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Nobody Ever Fails At NYC’s ‘Top School’

Tucked away in the ‘Education’ section of the New York Times:

City Opens Inquiry on Grading Practices at a Top-Scoring Bronx School

January 19, 2011

When report card grades were released in the fall for the city’s 455 high schools, the highest score went to a small school in a down-and-out section of the Bronx called Theater Arts Production Company School.

A stunning 94 percent of its seniors graduated, more than 30 points above the citywide average. The school, which has about 500 students from grades 6 through 12, achieved a nearly perfect score in the category of “student progress,” based partly on course credits earned by students.

“When I interviewed for the school,” said Sam Buchbinder, a history teacher, “it was made very clear: this is a school that doesn’t believe in anyone failing.”

That statement was not just an exhortation to excellence. It was school policy.

By order of the principal, codified in the school’s teacher handbook, all teachers should grade their classes in the same way: 30 percent of students should earn a grade in the A range, 40 percent B’s, 25 percent C’s, and no more than 5 percent D’s. As long as they show up, they should not fail.

Well, didn’t Woody Allen say that "80% of success is showing up"? Of course even he didn’t say that it was 100%.

While giving students second and third chances to make up work is not unusual at New York City public schools, several former and current teachers say they believe that some of the school’s practices have crossed the line into impropriety. In practice, some teachers said, even students who missed most of the school days earned credits. They also said students were promoted with over 100 absences a year; the principal, rather than a teacher, granted class credits needed for graduation; and credit was awarded for classes the school does not even offer.

Nitpickers. Some people just want to destroy students’ self-esteem.

On Wednesday, the city said it had opened an investigation into how grades were awarded at the school, including whether students were awarded credits for classes that were not offered, and whether records were changed to improve student attendance statistics.

In one case, one teacher said, a student graduated even though he received a “no credit” in a required course. According to the handbook, “it is the school’s job to offer multiple opportunities for student success and work revision.” This student apparently earned the needed credit by making up work, but no one in the administration consulted with the teacher about it, according to the teacher, who spoke anonymously for fear of being fired.

In another case, a student who was absent 98 days in one year was promoted to the next grade, earning credits for classes including cooking, yoga and independent study. The school does not offer a cooking class, although in at least one case, the principal, Lynn Passarella, created an independent study course called cooking, given after school, to motivate a student.

And the name listed as the student’s gym teacher, on an official student record form, is not an employee at the school.

It sounds like this school was just ‘thinking outside the box.’

Ms. Passarella declined to comment about the allegations, saying that she thought the real story at her school was how students from poor backgrounds could succeed if given the chance.

Just wait until these students go out into the real world. They will soon find that this attitude has handicapped them, probably for life. Though they will probably never realize it.

In a memo she wrote to teachers in November, she reiterated the policies laid out in the handbook (the spelling is verbatim): “Please remember that tasting success motivates more then fear of failing, a grade on 55% should really only be for those students who do not show up.”

We suspect that this policy is common all across the fruited plain.

The school’s former Advanced Placement calculus teacher… said that each year, he passed many students who he felt did not deserve it, feeling under pressure to do so in part because he lacked tenure. Last year, every student passed the class even though each received a 1 — the lowest score — on the Advanced Placement test, in part because they had not taken precalculus, he said. Only one had passed the Math B Regents, a minimal standard

Calculus teachers are always unfeeling martinets.

He quit last week after receiving an unsatisfactory rating, which he attributed to the fact that he was now also teaching a science class, which is not his specialty; he also believed the principal was upset about the Advanced Placement scores

Teacher turnover at the school has been near 50 percent in recent years, and some teachers said the policy of passing students had taken a toll. “I don’t know how they think they are raising these kids to think that they can do what they want with no consequences and still get good grades,” said a teacher who left due to an illness. “It’s just so wrong on so many levels.”

Outside the school, in the Tremont section, on Wednesday, students had differing opinions about the no-failure policy. Some said that it sometimes hurt their motivation to know that a classmate would pass even if he did not come to class. One said that his current average was a 30 — but that he could bring it up to a 95 with a few days of work — and that teachers sometimes handed out examples of student work that he copied from

Though the school boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate, the students’ average score on the SATs is below the city average — about 390 in both English and math. And anecdotally, some teachers say many graduates are in remedial college classes or dropping out.

Still, we still find it all too easy to believe that the school has a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

Nayshaun Stokes, who graduated last year and said he was doing well at City College, said that he did take “most of the classes that are on my transcript” at the high school. He acknowledged that 7 to 10 students, out of his graduating class of just over 60, probably did not deserve to graduate…

He described the school as feeling like a family: “It’s like, let me give you a chance because I love you, and I don’t want to see you fail.”

That is a dysfunctional family. A good family would make you do better.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, January 20th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “Nobody Ever Fails At NYC’s ‘Top School’”

  1. oldpuppydixie says:

    And we wonder why so many are on welfare and food stamps. Yet another “school” doing its job in the creation of Democrat voters.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    What better way of making failures a success.
    Jank the numbas to keeps da Fedrul monies cuming!

    Seeing the article left out the minorities persuasion, I’m gonna
    take a stab in the dark and guess Ebonics substitutes for English.

  3. proreason says:

    At last, Obamy’s school has been identified.

  4. Right of the People says:

    Well they do teach them the phrase, “Does yo wants fries wit dat?” so they can become productive members of society.

  5. Petronius says:

    “Though the school boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate, the students’ average score on the SATs is below the city average — about 390 in both English and math.”

    Wow. Is America a great country or what?!

    They give you 200 on the SAT just for getting your name right. It would be difficult to score less than 390 … yet apparently half of the students do, because 390 is just the school average. (Perhaps it’s time to tweak the SAT scoring system once again?)

    To send these kids to college is like transferring a sick person to a healthy environment and expecting him to catch “health.”

  6. BigOil says:

    I’ve heard that this same grading strategy is employed in the Ivy League. If you are ‘good’ enough to gain acceptance, it is assumed you have automatically earned the gentlemens C. Some of Barry’s Columbia classmates – that carried his major – say they never saw him.

    If it’s good enough for the President, it must be good enough for our yutes.

  7. GL0120 says:

    All we’s be saying is gives dem a chance, youse knows?

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