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Cheat, Cheat, Never Beat!

Jim Magay
Jim Magay

Math was always a difficult subject for me in grammar school. Whether from lack of interest or distraction – teacher’s notes to my parents usually contained the advice that, ”Jimmy could do well if he wouldn’t daydream so much!”

Thank goodness for smart kids around me during tests giving sub-rosa hints and tips to pull me through the ordeal.

I guess you’d call that cheating but it doesn’t hold a candle to what has been happening at the New England College of Optometry. The leadership of the school has developed a serious case of myopia. It failed to detect a cheating scandal on its Back Bay campus so widespread that the National Board of Examiners in Optometry has invalidated the licensure test scores for the entire Class of 2011.

The Boston Globe reported last month that, “Aberrant scores on the first part of a three-part test conducted in March caught the attention of national examiners who develop and administer the tests used by state regulators to license optometrists. In May, the North Carolina-based examiners’ group launched a full probe, including visits to the 450-student Boston campus. The investigation revealed that a ‘significant number of students’ had engaged in ‘an organized attempt to memorize confidential, copyrighted exam content in order to reproduce it for use by other students taking future administrations of the exam.’ More disturbing, the piracy scheme was undertaken ‘at the request and encouragement of a faculty member,’ according to the board of examiners.”

Wow! This serious accusation could have wide ranging repercussions. Imagine a class of students charged with memorization of a test, then passing said test to the group coming behind them, and so on. This was done via the college’s website and over 100 students were involved. Obviously it will cast a shadow over all the students who have graduated over the past few years, including the honest ones. Dr. Jack Terry, executive director of the National Board of Examiners has announced a revamped test will be given in August and all other results from 2010 will be thrown out. 

Who gains in a scheme like this? Obviously the guilty students, but it also may devolve down on the school itself. The school conceivably could benefit using the high pass rates in competing for students. One might also conclude that erroneous high scores influence faculty evaluations – though the college president Dr. Clifford Scott denies this.

Lawrence Harmon of the Boston Globe states, “Ethical values at the New England College of Optometry, which has trained about 70 percent of the region’s optometrists, are looking blurry. Dr. Clifford Scott, president of the college, said there is often ‘a fine line between a study guide and an organized plan to memorize questions.’ In this case, however, it’s pretty obvious that some of his students and one of his faculty members not only crossed that line, but stomped all over it.”

Jim Magay

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