Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 8 a.m. 10/9/18.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

A number of students were accused of buying the answers to a recent test in one of the Advanced Placement classes at East Greenwich High School, according to sources. 

A student found a teacher’s guide with questions and answers available online for $35, sources said. That student then offered the questions and answers to several other students via group chat and some paid a couple dollars for a copy. The exact number of students involved is not known. As AP students, they would be among the higher achieving students at the school.

Supt. Victor Mercurio said he would not discuss issues about specific student conduct but said cheating was always unacceptable. 

“Academic integrity is paramount,” he said. “Any time, for any reason, where there’s a breach of academic integrity, that’s a wake up call. Any time we see that, we have an obligation to respond.To make sure individuals are aware of the standard and why that standard is in place.”

At the beginning of each school year, high school students and parents are required to sign off on the student handbook, which includes a section on academic dishonesty. Here’s a paragraph from the district’s  Academic Integrity policy:

Students are expected to do their own work and to have a personal sense of pride in their own accomplishments. Teachers are encouraged to create a learning environment, which helps students to embrace the ideal of academic integrity as something valuable in its own right.  Plagiarism and all other forms of cheating are serious violations of trust between students and teachers and are impediments to true learning.

“Everyone’s talking about it,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous. The student said there were students filing in and out of the front office all day Monday. “In this town, there’s a lot of pressure. That’s why people do this, to stay on top,” the student said. Another student who was in the class told friends it had been very tempting especially because everyone appeared to be doing it, but that the student had declined the answers.

School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark, who chairs the district’s Health and Wellness Subcommittee, said student conduct matters are handled at the school level not by the School Committee, but with regard to cheating, she said, “if there is a widespread problem, I would find it very disappointing, and also very concerning if the pressure to excel contributed to poor decision making.”

Bob Houghtaling, the town’s drug counselor who works with students district-wide on a variety of issues, said if high-achieving students are cheating, stress levels needed to be considered.

“This is not the first time anyone has ever cheated or that a group of students got together and did something stupid,” he said. “That this became the best option among a bunch of high achieving kids, that’s a concern.”

Houghtaling said there’s more to being a success in life than test scores. 

“Social-emotional learning and developing a sense of citizenship are at least as important as accruing a bunch of facts academically,” he said.

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