The Record

Testing center reorganizes, changes policies

Megha Nelivigi

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Over the past few months, a series of new policies have been put in place in the testing center, Psychologist Dr. Ian Pervil said. Most of these policies are to simply reinforce or clarify ones that already existed, he said. However, many students report instances of academic dishonesty continuing in the center.

After noticing that a large number of students were using the testing center towards the end of first trimester – approximately 150 students were there during one day of the week – it was brought to the attention of Pervil and Test Center Coordinator Jesse Shaw that they needed to rethink how to keep students organized in the testing center, Pervil said.

The first policy, a more organizational one, is that students and teachers must arrange the exact time when the student will be taking the test 24 hours in advance, he said. This helps Shaw make a plan of how he will manage the number of students arriving the next day. Another aspect of this policy is that students must arrive at the testing center at the agreed upon time or else their teacher will get notified, Pervil said.

These policies are not punitive, he said, but simply a matter of organization and practicality.

The second new policy requires students to place their phones into a basket at the front of the room before they begin an assessment. This is something the testing center had never explicitly said, so it felt like an obvious decision, Pervil said.

This change isn’t a response to cheating, he said. It has nothing to do with any previous instances of cheating, but is rather an effort to diminish any opportunity a student might have to cheat. Rather than being a reaction to cheating, it is precautionary, Pervil said.

Shaw may also ask students to sit towards the front of the room, Pervil said, but this is more about practicality and managing a large volume of students.

These policies have not had much of an effect on her test taking, Kate Golub (11), who frequently tests in the testing center, said. One of the only changes she has noticed is that when it is more crowded, she may have to sit in a different seat than the one she is normally accustomed to.

Despite the fact that most of the changes made had were unrelated to cheating, a number of students have reported seeing cheating occur in the testing center. Some students reported seeing their peers on their phones in the testing center, often sitting towards the back of the room or towards the side, out of sight of Shaw, whose desk was previously located closer to one side of the room.
Recently, Shaw’s desk has been moved towards the center of the room, where he can better see every desk.

Other students have witnessed students in the testing center typing formulas or notes into their calculators before an assessment to help them during math or science tests. One student witnessed another student writing answers on their legs before a test, written on the sides of their legs so Shaw could not see.

Additionally, several students claimed that the time limits on assessments in the testing center are not always as strictly enforced as they are in the classroom.

In response to students’ claims about cheating in the testing center, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly said, “We created an official testing center — at considerable cost to the School — because of allegations of cheating under the former, less formal and more inconsistent practice of making up tests in the library or outside of an office or classroom. If the School’s UD Honor Code is being violated in the testing center, there will be swift and immediate changes to how the Center operates.”

Teachers also focus on how to prevent cheating during assessments taken in the classroom. English teacher Deborah Stanford’s approach to avoiding cheating on in-class essays is not allowing computers at all. Stanford’s students must hand write their essays in blue books, and although she prefers handwritten assignments for many other reasons, this is a large part of her preference, Stanford said.

To combat cheating during in-class essays, some history and English teachers have begun using DigiExam, History Department Chair Dr. Daniel Link said. According to the DigiExam website, the program shuts off internet and locks down the computer during an exam to prevent students from leaving the page.

“DigiExam reinforces that the school takes the Honor Code seriously and expects the students to do so as well,” Link said. “It allows both students and teachers to be assured that academic integrity will be upheld in the essays students write. I haven’t seen a downside to it at this point.”

The testing center now uses DigiExam if teachers request it. There are a number of other Testing Center policies already in place to combat potential instances of academic dishonesty, including desks that prevent students from seeing each other’s work, a requirement for students to leave their belongings at the front of the room, and allowing teachers to split assessments into separate parts so students with accommodations cannot work on questions between periods.

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Testing center reorganizes, changes policies