Academic Pressure Contributes to Plagiarism

This past November, both AP Lit and AP U.S. History classes experienced instances of cheating


“This is a highly competitive environment. Everyone is GPA-oriented and grade-oriented. The fear of failure is so entrenched that it permeates a lot of what students do,” English teacher Kimberly Buckley said.

Ms. Buckley felt disheartened this past November when a handful were caught plagiarizing an at-home essay. Another incident of cheating occured in Hamilton Hernandez’s AP U.S. History (APUSH) class around the same time.

In a school like ELHS, academic pressures can drive students to strive for high grades. Stress and pressure impel numerous students to resort to drastic measures to secure their spot on the totem pole of perceived intelligence.

“These other resources, they are preying on you, preying on your insecurities, preying on your fear that you are not good enough,” Ms. Buckley said. In AP Literature, Ms. Buckley catches plagiarism a handful of times a year. According to the ELHS handbook, plagiarism is considered “the stealing of another’s ideas, design, words, writing,
or academic work, and implying that it is original.”

Ms. Buckley clearly states at the beginning of each year that there will be absolutely no consulting outside sources.

She understands that it’s “just so easy” to open a Google tab and look something up, but her main goal is to remove that temptation as much as possible and allow her students to practice for their $97 AP Exam, where no one will have access to outside resources.

Ms. Buckley had hoped to make a welcoming, safe space for her students to feel confident asking questions and bringing any confusion to the classroom.

Many teachers handle these situations on a case by case basis including Ms. Buckley, who chose to allow students who plagiarized the essay to receive an F over a zero.

She recognized that the plagiarized essay was a first offense for those students and didn’t want to ruin their chances of a decent grade in the class.

“At first, I felt really upset. I didn’t know what was going to happen and all the work that we spent weeks doing was for nothing. Then, I heard she was going to count it as a smaller assignment, so that made me feel a little bit better,” junior Priti Chaddha said. Chaddha was among the students who had not cheated on the assignment in AP Lit, yet faced the effects in the class due to someone else’s choice.

Ms. Buckley has decided to now move to exclusively in-class essays to ensure all students are being fairly graded and are all working to the best of their ability.

“There’s a pressure kids put on themselves to excel and then compare themselves to other kids that are excelling,” Mr. Hernandez said.

During a test while he was out on paternity leave, Mr. Hernandez suspected cheating. After seeing the test scores, he realized that some students had gotten much higher grades than their average, considering most students get a C for the first exam.

One student in the class, who chose to remain anonymous, reported that multiple students worked together on the test and some even took photos of themselves using outside resources and looking up answers on their phones.

Plagiarism often starts in high school, from searching answers or copying a friend’s homework, but can sometimes progress to copy and pasting essays, which can lead to extreme consequences in college and work environments.
Plagiarism is ultimately more harmful than helpful in the long-run.

“If you feel that you have to plagiarize in order to be successful, then we are doing something wrong, same at the college level, meaning that you’re not appropriately placed,” school counselor Elizabeth Maiese said.

All the counselors make sure to have these types of conversations with their students so they understand the importance of being in the right level over being incapable of doing work on their own.

At UConn, when plagiarism is detected, administrators “notify the student, in writing, of the allegation and informs them of their rights to contest the allegataion and to an Academic Integrity Hearing.” According to the UConn website, consequences include receiving and “I” (incomplete) in the course, suspension, or expulsion.