Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2017

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Bill would ban cheaters from Millennium Scholarship

A bill aimed at curbing cheating in Nevada’s high schools had some unusual opponents — educators.

Nevada high school students who are caught cheating three or more times would not be eligible for the state’s Millennium Scholarship program under a bill heard in committee Wednesday.

“I understand that students can make mistakes, but I believe that the bill is fair. …This is simple and to the point,” the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, told the Assembly Education Committee.

Maybe too simple. Despite the noble concept, educational officials poked holes in the bill, noting how hard it would to administer.

“We have concerns related to the amount of time and effort which would have to be devoted to the tracking of violations,” said Brian Daw with the Clark County School District.

Cheating includes copying answers, giving answers to another student, copying assignments as original work, allowing others to research or write an assigned paper, and any other violation of the school district’s code of honor. But punishment and record-keeping vary by classroom and by the severity of the offense.

Crystal Abba from the Nevada System of Higher Education said the lack of a cheating appeals process, the difficulty in administering a cheating database and notifying more than 100,000 high school students about the proposed changes to the Millennium Scholarship would present a tremendous challenge to the state’s education system.

“It’s the mechanics of it,” said Mary Pierczynki, a lobbyist for the Nevada Association of School Superintendents.

Some Assembly members had concerns about how school districts would apply a uniform tracking system for cheating and what recourse a student falsely accused of cheating would have.

Committee chairman Assemblyman Elliott Anderson, D-Las Vegas, also noted that the bill only applies the cheating penalty to public high school students, and not private high school and home schooled students who are also eligible for the scholarship. Students currently need a minimum 3.25 GPA when they graduate high school in order to be eligible.

Other lawmakers, however, took issue with education officials saying the challenge was too great.

“Is it really that much more recordkeeping than we’re doing now and is that small amount of work not worth it to nip this problem in the bud?” said Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas. “I’m concerned about the pushback on the basis of how complex it would be or how much the workload would be.”

Munford said he’s personally seen “flagrant” and rampant cheating in schools. Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas, said the problem is so pervasive that she’s taken to devoting the first day of every semester to defining cheating and outlining its penalties in her job as a UNLV professor.

“This is something that even if it is notifying 100,000 people, it is something that we need to take very seriously,” Swank said.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, asked Munford why there should be any tolerance for cheating.

“Everyone should be given a second chance and in this case I am giving them three chances,” Munford said. “After one or two, it should finally sink in and they should realize what they have done and what is in jeopardy or what they could lose.”

The committee took no action on the bill, but like the students Munford proposes to penalize, Anderson said Munford will have a second chance to work on the bill with education officials and other legislators to add some specificity to it.

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