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EDITORIAL: Cheating at the Clark County School District

Updated June 25, 2019 - 5:02 pm

The Review-Journal has found evidence that cheating may be partially responsible for the Clark County School District’s rising graduation rate. After all the energy the district has spent touting the improvement, it’s no surprise officials don’t appear interested in investigating.

Over the past school year, the Review-Journal’s Amelia Pak-Harvey has chronicled the story of D’Andre Burnett. After police arrested him in 2016 for fighting with another student, Mr. Burnett went to South Continuation High School before switching to Shadow Ridge. With an eye on graduation, he worked throughout the year to keep his grades up.

But he ended up failing English and government and needing an additional elective course to graduate. His counselor put him into the Apex learning program, which allows students to make up credits online. Online learning may have merit, but it’s not clear Mr. Burnett was actually learning. He was frantically perusing the internet for answers to test questions just hours before the graduation ceremony he wanted to attend. There’s “little to stop students from searching for answers online,” reported Ms. Pak-Harvey

Mr. Burnett said he’s far from an outlier. “That’s what everybody does.”

This should have set off warning bells inside the district. Instead, there were only excuses.

“If the teacher is not being mindful of what’s going on, it’s the same kind of challenges you would have in a regular classroom,” said Jesse Welsh, assistant superintendent of curriculum and professional development.

That’s ridiculous. A classroom is a controlled environment — or at least it should be. Students learning at home online have much less supervision when it comes to the integrity of test results.

Incoming Superintendent Jesus Jara already has a substantial to-do list, but this needs attention. If online classes intended to help more students graduate are a farce because “everybody” uses the internet to cheat, what does it say about the district’s purported graduation rate increase?

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