Thursday, August 02, 2007

There are no heroes in this one!

The NY Times has a story about a teacher who quit because his principal overruled him and passed a student who didn't deserve to be passed. But, believe me, there are no heroes in this story.

Several weeks into his first year of teaching math at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, Austin Lampros received a copy of the school’s grading policy. He took particular note of the stipulation that a student who attended class even once during a semester, who did absolutely nothing else, was to be given 45 points on the 100-point scale, just 20 short of a passing mark.

Mr. Lampros’s introduction to the high school’s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technology’s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course.

That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lampros’s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.

Through the intercession of Ms. Geiger, Miss Fernandez was permitted to retake the final after receiving two days of personal tutoring from another math teacher. Even though her score of 66 still left her with a failing grade for the course as a whole by Mr. Lampros’s calculations, Ms. Geiger gave the student a passing mark, which allowed her to graduate...

The teacher in this story sounds pretty good....until you read this next paragraph:

Mr. Lampros has resigned and returned to his home state, Michigan. The principal and officials in the Department of Education say that he missed 24 school days during the last year for illness and personal reasons. He missed two of the three sets of parent-teacher conferences. He also had conflicts with an assistant principal, Antonio Arocho, over teaching styles. Mr. Lampros said all of this was true.

Still, Mr. Lampros received a satisfactory rating five of the six times administrators formally observed him. He has master’s degrees in both statistics and math education and has won awards for his teaching at the college level.

Twenty-four days in one year?!?! And two out of three parent-teacher conferences in his first year?!?! I don't know if I missed twenty-four days and two conferences in my first twenty-four years! I don't care what degrees this guy has, or how well his observations went on the days he happened to be in school, if there isn't some great explanation for missing that much time, quitting shouldn't have been a choice for him. He should have gotten the axe.

The written record, in the form of the minutely detailed charts Mr. Lampros maintained to determine student grades, supports his account (of what happened). Colleagues of his from the school — a counselor, a programmer, several fellow teachers — corroborated key elements of his version of events. They also describe a principal worried that the 2006 graduation rate of 72.5 percent would fall closer to 50 or 60 percent unless teachers came up with ways to pass more students.

After having failed to graduate with her class in June 2006, Miss Fernandez, who, through her mother, declined to be interviewed, returned to Arts and Technology last September for a fifth year. She was enrolled in Mr. Lampros’s class in intermediate algebra. Absent for more than two-thirds of the days, she failed, and that grade was left intact by administrators.

When second semester began, Miss Fernandez again took the intermediate algebra class, which fulfilled one of her graduation requirements. According to Mr. Lampros’s records, she missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam...

Samantha Fernandez, Indira’s mother, spoke on her behalf. “My daughter earned everything she got,” she said.


I think it's fair to say that people saying that they've "earned everything they got" has become an overused cliche.

From Michigan, Mr. Lampros recalled one comment that Mrs. Fernandez made during their meeting about why it was important for Indira to graduate. She couldn’t afford to pay for her to attend another senior prom in another senior year.


Oh, well then!

This story illustrates a major problem that we have in public education. Whether we're talking about dealing with students, teachers, or principals, we are too tolerant. The only good thing about this story is that the four people involved--student, parent, teacher, and principal--all deserved each other.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're definitely right, no heroes in that story at all!

8/02/2007 11:31 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Dennis, I was just about to forward this story to you!

Maybe the teacher missed so many days because he had just become a total burnout case. That's not an excuse, but...

8/02/2007 7:12 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Elizabeth, I know I can always count on you to send me uplifting stories on public education! ;)

You do have a point about possible burnout. Since I don't work where he does, I probably shouldn't be too harsh in my judgment. But if he's burned out, at the very least, he doesn't belong at that school. Maybe there's a good explanation for missing so much time, but.....

8/03/2007 5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As neither the school nor teacher elaborated about those absences, I agree you should withhold judgment.

The school doesn't seem to tie the missed days to his handling of the situation, so it'd be pure speculation to do it for them. And doing that speculation probably won't help understand this situation any better.

8/03/2007 8:52 AM  
Blogger Lorne said...

I guess at the very least, this opens the door for the public to see the political nature of administrative positions, and the fact that principals, with or without good reason, ultimately have the final say over the fate of students.

8/03/2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger Anonymous Teacher said...

Huh. Well, I've never known a teacher observation to be simply "satisfatory" or "unsatisfactory." Here, it's more a, "This is what I saw, this is what I liked, here are some things you might consider for next time." That said, I'm curious about his one unsatisfactory assessment. What's the average satisfactory/unsatisfactory rate? And, damn, I wish I could get observed six times in a year; I was lucky to get two recorded drop-ins from my AP.

8/03/2007 8:51 PM  
Blogger promoteyourblogforfree said...

nice blog

8/07/2007 4:54 AM  

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