High School AP Students Accused of Cheating

by | Oct 8, 2019

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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  1. Mary Quadrini

    Receiving information about previous (released) tests is not cheating. It is a good way to prepare for the next AP test. When I taught AP Calculus at East Greenwich I regularly used older test questions to help students prepare. This practice was recommended by the AP organizers

    • Deedee

      That’s not exactly what transpired. Read the article again. The student found out what the teacher was using for the test… bought the materials and others paid him for the info.

    • Mary Quadrini

      i have come to understand that students were not buying released AP tests . They apparently got a hold of current tests, which IS cheating. I can’t understand how they were able to get these tests

  2. Ann Flanders

    Finally a voice of reason! Thank you, Mary Quadrini. You were the very best teacher!

  3. Colleen Hanson

    This is what happens when too much emphasis is placed on a standardized test! Thank you Collegeboard!

  4. James Patti

    This is not an appropriate news story. It’s a private matter being handled by the school in accordance with the policy on academic dishonesty. It has zero “news” value other than gossip, and now we have seen it get picked up in Providence and elsewhere. I encourage EGNews and the administrator who has chosen to speak out to consider these factors going forward, as incidents like these happen all the time in any educational institution. Unfair to the students, EGHS and our town.

    • Deedee

      It is news worthy. Especially when proper and necessary punishment is not happening. There is so much wrong with what occurred and I hope there’s more investigating from outside that school going on. When students because they are in the process of making to elite schools aren’t punished because of it. Put a minority in this same situation… what would we have.

      • John FitzGerald

        So very true! I can’t agree more

    • John FitzGerald

      I believe your kind of thinking and rationalization only contributes to the unfortunate situation. These kids need to receive a zero on the test and possibly be removed from the class! Totally unacceptable!

  5. Beth Heaney

    This is not a stress issue, in my opinion. It makes you wonder how these kids got to where they are, through their own efforts studying hard or by cheating. At some point, it needs to stop. What happens when they get to college and have to pass courses and tests on their own merit? Who are they kidding?

    The real test here was whether or not they’d cheat if they had the opportunity. And they all said yes — instead of choosing to bringing the issue to the school administration. That is what is disturbing to me.

  6. Tom

    Wow…there are some bold statements made here by people who most likely don’t know the situation or the kids involved. And I am falling into this trap by posting this, but here goes.
    It never ceases to amaze me how reporters are willing to put something out there without fact checking first. I was told that this article even changed on the day it was posted. If there is a question regarding the students cheating on an actual AP exam…AP exams are held in MAY!
    It is totally irresponsible to make comments and accusations without FACTS. I simply hope that the school administration is doing its due diligence and will comment on this at some point. But until then, this article and all our comments (including mine) are conjecture.
    Mary Q, you had it right the first time you commented. I don’t know where you suddenly “came to understand” with your followup comment. Are you willing to provide the source of your knowledge? I guess I could say that I have “come to understand” that students probably did NOT get copies of THE test they actually took in class. Is that fair?
    Try Googling any test resource online – Barron’s, AP, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc….whatever. See what you find. I bet you will find links to study guides, sample questions, and yes – heaven forbid, sample tests. Mary Q – you had it right the first time…”Receiving information about previous (released) tests is not cheating. It is a good way to prepare for the next AP test.” Is there some news to state otherwise, Mary? Maybe educators need to be savvy enough to develop their own tests instead of copying directly from publications and guides that are readily available online and marketed to students legally. There are just too many holes at this point to accuse anyone of anything, in my opinion. Let’s calm down and let this play out and get the facts first.

    • Peter EG

      Tom, a couple of facts have emerged since this article was written: 1. The material that was used by the educator was not from a study guide or publication as you reference, and it is not readily available on the internet. The item in question was purchased from a company who was illegally selling copyrighted, protected files via the internet. 2. The file was sold as a testbank, not a study guide, however, some students may have purchased the file thinking it was a legitimate study guide. It is time to put this incident to rest and let the community move on to more positive contributions being made by EGHS students.

      • Tom

        This makes the most sense to me. Thank you Peter. I agree that it is time to move on.

      • Bethany Palumbo Heaney

        That makes a lot of sense, actually, and also explains why the student sold copies so inexpensively to others (if in fact that is what even happened). I reached out to the author of the Journal article after I commented, too, asking how these could be AP tests, when they are not given until May.
        The response:
        Yes but schools do interim assessments, which apparently these were.
        This makes it even more confusing, so I agree, I think the story needs to be dropped right here and let the students and administration hash it out privately.
        Those tests are brutal, but I have to say, my kids never studied from previous tests. Perhaps that is something new?


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