The Teenage Conundrum: When Creativity and Poor Decision-Making Converge

Teenagers are a puzzlement to me.  One moment I am amazed by their inspired cleverness with all manner of technology, the next I am left shaking my head by decision-making that is questionable at best, knuckleheaded at worst.

I know, I shouldn’t be surprised—creativity AND poor decision-making are classic hallmarks of adolescence.  Though I recognize this fact, I am still caught off guard.

Let me share some examples of what I mean.

Last year, 242 schools in California were flagged for cheating concerns when students shared images of sensitive test content on social media sites.  Of course, all phones and recording devices are banned from test centers, but enterprising kids possessing incredible prowess with their smart phones and other gizmos were able to surreptitiously record images anyway.  That’s not something I could pull off– my fumbling digits would be an easy spot for any proctor.

Once these students had harvested test items, what was their next move?  Post them on Instagram! Let the world know they’ve broken every test security protocol at school, and that each is a cheat!!  And, in doing so, force the state department of education to invalidate scores from their schools.

The California situation isn’t unique.  A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a journalist after a story broke that hundreds of fourth, eighth, and tenth graders were sharing information about (and posting images of) the state assessment in his home state.  Apparently, even parents were getting in on the act!  All this, despite every student signing an honor code called the “testing rules acknowledgement” that clearly conveys that “any type of electronic communication, such as texting, emailing, or posting online, for example, on websites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram,” is expressly forbidden.

The teenage conundrum really hit home this week when yet another state department of education informed us that a state assessment test booklet went missing in a school the previous Monday.  The booklet was lost until the following Thursday, after a teacher found a Tweet by a student which was an image of the test booklet.  The principal confronted the student, who turned in the purloined booklet.  Busted!

I implore all teens–please use better judgment than this!  And, remember the lessons your parents have strived so hard to impart—Work hard. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat.  You’re a smart kid, and believe it or not, you don’t have to cheat to get ahead.  Next, while the little corner of the Social Media world you share with your friends seems cozy and private, it’s not.  Not by a long shot.  The messages and images you post are “out there” for the whole world to see.

High-stakes test programs in education (and in other areas of testing, including admissions, certification & licensure, etc) invest millions in developing and administering their exams.  More and more, these testing programs are now incorporating web monitoring services like Caveon Web Patrol™ to protect those investments.  So, if students are sharing test content online, chances are they WILL be caught, and suffer the consequences.

Steve Addicott

Vice President of Sales, Caveon Test Security

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