Offering tests under the veil of guidance

Students speak out on how off-campus tutoring centers collect reused Diamond Bar tests to offer to their students as a means to get ahead.

Faced with the cutthroat race of college admissions looming in senior year, some Diamond Bar High School students are willing to do anything it takes to snare an advantage. After-school tutoring centers are common in the area, and a few have discovered an invaluable resource to offer: photocopies of tests reused yearly by DBHS teachers, marked with the correct answers.

According to students familiar with the strategy, at least one group of students attending the same after-school center obtains copies from the institution of tests given at DBHS—complete with answers—then study the questions beforehand.

One junior, requesting anonymity, said she tested out the validity of these answers.

“Before the test during fourth period, I was standing with my friends at break and I looked over at my friend’s phone and she had a group chat where they were texting each other answers,” she said. “I saw a specific answer and when I actually was taking the test I saw that specific question and because I didn’t know how to do it I just put the answer… and it ended up being the right answer.”

Brahmas outside the cheating circle began observing the situation after some calculus students were required to retake a test amid suspicion of false scores, and numerous students began reporting names of peers to teachers.

Junior Maggie Liu attained photos of printed photocopies of a Calculus AB test on which the correct answers were circled, as well as screenshots of text messages between students planning to memorize test answers. She took the images to junior GLC Ginger Auten.

According to Auten, the school has made contact with the tutoring centers involved. Potential consequences for student participants, however, are ambiguous.

“There was never an indicator of who may have taken pictures of the test, exactly, because it was more like a rollout… from this person to that person to that person,” Auten said.

According to Brahmas who have enrolled at Total Learning Education or SAT Professionals, among others, these after-school centers keep stocks of the exact tests given by local teachers in a variety of subjects. They allegedly receive the tests from teacher’s editions of textbooks used by DBHS staff as well as from students who snap photos of their own tests.

One DBHS senior attended TLE until the eighth grade.

“They’re very upfront that they have tests for middle school teachers and high school teachers,” she said. “They ask seniors to get tests for them in return for discounts.”

According to the Brahma, a typical student receives tutoring help from teachers there but is also given access to additional resources if needed. This includes packets of worksheets that can be found online, often with DBHS tests inserted within.

“I remember one time when I was in eighth grade, there was this teacher there; she was a college student. I got a lot wrong and she was like, ‘You need to be careful about this because this is the actual test,’” the student said.

Junior Michelle Wu was implicated earlier this semester in the surge of cheating in Calculus AB.

“I have a couple friends who go to Total Learning and they gave me test questions and answers, and I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I should look at them to cheat,’ but then in the end I didn’t because it was against my integrity,” Wu said. “A couple of other people overheard people talking about how Total Learning people had test answers, so then some of them went to report to [calculus teacher] Mr. [Jimmy] Kuo and other teachers.”

Total Learning Education declined to comment about the issue.

Senior Evan Wu, who attended SAT Professionals his freshman year, said the facility offered students these tests discreetly.

“They won’t really tell you that this is a real Diamond Bar High School test, but it’s more of like, ‘This will be on the test so you should study for this,’” Wu said. “And then when the test is happening, you’ll just be like ‘oh man, the whole thing is on the test.’ They’ll have pictures [of tests] printed out and it [has] some people’s handwriting already on there.”

Another senior who requested anonymity was enrolled at SAT Professionals for homework help due to its proximity to campus. During his three years there, he discovered the center kept a binder for each subject, containing tests and answer keys for each chapter.

“I was given practice tests to use to study [but] when I took the tests I noticed that the questions and answer choices were the same and it happened repeatedly,” the student said. “Then one time I went to go ask the TA for the practice test and he told me to look in a binder. Many teachers that I’ve had—for example, [Pat] Wakefield or [Eric] Sorensen and many more—give the exact same exams as the ones given at SAT Professionals.”

According to the senior, some of physics teacher Angela Jensvold’s tests appear at both SAT Professionals and another tutoring center in Rowland Heights. SAT Professionals declined to comment.

Instructional dean for science Nicole Cabase is aware that students cheat by obtaining access to tests before they are taken.

“The school can’t take any action to do anything about it,” Cabase said. “From what I know, it’s publishers that are selling them teacher’s editions. It would be my hope that publishers instead would only sell them to schools and not tutoring centers, but our hands as a school are kind of tied and we have to depend on the integrity of our students.”

Kuo first gained knowledge of such occurrences last year, when the issue was unveiled in another teacher’s Algebra II class.

“[These after-school centers] are not exactly modeling to the students… how to be a better student, they’re teaching them ways to cheat the system, to say that you can do anything you want as long as the end goal justifies [the means],” Kuo said. “I hope that more students than not are against this type of idea that you can just buy your way into a better grade.”

Meanwhile, the culture of cheating on campus continues to be passed down by the few who do it.

Freshman Akash George was introduced to the prevalence the mindset during freshman orientation.

“[My Link Crew leaders] said everyone in Diamond Bar cheats, and you shouldn’t get mad at your friends too much for it, because it’s normal,” George said. “I don’t think they specifically advised it, but I think they made it clear that it’s very normal to cheat and you shouldn’t feel too bad about it.”