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22.09.2018

Dear Mr. Chancellor, please stop the grade-fixing in NYC schools.

Five years ago, teacher WADE R. GORIA exposed a massive grade-fixing scheme at John Dewey HS in Gravesend, Brooklyn, along with his colleague Michael P. Klimetz. Their revelations led to a state audit, released last month, that confirmed the shocking truth: School leaders had committed wholesale fraud — and cheated students out of the education...
Time: 11:32     Date: 14.04.2018
Last US News - Opinion: Dear Mr. Chancellor, please stop the grade-fixing in NYC schools. NY Post 24 - US News

A cancer has metastasized in NYC’s school system. It was deliberately planted by your predecessor, Carmen Fariña, with the sanction of the mayor, the State Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers.

In the face of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious demands for dramatic increases in graduation rates, Fariña and her superintendents found a reliable means of achieving success: grade-fixing. John Dewey HS students sardonically called it “Easy Pass” amid a nightmarish flurry of corrupt practices that I witnessed as a social-studies teacher during the tenure of Principal Kathleen Elvin from 2012 to 2015. She came to Dewey as part of the mayor’s Renewal program for struggling schools.

Elvin’s creation of “Project Graduation” involved many schemes. Elvin created bogus titles such as “College Explorations” to give students a way to accumulate credits for courses they had failed or lacked. Many sham “credit recovery” courses covered a dozen or more academic subjects — math, science, English, Spanish, you name it — supposedly taught concurrently by a lone teacher who had no certification in most of the subjects. One rookie teacher was listed as having taught a total of 52 classes in all academic disciplines in a single semester. Little or no actual teaching went on. Most students didn’t even attend. Elvin’s assistant principals strong-armed teachers into giving passing grades. If they refused, the assistant principals and guidance counselors entered the data system and passed the kids anyway.

Elvin retaliated against unwilling teachers with endless disciplinary hearings. She and her assistant principals stormed into classrooms to do teacher observations guaranteed to slap them with the lowest rating: “ineffective.” After Michael P. Klimetz, a revered science teacher, refused to grade students in subjects he didn’t teach, he was moved to another room without lab equipment.

Our union failed us. The UFT chapter chair in all NYC public schools is required to review each teacher’s program to ensure compliance with the contract. Had this been done, the rug would have been pulled out from Elvin’s scam. The UFT’s Brooklyn representative was fully aware of the violations but failed to address our pleas for protection.

[Editor’s note: The UFT said Friday it gave “full support” to teachers who exposed the “principal’s destructive practices.”]

Michael and I reported Elvin’s massive fraud to Brooklyn Superintendent Michael Prayor, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, the Special Commissioner of Investigation and members of the state Board of Regents. We naïvely assumed the system would intervene and halt these unconscionable practices.

More than 1¹/₂ years later, on June 30, 2015, the OSI finally issued a scathing report. But it detailed just some of the fraud and named only Elvin and two assistant principals, though most of the assistant principals and guidance counselors took part. A week later, Elvin was removed from Dewey amid intense media coverage. Yet, as we would learn a year later, it was all a charade. We believe Fariña never intended to hold Elvin accountable.

It took the state Education Department five years from the time they were first alerted about this outrageous scandal to issue an audit on March 25, finding that thousands of improper credits were awarded to Dewey students. But the audit gave no explanation of how the scam was carried out. It was like confirming a murder without describing how the victim was killed or who committed the crime.

The Board of Regents has yet to hold any guilty parties accountable by revoking their licenses or certifications, or by levying fines. This stands in stark contrast to the handling of a major cheating scandal in Atlanta 10 years ago, when prison sentences were meted out to corrupt educators. More recently, the Washington, DC, school system issued a swift and far more thorough report following media reports that Ballou HS had fixed grades and graduated students whose low attendance failed to meet requirements.

A once vaunted and proud institution, Dewey now boasts an 80 percent graduation rate, but last year 48 percent of the grads didn’t have test scores high enough to enroll in CUNY without remediation. Several assistant principals and other staffers who conspired with Elvin still work at the school. Elvin was awarded a post at the DOE’s Tweed headquarters and now collects $170,000 a year in the Office of Safety and Youth Development.

Chancellor Carranza, at the outset of your tenure, you are faced with a choice: You can stop the spread of the grade-fixing contagion by finally applying consequences for criminal fraud, or you can let the DOE further descend into self-serving degeneracy.

Wade R. Goria taught social studies for 20 years at John Dewey HS, retiring in 2015 after Principal Kathleen Elvin’s ouster. He also taught international relations at NYU for 18 years. He earned a master’s degree at Oxford University and authored the book“Sovereignty and Leadership in Lebanon, 1943-1976.”

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