Suing to get a better high school transcript after cheating incident

2 May

This blog post is about cheating and whether given enough time and resources, one can escape consequences. Campus Explorer discusses the importance of a high school transcript in, What Is a High School Transcript and Why Is It Important?

When planning for college, your high school transcript is paramount. With this transcript you can show admissions counselors how hard you work, what areas you excel in and which major or type of degree might be best for you.

When he obtains your transcript, the college admissions officer will look at:

  1. Your grade point average (GPA) and class rank. Be aware that some schools only consider core classes (like English, math, science and social studies) when calculating your GPA (What is a GPA?), while others look at grades for all of your classes.
  2. The types of classes you enrolled in. AP/IB classes will show that you are serious about planning for college, while a course load of non-academic classes will not impress them very much.
  3. How consistent your GPA was. When schools are looking for desirable candidates, they want to see that you are willing to work hard, and maintaining a high grade point average shows that. Rocky start? Keep at it. Schools also like to see GPA improvement.
  4. The number of pass/fail classes you took. Earning a passing grade in these classes is often considered a D by colleges. Avoid pass/fail classes so they don’t impact your cumulative GPA.
  5. Your behavior record, if included. It would only be a factor if there were any negative reports, such as suspensions or other disciplinary actions….

To determine how you’re being evaluated for college programs and degrees, ask your guidance counselor about your transcript:

  • How often you’re evaluated: every quarter, trimester or semester?
  • Does the transcript only include courses you completed, or are dropped/incomplete courses also on the record?
  • How does the school rank students? High school academic rankings compare your cumulative GPA (your average GPA for each semester of high school) against your classmates’ scores. Common ranking types include: X out of Y (for example, 208th out of 600, with 1 as the highest-ranked student), percentage (90th percentile), ratio (top fifth of graduating class)
  • Is GPA weighted, with AP/IB classes worth more? (This means GPAs higher than 4.0 are possible, which affects where your score falls in the rankings.)
  • Does the transcript include a profile with records like attendance, community service, a list of honors, and AP classes, etc.?
  • Does it include a school profile? This is a demographic record of student population, AP/IB classes offered and other pertinent information that is usually required by college admissions officers.

A transcript is an important item in the quest to get into competitive colleges.

Sharon Noguchi and Bonnie Eslinger write in the San Mateo County Times article, Parents who sued school over son’s punishment for cheating receive hate messages:

Jack Berghouse doesn’t dispute that his son, a sophomore at Sequoia High School, copied someone else’s homework. But the Redwood City father believes the school district was wrong to kick his teenager out of an English honors class for the offense, and his decision to sue has embroiled the family in a public, opinionated debate.

“I’m getting a lot of hate calls at my office,” said Berghouse, who practices family law. “I had no freaking idea this would happen.”

Berghouse’s son and three other students were removed from a sophomore honors English class at Sequoia in Redwood City for copying and sharing homework. In response, Berghouse filed a suit last week in San Mateo County Superior Court, claiming his son’s due process rights were violated. It names as defendants the Sequoia Union High School District, Superintendent James Lianides and Sequoia High School Principal Bonnie Hansen.

The suit, which seeks to force the school to readmit Berghouse’s son to the honors class, drew immediate criticism.

“I’m outraged that the parents would go to that extreme,” said Diana Guinard, a Novato mother of four teenagers. “I expect the teachers to hold the kids accountable. Anything less would destroy the lessons I teach at home.”

And in an informal online reader poll by this newspaper, 84 percent of about 300 respondents said students should not get a second chance when caught cheating….

Berghouse’s son, who is not being named because he is a minor, had signed an “Academic Honesty Pledge” at the beginning of the school year that declares cheating is grounds for immediate removal from the advanced-level program; his mother also had signed it.

However, Berghouse said, the school has conflicting policies; there is one stating that a student will be removed from class only after a second plagiarism offense.

In his son’s case, the students had to write in journals for homework. In March, two of the students were caught with copied entries from two others. Afterward, Berghouse’s son posted a Facebook entry protesting the “tyranny” and injustice of the punishment. As a result, he was called into the school office.

All four students involved in the incident were transferred to regular English classes. Berghouse believes the punishment is disproportionate to the offense and will jeopardize the academic future of his son, who he said has a chance at attending an Ivy League school.

With the stakes and pressure high for students to get into selective colleges, children’s grades and courses have become paramount for many parents.

“There is the possibility this will cause permanent harm. What university will it keep him out of? Will that have far-ranging consequences in what kind of job he can get?” Berghouse said….

The sophomore was enrolled in the International College Advancement Program, or ICAP, designed by the high school to prepare students for the demanding International Baccalaureate curriculum offered to juniors and seniors.                                                                                

According to the article, the students knew what they were doing was wrong.

Caroline Knorr has some excellent advice in the Common Sense Media article, Caught Cheating: New Ways Kids Are Breaking the Rules

How to Talk to Kids About Cheating

1. Is it a shortcut or a cheat? A kid who knowingly tries to pass off someone else’s work as his own is cheating. If he takes a shortcut — say, doing research on Wikipedia rather than at the library — that’s an error in judgment about the trustworthiness of Wikipedia’s material. In this case, kids should understand that Wikipedia isn’t the same as an original source.

2. Is it a “cheat” or a gimme? The term “cheat” has become a part of the culture. Game developers plant “cheats” in their games to reward kids who are savvy enough to find out the cheat codes. But “cheat” in this case isn’t really accurate. Games are intentionally designed with these built-in rewards to add an extra challenge. Kids should understand the distinction — game cheats are a ploy, but there’s no secret code that unlocks your homework.

3. Is it collaborating or cheating? Texting the answers to someone taking a test is cheating, and your child’s school surely has a policy against it. But other forms of communication — like collaborating via IM on Facebook with friends — might actually be OK because they help kids work out problems together. As long as the teacher approves and your kids understand the ground rules around not stealing others’ answers or giving away their own, a little IMing during homework time — for help, not full-scale answer delivery — is probably OK.

4. What technology is OK to use for school? Don’t let the technology — or the anonymity — of some of these methods get in the way of talking about cheating. Cheating means taking credit for something you didn’t do or giving your own answers away. Where and how it’s done doesn’t matter. Follow your school’s policy on the use of digital devices.

5. How did you feel when you did it? That sinking feeling my friend had when her Facebook friends solved the word problems? That was her conscience. Kids have a sense of right and wrong, but they need a lot of reminders to do the right thing. One ally you have is kids’ desire to make their own choices. In this case, the choice is literally in their hands. They can create an honest, open Internet and mobile world, or they can create one in which they’ll always have to be suspicious of what they find and who they know.

Remember the Goldman Sucks weasels started small.


Verifying identity for online courses                                                                        

Accountability in virtual schools                                                         

Cheating in schools goes high-tech                                              

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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