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' Cheating' in an open book test?

(26 Posts)
Desertdweller1 Thu 18-May-17 19:28:04

I am perplexed, and sad for my DD.

DD got an 8.9 in her last English end-of-unit assessment, which was open book. The Head of English picked up that this was significantly higher than her previous scores (her last one was an 8.7) and decided that she must therefore have cheated. DD's actual teacher does not support this view.

I do not understand how you can cheat in an open book test. What would constitute cheating in such a set up?

The school has made her redo the test today without the benefit of any books or notes, thus placing her at a disadvantage.

I appreciate this is not a public exam, just an internal assessment, but it is the principle of this incident that makes my blood boil.

I am dismayed that the school clearly has no faith in DD or indeed any of its pupils to suddenly excel and produce exceptional work.
I'm shocked that they would accuse a pupil of cheating without grounds. Likewise, the fact that she has been forced to repeat the test without any of her notes seems grossly unfair. Isn't this unreasonable and hugely discouraging for a pupil? What motivation does this provide for pupils to perform well?

Would it be unreasonable to ask the school for explanation/ justification?

GreyVelvet Thu 18-May-17 19:48:04

Was it a clean book open book test and she had notes in her book maybe?

GreyVelvet Thu 18-May-17 19:48:27

What has your DD said?

LadyFlumpalot Thu 18-May-17 19:54:24

My school did this to me. I bumbled along scoring average marks til we studied the suffragettes and it fascinated me, I worked really hard and scored 97% on the module exam. My history teacher decided I must have cheated and made me sit a new one. On which I scored 98%.

It still rankles now.

LadyFlumpalot Thu 18-May-17 19:55:54

Whoops, sorry for the all about me post, it clearly struck a nerve! Has your DD or the school clarified what they meant by open book? Some exams allow notes and pre-written bits of essays, done don't.

hellokittymania Thu 18-May-17 19:59:47

No advice but good job to your daughter on getting a higher score. Sometimes, a good score just means that you put more effort and studied harder.

Maudlinmaud Thu 18-May-17 20:00:00

Open book exams require a clean copy of the text with no additional notes. I think it was unfair to make her resit with no text.

Peanutbutterrules Fri 19-May-17 08:48:42

I'd ask for an explantion - its quite a serious charge I think.

BikeRunSki Fri 19-May-17 08:52:44

Is 8.9 really that much more than 8.7? (This is a genuine Q, my dc are primary school age and it's 30 years since I did O levels!).

Desertdweller1 Fri 19-May-17 09:38:22

Thanks for all your comments and help.
I haven't been able to ask the school about it yet. We only just found out from DD. As far as she knew, she could take her exercise book and any other notes in.
I wonder if it's more plagiarism and she's repeated things word for word.
I think we had better ask the school for an explanation as you are right, it is a serious accusation.

Ladyflumpalot, I know just what you mean about false accusations staying with you: I was wrongly accused of carving my name in a wooden desk at 8 and remember the indignation to this day!

Hello kitty mania, I too think it Could have been a lot of hard work by DD. She doesn't usually put the work in but I know for sure she did on this test. Perhaps she's only just shown the school what she is capable of (she got the best mark in a year group of 260!). Interestingly she also jumped 2 grades between the last 2 assessments and they didn't jump to conclusions then.

Bikerunski, yes it's a big difference. A .7 in the new GCSE headings is equivalent to a high B/low A I believe. A .9 is above the old A* and going to be very exceptional apparently. So I get their point.

I just don't like the assumption that your child cannot do really well and is pigeonholed in a certain band.
As you say Lady flumpalot, what if it is the first topic that has really inspired you..

We need to clarify exactly what sort of open book exam it was. It was not based on a text however, as it was s test on literary techniques. Exercise books with all the kids class and other notes were certainly allowed. Very hard to cheat in those circumstances.

Im so glad you agree that making her redo the test without her books was unfair.
Poor DD deserves a lot of hugs and reassurance that we will fight her corner.

So happy that we are sitting on another school offer!!

Witchend Fri 19-May-17 10:27:37

I wonder if it's not so much the increase in score (do you mean going from a 7 to a 9, rather than 8.7 to 8.9, which wouldn't be much difference) so much as her writing with a different style.

I remember someone at school getting pulled up for the latter and it turned out they'd seen the question and got someone else to answer it and memorised the answer word for word.
Or another possibility is that she answered something in a way that is advanced on what they've taught her.

Had another group already sat the exam-in which case they may suspect that she had all the answers written down in her notes.

Desertdweller1 Fri 19-May-17 10:55:38

Witchend, yes, sorry for being unintentionally misleading.
DD's school's grading system uses a numbered system, with the first number being the year (Y8 in this case) and the second the grading in the new numbered GCSE scale.
So yes the grade has gone from a 7 to a 9- a big jump admittedly. Though as I said, DD made the same jump in the last assessment too, so maybe she's just coming into her own.

Your suggestions are a possibility. It is obvious in style terms when sentences have been lifted.
I do not know about timing of the tests and whether other groups had already sat it, but again it's theoretically possible.

However, wouldn't her English teacher know her work and style best, and she says she sees no problem with it. So maybe she believes DD to be capable of working at this level. She did get a glowing report in English at parents' evening last week (teacher told me she had the highest reading age they could allocate).
It is the HOD that has come to the conclusion that this score is not possible. To put in context, scores went down to 2s in her group - it was considered a very hard test.

I guess until we have clarification from the school on what the exact issue is we are just guessing!

Witchend Fri 19-May-17 12:33:28

A 9 in year 8 is amazing, particularly in something like English and I wonder whether this is actually them seeing if this is a one off or whether she needs extra support as she is so far ahead of the others.

Could it be that rather and they have put it clumsily to her?

I think the questions I'd ask her are:
Had other classes done the test before? If so had they talked about it.
Had she come across that test or a similar one on-line?
Was the test as she expected?
Did she find the test hard?
What did other people get in the test?
Did anyone else get a 9?
If not how many got 8s?
Did other people improve from previous tests, and if so how much?

If no one else got above a 7 then it might well be trying to work out if they need to give extra work.
If others have generally gone down and she's gone up a lot, I can see that raising question marks. If others have gone up 2 levels as well, but not standing out because they started lower then it's probably just a test they've been taught well towards.

Desertdweller1 Fri 19-May-17 13:45:27

Witchend, it was considered a hard test. Lots of terminology. Generally speaking I think the results reflected that. So you are right: her mark went up whilst generally speaking the results went down, hence it stood out. It is possible it's just something that clicked for her. The main thing we need to know is what constitutes cheating i.e. What materials are they (not)allowed to take in. If it can be anything, as DD has asserted, then it is not possible to cheat.

I will ask her some of your questions later. At present she doesn't want to talk about it.

I wouldn't have thought (sadly) they're actually checking To see if we have a genius on our hands. The school doesn't use a flight path (is that the right term?) system, so they're not expected to start at 2 and go up the scale. An 8 in Y8 would equate to an 8 at GCSE.

OdinsLoveChild Fri 19-May-17 15:09:56

They shouldn't be giving 9's anyway because grade boundaries are unknown at the moment. They're doing this in DD's school too. I have and to sit my DD down to say 'I know they gave you 9's in your tests (also year 8) but please do not think this means you will be getting a 9 at GCSE'. hmm

Anyway back to your DD, I would think that either her writing style had changed from standard class work and so it looks different as though another person has written it or they mistakenly said she could take notes in with her but they actually didn't allow notes. My DD has just don't an exam style assessment for English also yr8 and they did not allow written notes at all as the new GCSE exams do not permit notes.

I think you need clarification from the school really.

Also if her work did improve from a 7 to a 9 in theory she could have been almost an 8 initially and achieved only just over the 9 grade boundary. That would only be a little over 1 grade increase and definitely not unusual and not to be concerned over. However had she only just scraped a 7 before and has now absolutely smashed the grade 9 boundary I can see why they would be concerned but I wouldn't have thought it enough to do a resit. Any child who wasn't being stretched in class and has just been plodding along would possibly come back with a similar grade increase. The exams stretch them and they find it stimulating and put more effort into it hence the better grades.

Desertdweller1 Fri 19-May-17 15:28:52

Agree OdinsLovechild, they shouldn't be handing out 9s except in exceptional circumstances. Actually DD has just had one for a maths test too, but that's slightly different (i.e. right or wrong). Believe me, we've not seen them before and school isn't giving out many, quite rightly. Neither DD nor us would be misled into thinking she was actually going to get 9s in GCSEs. I know schools have been told not to predict 9s.

She is not stretched at school (is very fast and seems to be able to finish homework in class time etc), yet isn't doing that well. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. She has been moved down sets.
So yes it's possible that she was challenged and rose to the challenge.

But we absolutely need to find out from school what is permitted in such tests and what isn't, and what the basis of their allegation is.
That will have to wait until the beginning of the week unfortunately.
DD still says they are allowed tobring anything in and that unfortunately there are no written rules we can check against. It's possible she misunderstood, but if so why did the teacher not see an issue with her grade?!

AlexanderHamilton Fri 19-May-17 15:46:48

Hmm - the system seems a bit flawed to me. Ds's school uses similar headings under the Ignite English Scheme of work but it's not related to gcse grades. An 8.5 would be slap bang in the middle of where they would expect a Year 8 child to be at. 8.9 would be almost at Year 9 level & 8.1 would be virtually at Year 7 level (the weakest & brightest students can get 7.9 or 9.1 as well.

Desertdweller1 Fri 19-May-17 19:43:58

In what way do you consider their system flawed Alexander?
I recall the deputy head, who designed the school's system saying he thought the flight path method was flawed as children don't make steady linear progress.
I don't know enough about it to comment.

AlexanderHamilton Fri 19-May-17 22:05:08

I don't know what you mean about flight path but I don't think using gcse grades in KS3 is helpful or relevant as it doesn't really relate to actual gcse work.

Cinderford Sat 20-May-17 12:07:04

As OdinsLoveChild has said, the school shouldn't be giving out new-style grades because nobody knows where the grade boundaries are until August. My department has steadfastly refused to predict grades for the current Y11s, explaining to parents that it would be the equivalent of crystal ball gazing. They were OK with that after we had repeated it a few times, and the SMT even backed us up!

On a different point, I don't understand why your DD's school is doing open book English exams. They are all closed book now, and my Y11s belatedly realised earlier this week that they actually had to learn the selected quotations I had given them several months ago.

I realise it's very upsetting to have your child accused of cheating, and hope you get to the bottom of this.

Desertdweller1 Sat 20-May-17 13:50:12

Well regardless of whether they should or not, they are certainly using those gradings, and have been for all the time DD's been there or 2 years. I think the school is an 'early adopter'! This is not the only example of it adopting changes before the changes have been enforced iyswim. Anyway, Im not sure it's really relevant to this discussion, which is about open book tests.

I don't know why the school is doing open book if the system has changed to closed book, but maybe in Y8 it doesn't really matter and is still done? Though obviously the school will have to get pupils used to doing the exams without their books.

Cinderford are you an English teacher or HOD then?
If so, do you consider this situation odd? If the kids are allowed their notes in the test, DD did surprisingly well, teacher sees nothing suspicious but HOD overrules her, thinks she may have cheated and asks for a resit without notes.
To me there are so many things wrong with this.

She has already done the resit btw, all without our knowledge.
If a school wants to accuse a child of cheating shouldn't they really inform the parents?
It's just farcical.

OdinsLoveChild Sat 20-May-17 14:15:49

I think you should have been informed if they do suspect her of cheating.
Have you spoken with the school yet?

Cinderford Sat 20-May-17 14:44:30

Hello Desert. Yes, I'm an English teacher and a HOD.

I personally think that your DD's school has overreacted. She's in Y8, and it's not GCSE coursework not that that exists any more. Children are unpredictable; sometimes they find things easy that you expected them to struggle with. Sometimes they struggle with a concept that is so obvious to you that you can't find simple enough words to communicate the idea. Sometimes they will come up with twenty A4 pages on a subject, simply because it's a special interest of theirs. This all makes me very sceptical of 'flight paths', because children are not aeroplanes grin.

If this had happened in my department, I expect we would have sat around discussing it and simply decided to keep a close eye on what happened in the next test. If we felt the child must resit the test, we would have contacted home first. However, I work in a small indy with a very caring ethos; other schools will vary in their approach - as you've found.

Desertdweller1 Sat 20-May-17 15:02:07

So do I Odinslovechild.

Cinderford, that sounds like a sensible approach. Quite the opposite of what we've come across at DD's school.
Mind you it is a large comp with 260 in the year. Very different to a small Indy! It's not the first crazy decision (in our view) they've made. I have no idea who the head of English is but will now make it my job to find out!
What isn't a good sign is the fact that teacher and HOD disagree and have informed the child of this. Shouldn't a department present a concerted front and the HOD not enforce his view if there is disagreement. Maybe it needed broader discussion.

No I haven't been able to talk to the school yet. It's been closed since she told us what had happened.
I will be emailing tonight. However, I'm not going to go in all guns blazing just in case DD has totally got the wrong end of the stick or there is more to it than we know.

Desertdweller1 Sat 20-May-17 15:06:13

And with regards to the school's GCSE based grading system, I appreciate the grade boundaries are as yet unknown. The school's approach is to adjust the parameters as they know more. It's in a state of evolution. As a result we've been told not to take it too seriously (in answer to my probing).

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