the school climate has improved.

Scilex has asked that the uniforms — the first in Pasco County traditional schools — remain in place permanently.

TIME FOR THE TESTS: The final Pasco County high school graduate had barely finished crossing the stage, and already concerns popped up about the scheduling of 2018 commencements.

The issue centered on the College Board's Advanced Placement testing schedule, which begins a week later in 2018 than it did this year. That change has students potentially sitting for exams on the same dates that the district has set for graduation.

The School Board-approved 2017-18 calendar places graduations from May 17 to 20, 2018. College Board has scheduled three AP tests for May 17 and four for May 18. Rayann Mitchell, the school district's teaching and learning director, sent a memo to all principals and assistant principals saying seniors will be responsible for taking their AP tests, even if they have stopped attending classes in the run-up to their walk across the stage.

"It is important to remember that the district does not endorse a date for seniors' last day," a practice that many Pasco high schools follow, Mitchell wrote. "Seniors who are released prior to 5/18 will be expected to return to take all AP exams for courses in which they were enrolled."

She added that the district is working to revise its student progression plan to make clear that students who miss their AP exams without acceptable extenuating circumstances will have to repay the district the cost of the test. Mitchell further advised school leaders to make this rule clear, and also ensure that all test dates are listed in class syllabi, along with a notice that students are required to take them regardless of their last day of school.

After her memo went out, superintendent Kurt Browning decided to nip the problem in the bud. He consulted with principals, then announced that all graduations would take place Memorial Day weekend instead.

The new dates have been confirmed with the Sun Dome, he said.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

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