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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Teachers at William Cullen Bryant High School Report Administration Forces Them To Pass Undeserving Students


Teachers at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City claim school administrators are pressuring them to pass undeserving students.Matthew McDermott

When educators lie about student grades (forced to do this by the Principal), they hurt everyone - themselves, and the parents and students who rely on these educators to give them the knowledge and ethics to succeed.

Do you think that New York City public schools have the reputation of excellence in education out there in the land of colleges? I have heard they no longer think NYC graduates the best and brightest, due to the fudging and secrecy going on.

And then there is the teacher shortage due to massive numbers of great teachers removed from the classroom for no reason, their fingerprints placed into the "problem code" database, and pushed into termination proceedings known as 3020-a arbitration.

Quite a mess, Mr. Carranza.

See this prior post:

Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir

Maspeth HS Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir is Removed For Grade-Fixing and Other Charges of Academic Misconduct

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Teachers say they’re pushed to pass students who skipped class all year

by Susan Edelman and Melissa Klein, June 18, 2022, NY POST

Administrators at a Queens high school are demanding that teachers pass undeserving students – including some they’ve never even seen, fed-up educators told The Post.

The teachers at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City say the pressure comes as the school year is about to end and they are asked to promote students who have skipped classes and done little or no work.

“I have gotten numerous complaints from teachers that they feel forced to promote students they do not think should be promoted,” Georgia Lignou, a Bryant HS teacher and UFT chapter leader wrote last week in a letter to Principal Namita Dwarka and other faculty members. The Post obtained a copy.

“This happens when at this time of the year with less than a week of classes left, administration is reaching out to us sometimes about students we have never seen,” she wrote. “We do not feel that a student who was absent for most of the year and has failed previous marking periods can possibly achieve mastery at this time of the year.”

The issue of AWOL students getting a pass is not unique to Bryant High School, which has 2,100 students and boasts legendary singer Ethel Merman and ex-schools chancellor Joel Klein among alumni.

Schools justify the laxity under a city Department of Education policy which says students can’t be denied credit based on a lack of “seat time.”

Students must meet “academic expectations,” but it’s loosely up to each school to decide what’s expected.

“Administrators use that policy to push teachers to promote students who have been absent from class for the whole year,” a Bryant teacher said. “Failure is not an option.”

Among recent grade-fixing scandals, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools last year blasted Maspeth High School in Queens for creating fake classes, awarding bogus credits, and promoting truant or chronically absent students.

“I don’t care if a kid shows up at 7:44 and you dismiss at 7:45 — it’s your job to give that kid credit,” Maspeth principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir was quoted as telling a teacher. The DOE removed him as a principal, but will let him stay on the city payroll for seven years until he retires.

In a massive scheme at Dewey HS in Brooklyn, a 2015 probe confirmed complaints by teacher whistleblowers that hundreds of students who were given work “packets” or put in bogus classes without instruction by certified teachers received credits toward graduation. Kids called it “Easy Pass.”

The abuses at Maspeth and Dewey, while extreme, are mirrored throughout the city, with principals under pressure from DOE higher-ups to beef up graduation rates. Many high schools give minimal tasks for failing students in the final weeks to make-up for missing most of the class, The Post has reported.

In her letter, Lignou said, “Teachers are asked to ‘provide support,’” to failing students.

That means that the students can get a few last-ditch assignments and pass “with much less work than what the teacher required in class,” she wrote. 

Bryant’s UFT Chapter Leader Georgia Lignou reported to principal Namita Dwarka, pictured, that teachers have complained about being pressured to pass students.

Teachers are “intimidated by the tone” of emails they receive from higher-ups, she added.

“What they hear is ‘We want you to pass this student,’ and they do” to avoid run-ins with the assistant principals who supervise them. “They do promote students who should not have been promoted,” Lignou wrote.

 “Please allow the teachers without pressure to be the judge as to which students ought to be promoted. As a school and as individual teachers, we have done everything to help. Some students did not respond, and they will benefit by going to summer school,” she concluded.

“Grade fraud is systemic,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), who sparked investigations of Maspeth HS after hearing from whistleblower teachers. “It’s  inherent in  many schools, and everybody in the DOE administration looks the other way because it’s in their best interest.

“But they’re cheating our children out of a good education. Don’t show up in class? You pass. Everybody passes, and grades are meaningless. I think we need a federal monitor to come in and take over because nobody’s overseeing anything.” 

The DOE confirmed students cannot be failed or prevented from promotion based on attendance.

“Grading and promotion decisions are based on whether or not the student completes their work and demonstrates mastery,” said spokeswoman Nicole Brownstein. “Our educators and school leaders know their students best and are equipped to ensure students receive the grades they worked hard to earn.” 

Regarding the open letter to Bryant principal Dwarka, a spokesman added, “We take any allegation of misconduct seriously and we will look into this.”

Maspeth HS diplomas ‘not worth the paper’ they’re printed on

Susan Edelman, September 18, 2021, NY POST

Let them work at Taco Bell.

Maspeth High School created fake classes, awarded bogus credits, and fixed grades to push students to graduate — “even if the diploma was not worth the paper on which it was printed,” an explosive investigative report charges.

Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir demanded that teachers pass students no matter how little they learned, says the 32-page report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, Anastasia Coleman.

“I don’t care if a kid shows up at 7:44 and you dismiss at 7:45 — it’s your job to give that kid credit,” the principal is quoted as telling a teacher.

Abdul-Mutakabbir told the teacher he would give the lagging student a diploma “not worth the paper on which it was printed” and let him “have fun working at Taco Bell,” the report says.

The teacher “felt threatened and changed each student’s failing grade to a passing one.”

The SCI report confirms a series of Post exposes in 2019 describing a culture of cheating in which students could skip classes and do little or no work, but still pass. 

Kids nicknamed the no-fail rule “the Maspeth Minimum.”

Chancellor Meisha Porter, who received the SCI report on June 4, removed Abdul-Mutakabbir from the 1,200-student school and city payroll in July pending a termination hearing set for next month.

But she left Maspeth assistant principals Stefan Singh and Jesse Pachter — the principal’s chief lieutenants — on the job.

Singh and Pachter executed the principal’s orders, informants said, and helped create classes to grant credits to students who didn’t have to show up — because the classes weren’t even held, according to the report. 

Abdul-Mutakabbir, Singh and Pachter all refused to answer questions by investigators, citing a right to remain silent, SCI says.

In addition, three teachers in the principal’s “clique” – a favored few who followed orders and got lucrative overtime assignments — also remain.

One of them, Danny Sepulveda, a wrestling coach, was caught on video slamming a skinny young teen onto a floor mat and putting him into a headlock. Witnesses called it bullying. SCI called it “aggressive” and dangerous.

In addition, Sepulveda “likely provided answers to students while proctoring a Regents exam,” the report says.

SCI obtained messages from a teacher to Sepulveda about a girl who did little in class but scored high on the test. “Giving that many answers to her was outrageous,” the teacher texted.

Sepulveda defended helping kids pass the exams, which were required to graduate. “She was smart enough to realize what was happening and took advantage lol. No other kid in that room got that many.”

Among a raft of other wrongdoing, SCI found the school did not properly voucher drugs and weapons in what whistleblowers called a contraband cover-up.

“This is more like an organized crime ring than a school administration,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens).

Holden first met with a group of fed-up Maspeth teachers — some who had left rather than be complicit in the corruption — in the summer of 2019. The whistleblowers turned over stacks of evidence.

But under Mayor de Blasio and ex-Chancellor Richard Carranza, the city Department of Education’s own investigation — a report it’s withholding — as well as SCI’s took two years while Abdul-Mutakabbir, Singh and Pachter continued to run the school.

But under Mayor de Blasio and ex-Chancellor Richard Carranza, the city Department of Education’s own investigation — a report it’s withholding — as well as SCI’s took two years while Abdul-Mutakabbir, Singh and Pachter continued to run the school.

Holden is outraged by the official foot-dragging. “If somebody refuses to be interviewed by an investigative body, they should be suspended immediately,” he said.

Among the SCI’s findings of academic fraud:

         Maspeth enrolled students in numerous classes scheduled during “zero (before school),           eighth, ninth and tenth periods — all of which were not actual class times.
  • Students on the rosters “did not actually attend any classes or submit any work.”
  • Singh set up 9th-period classes for about 20 juniors and 15 to 20 seniors in English, government and economics worth a total of four credits. The kids checked in but rarely met.
  •  Maspeth repeatedly sought to have troubled students with attendance, behavioral or academic issues graduate early — sometimes as soon as the end of their junior year — “to get them out.”

Thomas Creighton, who spoke to investigators, told The Post he spent 11th and 12th grades drunk or stoned, rarely attended classes and did no homework his senior year. Finally, the school gave him “a few worksheets” to complete in a week. He had a pal fill them in, and received a diploma six months early.

Upset about his quick dismissal, Creighton’s parents asked to see his classwork. The school had nothing to show, but insisted he had earned a passing 65 in all classes.

“I was looking for some school authority to push back and let him know that there were consequences to his actions,” said his mother, Annmarie. “But nothing happened.”

Another student told SCI that Pachter or Sepulveda said it was too late to join a government class, and was put in a different one. A week later, the teen was told “there was no need for him to stay and he could complete his assignments at home.” The boy felt he was “probably pushed out” after being accused of selling drugs in school. He was offered an early diploma.

A girl said she was told to report to the office for one period a week to fulfill a class requirement. 

Another girl said she was told “it was fine” if she didn’t come to class:  “I kind of got princess treatment there.” She received “a list of assignments with little structure and no deadlines.”

In other cases, Sepulveda told colleagues that several students “cut a deal” with Singh and Pachter to come to school once a month to pick up “a packet of work.” The students were all chronically absent, yet graduated in summer 2019.

Pachter handed one staffer a list of problem students at risk of not graduating, asking to ensure they got enough credits “so they would no longer have to be dealt with.”

The DOE’s own Office of Special Investigations conducted a separate probe of Maspeth, but refused to release its report pending a termination hearing for Abdul-Mutakabbir set for next month.

“We did not hesitate to take action at Maspeth High School as soon as the SCI report was completed. Our schools must uphold the highest ethical standards, and we’re taking action against any employee found to have engaged in misconduct,” DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said.

Besides seeking to terminate Abdul-Mutakabbir, “we will be taking appropriate action” against Sepulveda, and additional disciplinary action may result from the OSI’s investigation, she said.

Singh, Pachter, and two other teachers named by SCI, Daniel Franchese and Christopher Grunert, have been “retrained,” attended meetings with district leaders, and “all of them have gotten a letter in their files.” 

Holden, who sent letters last week to the Queens District Attorney and the US Attorney’s Office, is renewing his call for a criminal probe of academic fraud  in Maspeth and other city schools.

“They took money and didn’t do the work,” Holden said.  “It’s stealing taxpayers’ dollars, and it’s stealing childrens’ education.”