New School Policy Forbids Teachers From Failing Students Caught Cheating

Caught cheating? In my days, that's an automatic fail.

But not anymore, at least not in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada! Teachers there are forbidden to fail a student caught cheating:

The school board had defended the policy change, on grounds that cheating students could still be disciplined — including a suspension from school — and that a failing grade did not resolve whether the student had actually learned an assignment.

But critics said the policy helped coddle students, and gave a signal that cheating does not have serious consequences.


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Students are not allowed to be given fail-marks at my school. They also can't get detention, be suspended or expelled.
As such, I get students in the 6th grade who can't (or won't) write down the alphabet from a to z.

Some of my students also don't seem to realise that they live in a country with middle school entrance exams. Oh well, I tried to warn them.
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I think the problem with failing somebody for cheating is that of evidence. How do you prove conclusively that somebody was cheating? What is the evidential requirement?

When I was at college a male student was accused of cheating because much of an assignment was identical to that of a female student. He received a failing grade even though the only "evidence" the college had was that his essay was handed in later than hers. He continued to deny having cheated and threatened the college with legal action. Finally the female student admitted responsibility, although she claimed that she had paid the male student's flatmate to write her assignment and that he must have copied the essay. The flatmate was not a student of the same college and so could not be punished by the college.
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@Jim - Great ideas. I had a teacher that issued tests on colored paper. The questions on each test were the same, just in a different order. Years later, I learned the tests were all the same. He just used the colors to discourage cheating.
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Classic tale from this retired biology teacher of 32 years. Once I got two homework papers from the same student in different handwriting. Yes, as amazing as it seems the cheater even wrote the cheatee's name on his paper. It didn't require Lt. Columbo to figure out who copied. I stapled the two papers together and told them they would each get 1/2 of the grade for the work. Once I gave a multiple choice test and I graded them without putting any marks on the papers. The nexy class day, I handed them back and told them to grade their papers after I gave them the answers. Several students "adjusted" their grades, even a couple honor roll kids. One of them apologized to me in tears, lesson learned the hard way about cheating. I did several other tricks of the trade to discourage cheating. Word got out quickly that it did not pay to cheat in my class.
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As usual with "news" articles, this one treats a 16-page booklet of regulations, focuses on one single point of it, and then misrepresents that.

If you read the source material (here:, it seems that the point is to emphasize the evolution of the students as a whole, in a context, not solely based on exam results.

The rule on cheating states that if a student is caught attempting to cheat, he will not be graded on that assessment.
Then it goes on to say that "Cheating is a serious offense and should be addressed through the normal disciplinary procedures of the school", and that "cheating on public examinations shall be dealt with according to Department of Education Policy" (i.e. disqualification from all examinations).

Now that might still be open to debate, but at least it's good to get the facts before reaching conclusions. (And it's increasingly apparent that we can't rely on journalists to provide them)
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