Testing center change aims to stop cheating

Haley Sandlow, Opinions Editor

In a staged photo, a student uses her phone to look up formulas for a math test. A change was made to the testing center requiring students to lock their phones using Yondr.
Photo illustration by Sarah Boeke

One day, a few months into the school year, Kevin McCaffrey, instructional assistant to the dean’s office, sat at his desk in the testing center, where multiple students were taking tests. A teacher, who had just dropped off exams to the testing center, was leaving through the southern door when she noticed a boy sitting in the row of desks against the wall, furthest from McCaffrey’s desk. Before starting his test, the boy had claimed his phone was in his bag. But the teacher saw the student using his phone, while trying to hide it.

This occurrence, and a similar instance earlier in the year, contributed to McCaffrey’s decision in December to ask students to place their phones in Yondr pouches whenever they take tests in the testing center. Yondr was implemented in the testing center in August, and McCaffrey had previously allowed students to choose between leaving their phones in their bags or using a Yondr pouch. Yondr provides individual, locked pouches for phones which restrict phone usage until the pouches are opened with a magnetic unlocking device.

McCaffrey said because students can take a test at any time, there are periods when the testing center gets really busy, and being attentive to students taking tests can be difficult. While in the testing center, McCaffrey has additional responsibilities such as checking in new students and keeping an eye on how much time each student has left on a test. Yondr has eased the burden of monitoring students on top of everything else McCaffrey is expected to do.

“It’s a very subtle difference, but the difference is meaningful,” McCaffrey said. 

An additional change came in late October when Glenbrook North hired testing accommodations coordinator Chris Fry. When a student needs to take a test with accommodations that cannot be handled either in the classroom or in the testing center, Fry assigns a room and proctor for the student to take their test. Accommodations include having a test read to the student, taking tests in sections and taking a test in a small group. 

According to Fry, because his desk is positioned at the back of the testing center, a lot of people think his job is to monitor students taking tests, which is not the case. 

According to Scott Williams, associate principal for administrative services, there has been an increasing number of students with Individualized Education Plans, also known as IEPs. IEPs are legal documents dictating special circumstances, or accommodations, for taking tests.

“[Fry] is making life better for the students [and he’s] making life easier for the teachers,” said Williams. “[Arrangements for accommodations] were a glaring need and a source of frustration for our teaching staff, and as far as we can tell, this hiring of this second person, Mr. Fry, … made a significant improvement [for] the situation.”

Fry said although it can be challenging to maintain effective communication, especially during a busy time like finals, he’s happy to be helping students.

“However kids need to take their tests I think is just the biggest priority in setting kids up for success,”Fry said.