The Pressure to Perform by Xochi Hopwood

november 27, 2018

Standards for students to achieve their sweet, sweet acceptance letter from their dream college seems to be ever-growing. How does a student know what they are doing is enough? After all, while one student is joining clubs to stand out, the person next to them is starting a club—no, they are actually starting a non profit organization to help the homeless—good luck getting into college now! Of course, there is the typical formula to building an impressive high school transcript: multiple APs, an “A” average, excellent SAT scores, multiple extracurriculars, and don’t forget the killer college essay! Seems like quite a lot, doesn’t it? In a society that prizes a seemingly unattainable level of success, students often turn to the only way for them to truly do it all: cheating. Academic dishonesty is no longer “in” for just the students that don’t want to do the work, but those that are crumbling under the pressure to obtain such a standardized level of success.

An anonymous survey was taken asking 56 high school students at BCA about their academic honesty record, and 35.7% reported to have cheated on a test before and 57% admitted to copying a homework assignment. Beyond that, the students were asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 the pressure they felt to do well in school. Those that put lower numbers, indicating a lower pressure to do well in school, were often not the ones that also disclosed to having committed academic dishonesty. In fact, 80% of the students that circled ‘yes’ to cheating on a test had also been the ones that put a 4 or 5 regarding the pressure they felt in school. Similarly, 87.5% of students who had copied homework claimed to have a 4 or 5 stress level. So while it is certainly a personal choice to copy a homework assignment or cheat on a test it is also… not. More than ever, high school graduates are moving on to college and therefore increasing the competition among applicant pools. With that said, it only can make sense that with an increase in competition there is a greater amount of pressure to stand out. Therefore, the motive for cheating has changed due to the pressure displayed in schools and from colleges. At the end of the day though, as seen in the survey, many students are participating in academic dishonesty to perform at the rising standard that is given by colleges and passed down into our high school.

In an article published by the Providence Journal, they described a problem that BCA students now face— an issue which students just five minutes away from BCA have been encountering as well. A survey was taken at Barrington High School, and the results from their survey reflected an even stronger connection between stress and cheating. Their solution to this increasing issue relied on a program called Challenge Success, a program based in Stanford University which focuses on helping schools rely less on factors such as grades or test scores, and put this energy into building many critical yet forgotten skills such as motivation and resilience. At the end of the day, this dilemma will not be one to disappear overnight, as many aspects of education center around standardized testing and grading. With that said, a school such as BCA is certainly unlike the ones around it, as within my first quarter of being here I witnessed more questions and interests being raised within the classes than any other high school I attended (and if you count BCA, then that would be three). However, numbers are one of the few things that can’t lie, and the responses that were revealed by BCA students show that this school is not an exception to the widespread issue of academic dishonesty displayed in even the most motivated of students.