DHS Admins: Cheating With ‘Widely Shared’ Exam Answers in Two Classes Means Retest for Some 10th Graders

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Cheating resulting from test answers being “widely shared” for two exams at Darien High School has led school officials to reschedule parts of the tests for all students who took them.

Principal Ellen Dunn and the English and Social Studies Department chairs announced the move in a message on Friday to parents of 10th grade students.

The message, sent early Friday evening by Dunn and English Department Chair Francis Janosco as well as Social Studies Department Chair Keith Keeler, said the cheating involved exams for both the 200 World Studies and English 10 courses.

“It has come to our attention that exam security was breached and that the answers to the multiple choice sections of both exams were widely shared within the sophomore class,” the message said.

DHS Principal Ellen Dunn 2019 graduation speech

DHS Principal Ellen Dunn at Darien High School\’s 2019 graduation ceremony.

The message did not say how students got hold of the answers or how that breach of security will be prevented from happening again.

Individual students caught cheating in the incidents will be disciplined, the officials said. But they also said they couldn’t identify all of the cheating students.

“If it were possible to identify every student who approached the exam dishonestly, it would be simple to create a targeted response to this situation, handling each violation of our academic dishonesty policy individually,” the message said. “Unfortunately, the technology used by our students today makes this impossible and limits the scope of our investigation.”

The message was addressed to “10th Grade Families,” but on Monday morning, it said, “We will be meeting with students on Monday to share this message.”

The message also said:

  • More important than the integrity of the exam, however, is the integrity and reputation of our school and its community of teachers and students. When academic dishonesty goes undetected or unchallenged, those who suffer most are the students who value honesty.

New tests will be administered at 7:40 a.m. on Feb. 10 (for the World Studies test) and Feb. 12 (for English 10).

The message also said: “I am certain that there are sophomores who were unaware of the academic dishonesty being perpetrated. I ask those students to see this decision not as a punishment but rather as a defense of their values.”

It wasn’t clear who the “I” is in that part of the statement, but Ellen Dunn, the principal, was the first person listed of the three people in the closing of the message.

The Full Text of the Announcement

This was sent at 6:31 p.m. to parents of 10th graders:

Dear 10th Grade Families,

We are writing with unfortunate news regarding the administration of the 300 World Studies and English 10 exams at Darien High School. It has come to our attention that exam security was breached and that the answers to the multiple choice sections of both exams were widely shared within the sophomore class.

Assessments are purposeful in that they celebrate the accomplishments of our students, measure mastery of content and skills, inform our teaching and curricular design and prepare our students for large scale assessments in the future. When the integrity of the assessment is compromised, none of these valued measures are reliable.

More important than the integrity of the exam, however, is the integrity and reputation of our school and its community of teachers and students. When academic dishonesty goes undetected or unchallenged, those who suffer most are the students who value honesty. Learning thrives in an environment in which students are free to express ideas, where they are challenged to think and create and in which they are valued and respected. Integrity is the foundation of this kind of learning environment.

All confirmed cases of academic dishonesty will be handled according to the policies of the Darien Public Schools and the consequences are commensurate with the violations of policy. If it were possible to identify every student who approached the exam dishonestly, it would be simple to create a targeted response to this situation, handling each violation of our academic dishonesty policy individually. Unfortunately, the technology used by our students today makes this impossible and limits the scope of our investigation.

It is our conclusion that this portion of each exam is invalidated as a result of the pervasive breach. Students who have seen the answers to the exam should not be rewarded with higher grades than those who prepared honestly for their assessments. As a result, this portion of each test will be recreated by our teachers and will be re-administered to students so that we have confidence in the authenticity of the assessment of learning. In order to complete testing within a class period, this section of each test will be shortened. We will re-administer this component of the 300 World Studies exam on Monday, February 10 at 7:40 a.m. and the 300 English exam on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7:40 a.m.. Our teachers are aware of this schedule and will adjust homework and testing during this window.

I am certain that there are sophomores who were unaware of the academic dishonesty being perpetrated. I ask those students to see this decision not as a punishment but rather as a defense of their values. We demand better from those who made the decision to violate our expectations of honesty and integrity at DHS by either participating actively or by remaining silent. This is a teachable moment because no learning environment can thrive on a foundation of mistrust.

There are many rumors surrounding this situation that are untrue and that we are unable to address in protecting the privacy of our students. Please be assured that we have considered carefully many resolutions to this situation. We believe that we teach most powerfully by our actions and that inaction in this situation is unacceptable. We will be meeting with students on Monday to share this message. We thank you for your support and welcome any concerns you have.

Sincerely,

Ellen Dunn, principal
Francis Janosco, English Department chair 6-12
Keith Keeler, Social Studies Department chair 6-12

 

This article originally was published at 2:53 p.m. The time stamp was changed for layout purposes in the newsletter.

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