Thursday, December 13

Administrators: Give good grades -- or else!

Two news stories today about grading improprieties remind us of the unintended consequences of placing high stakes on tests and scores.

At Central Park East High School, Principal Bennett Lieberman is under fire for a memo he sent to his staff calling for teachers to hand out higher grades, telling them, "If you are not passing more than 65% of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities." Teachers and students are upset, and Deborah Meier, a founder of the school who now works as an education professor and activist, hypothesized in the Daily News that Lieberman's memo was a response to the progress reports, which give credit to high schools based on how many classes students pass.

Also, Yoav Gonen reports in the Post on the investigation of a cheating scandal at Wagner High School on Staten Island, where an assistant principal engineered an attempt to artificially raise students' scores on June 2006 Regents exams. The report of investigators recommends that the assistant principal, who is now an AP at MS 88 in Brooklyn, be fired, but Wagner Principal Gary Giordano, now the AP's husband, will go almost entirely unscathed. The Post bills the story as an exclusive, but the most recent edition of New York Teacher, the UFT's newspaper, has more details about the testing improprieties, as well as other allegations of wrongdoing against Giordano.

There have always been corrupt administrators, but as pressure to improve performance ratchets up even more, I think we can assume we will see more incidents like these.

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