Friday, August 03, 2007

Something for nothing...

Edwize highlights this NY Times story about a high school principal that mandated teachers give students an automatic 45% if they only show up for ONE day of class, regardless of their true academic effort.


Fred Klonsky said...

I didn't really get the point of this story in the NY Times when I read it. It kind of suggests the practice is widespread, but didn't show that. Some bloggers have generalized conclusions about NY schools' reporting of improvement and graduation rates. Maybe. But this story doesn't really present anything other than one anecdotal story. And then it turns out that the teacher is a first year teacher, who quit after one year to return to Michigan and whose only teaching experience was at the college level. So, what's the real story here? I can't really tell. Can you?

Dr. Homeslice said...

To me the real story is the exposure of one version of falsification of school records to improve school performance. I've had plenty of "on the cusp" kids I've given a helping push (so to speak) but this is just sickening to me. The quote from her mom about not being able to afford another senior prom as the proferred reason for not repeating another year?

I didn't get the idea that this is widespread from this particular article (though I think it is) but I did get the idea that it's widespread from a bunch of other articles. Also, for some reason (never having really spent much time in NY) I give more street cred to the Times than I do the Post, and perhaps that's why this story resonates with me.

jonathan said...

I don't think there is a story here. The Times sounds more authoritative, but for me, it reads like a national newspaper that is constantly surprised by what happens in NYC. "cred"? perhaps. "street cred"? nah.

HS grades in NYC are generally numeric, not letter. (lots of middle schools, too). 55 and 50 are usually failing grades, while 45 and 40 are usually attendance-related failing grades. In some schools 40 is reserved for "never attended." These distinctions cannot be made in an ABCDF system. There are teachers, usually newer, who complain that they can't award a 32, for instance. They are missing 1) that they have four failures to award, and 2) that failure is failure - 10, 15, 20, or 25 points away from 65, (60s are generally not awarded as final grades) no credit is awarded.

Article 8B of our contract states: The teacher's judgment in grading students is to be respected; therefore if the principal changes a student's grade in any subject for a grading period, the principal shall notify the teacher of the reason for the change in writing.

Now, this probably gets regularly invoked, however, I've been at this 10 years, and this is the first instance I know of a principal making the change. Far more often, a principal will lean on the teacher to make the change (I think most principals hate the idea of putting stuff in writing). Notice that the union (a local leader) stepped in to preserve the guy's discretion in grading.

I was once pressured, the principal made the case (55, not 50, reasonable attendance, did work, otherwise graduating senior), but made clear the choice was mine; I made the change.

When members in my current school have come to me, saying the principal asked them to make a change, I advise them to apply a similar yardstick, and that they have full backing if they choose not to comply. But no one has been hassled for saying no. In other schools this is much more of a problem. My experience has been that pressure from coaches to keep athletes from failing off teams is much higher.

Of course, in explaining the yardstick, I find that newer teachers are more likely to be inflexible; math teachers are the toughest. I would be curious to know what the P's written justification said.

I agree that the mom's reasoning is pretty sickening. But it is in a way irrelevant to the rest of the story. The P, not the mom, did the override.

Finally, the negatives on this guy look big. And the commitment to teaching does not.

Dr. Homeslice said...


Great response. We have almost identical language in the corresponding article with regard to grade changes minus the word "respected", though I think I might bring that up to the bargaining team this year.

I would prefer the ABDCF system (which we have) as I use percentages and then use our BOE's mandated formula within that equation; I feel it's a truer representation of a kid's grade and gives them extra chances.

I've never been pressured; the one time I was called on the carpet for a grade (via a parent complaint) I had made all the calls, sent the emails and could prove it. I was subsequently backed up by my administrator after they saw the documentation, which is all I can ask for.

Coaches in my school are on their kids in a good way, and I can't remember the last time someone tried to pimp me for a athletic-related grade (coach or student).

I think there is a cautionary tale here, and I do believe it's a story. However it's level of import must be gauged by someone within the system, such as yourself.


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