BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Instead of meeting minimum requirements in English, Math, and Science, teachers at John Dewey High say hundreds of students have been given passing grades for things like playing games, eating lunch, and watching “Jurassic Park.”
According to the New York Post, several sources claim that the school is passing kids with the help of a shady “credit recovery” program that students sarcastically call “Easy Pass.”
The system was put into place to boost graduation rates and “allows failing pupils to get passing grades by playing games, doing work online or taking abbreviated programs that critics argue lack academic rigor.”
One source says that some students were even given science credit for watching the movie “Jurassic Park.”
Dewey’s graduation rate has improved significantly under the four-year tenure of Principal Kathleen Elvin, who sources say is the architect of the grade-fixing scheme.
The Post reports that in 2009, the state Education Department showed Dewey’s graduation rate at 56 percent, but by last year, the rate had steadily climbed to 74 percent.
The city’s own figures, which include summer graduates, reported Dewey’s graduation rate increased seven points since 2012 – from 72 percent to 79 percent.
Martin Haber, a former teachers union rep at Dewey High, who retired last June, calls it a “bogus way of improving the graduation rate.”
“The teachers have been under heavy pressure by their assistant principals to pass as many students as possible,” he added.
Haber also spoke with CBS2 about the easy pass system, stating that, for example, “if a student played a game in the computer room on the computer, that was a credit.”
CBS2 spoke with several teachers at the school who claim that both the city and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina have known all about the scheme, and that the school’s principal and her administrators are the ones who pressured them into “all manner of things to pass failing students.”
One teacher, too afraid of being fired to reveal her identity, told the news source that grades were basically just changed “en masse.” She claims Principal Elvin not only allowed it to happen but has encouraged it. “She has set it down that if you don’t follow her rules she will crush you. She’s a horror,” the teacher said.
Several teachers also reported that city investigators came to the school on December 3rd to speak with them, and although the investigators were given the names of some of the students whose grades were changed and other details of the so-called “credit recovery program,” nothing has been done.
John Dewey High School senior Jacob Pena told CBS2 that students get credit for homework and eating food. “There’s like a senior house, where people get credits just for basically being in study hall,” said Pena.
Among other accusations against Dewey, says the NY Post, is that teachers licensed in one subject, such as English, were violating state education laws by passing kids for recovery programs in math.
Sources also told the Post that make-up “academy” programs were set up during winter and spring breaks when kids were awarded credit for doing little work.
Blended “Project Graduation” courses were also provided to give kids an opportunity to earn credit for a variety of subjects. Teachers reported, however, that they were shocked to later see students who failed those courses listed on the graduation rolls because the assistant principals and department heads changed their grades.
“It’s academic fraud,” said a Dewey insider.
According to the Post, the city’s Department of Education has confirmed the ongoing investigation, but declined to comment further.
Chancellor Farina’s office recently put out a statement saying the Department of Education is cooperating with the schools’ special prosecutor, and adding “any findings of wrongdoing are taken very seriously and those responsible held swiftly accountable.”
Teachers at the school also apparently have a beef with the way Principal Elvin has decided to handle disciplinary matters at the school in recent weeks.
On Monday, the NY Post reported that the school has recently resorted to giving misbehaving students foam stress balls to squeeze when they get angry.
Teachers say that using stress balls instead of real punishment is just one example of lax discipline at the school.
The Post says one parent reported that she gave administrators permission to punish her son to correct his behavior, but Dewey officials told her that wasn’t their style.
“They said they don’t do punishment,” said Marie Vil. “They said he doesn’t sit down in class. He plays too much in class. He was disrupting the class. The school gave him a stress ball.”