Cheating at Stuyvesant: Is it a Sign of the Times?

Many of the callers to WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show who shared their views on the cheating scandal at Stuyvesant High School said they were not surprised by the fact of cheating, and they thought the pressure to score well on tests fostered a short-cut approach to learning.

The fallout at one of the city's most rigorous schools continues, with a total of 66 students being suspended for using cell phones to share answers on exams in June. For a dozen of the students the suspensions start today. Suspension details for the other 54 will be set after the principal meets with affected parents and students.

Principal Jie Zhang is seeking student input on a new Honor Code, and has asked students and their families to sign an Academic Honesty Policy.

One caller to WNYC, a college student from Bayside, recounted cheating at a specialized high school he declined to name where, he said, students sold each other homework.

"If we had suspended everyone involved in the cheating I think the entire junior grade would have been affected," he said, adding that boring homework assignments completed online only made it easier for students to cheat.

A Stuyvesant alumna named Santa, who grew up in the South Bronx and now lives in New Jersey, said she thinks parents are too focused now on test preparation at the expense of real learning. "Kids can appear to be able to do the work and then they get into the school and they can't," she said.

A former PA President at Stuyvesant, Renee Levine, agreed with Santa. "I think there is some validity to the theory that all the prep courses for the test does admit a number of students who have difficulties once admitted," she said in an online comment. She also decried the " man bites dog" aspect to media coverage involving Stuyvesant.

"If something wonderful happens at Stuy it is difficult to get any coverage. On the other hand, any hint of anything slightly untoward leaps into the news," she said.

A 2004 graduate named Sam said in his day it was common to witness "academic dishonesty" on an almost daily basis.

"By and large, the students who were cheating were good kids and it was not their own character flaw that made them cheat," he wrote. "Instead, cheating was symptomatic of the school's hyper-competitive culture and misguided focus on college admissions. Cheating will continue to be a way of life at Stuy until its culture changes."

Information on the city's discipline code can be found here.