Middleton High School officials are investigating claims of cheating, including allegations of students sharing and selling photographs of test questions.
Nearly 250 seniors at Middleton High School were told to retake a calculus test this week after the school learned last week of suspected cheating among its test takers, a spokesman said.
The scope of the investigation widened after the school received four letters from parents and students indicating such cheating had occurred before and in other subjects.
In a letter to parents Thursday, principal Denise Herrmann and associate principal Lisa Jondle said during the course of their investigation into alleged sharing of photos of calculus test questions, they received letters from students and parents “which provided additional information to the scope and severity of cheating on tests in courses across the curriculum,” prompting the school to notify all parents of the allegations.
Herrmann and Jondle asked parents for their support “in talking with your students about the ramifications of engaging in some of the dishonest assessment practices reported to us.”
The letter said the school had been notified that students were:
• using cell phones to photograph tests
• taking copies of tests from classrooms
• sharing and selling photographs of test questions
• bartering questions on tests from one subject area to another
• planning absences on test days to obtain test information from students who took the test.
Aside from requiring all calculus students to retake a test, no students have been disciplined, said Middleton-Cross Plains School District spokesman Perry Hibner. The letter to parents said student discipline could include suspensions.
Hibner said that after being told students were cheating during their lunch hour, school officials reviewed video footage that found a number of students at more than one table huddled together, but nothing proving they were looking at photos of test questions.
Hibner said the district has not yet found any evidence proving any of the claims. He said the district has not received any specific claims about cheating in other classes, but it was implied in other classes by parents and students.
“The focus of our investigation is calculus; however, we won’t limit our scope just to that,” he said.
The high school will host a series of focus groups early next year, the letter to parents said, to “determine the root cause of talented students choosing to participate in dishonest academic practices.”
Hibner also said the allegations have prompted the school to revisit its policies on test-taking and cellphone use.
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she is confident in the district’s investigation and that the board would likely not seek any outside investigation into the allegations.
“The administration has kept us very much apprised of the situation,” she said. “Knowing Dr. Herrmann and knowing Dr. (Superintendent Don) Johnson, this is not going to be a trifle. ... Our kids do very well, and this is one of the higher-level classes that we offer at Middleton. We certainly want to keep the record clean.”
Anjie Harris-Ostrem, a parent of a junior currently taking pre-calculus at Middleton High, said ubiquitous cellphone use among teenagers will always make cheating an issue. Harris-Ostrem received emails about the possible cheating, but her son is not enrolled in the calculus class at the center of the investigation.
“It’s not surprising,” she said. “Cheating has always been a problem; it’s nothing new, but now you’re dealing with electronics.”
Harris-Ostrem said she expects the school will come up with a strategy to combat technology-enhanced cheating.
“I’m sure they don’t want this to happen again,” she said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being an academic school.”