An Easy Sixty-Five

August 16, 2013


The recent “grade inflation” scandal in the Hempstead School District reminded me of my experience in the “grading” business. At least these students were showing up in class. The following is an excerpt from my book The Other Side of Teaching.

Between September 13 and January 18, Max showed up perhaps twenty days out of ninety days of seat time for classroom instruction. He was failing. On January 25, his mother came to school to “meet the people.” After meeting the AP, the AP immediately arranged a meeting between Max’s mother, the subject teacher, and herself to try to “work” something out for Max.

At the beginning of the meeting with the English teacher, the mother asked for all the homework he had missed. The befuddled teacher asked if she meant all the homework he had missed for a particular day, week, or month. The mother said she wanted all the homework he had missed between September and January.

Teacher: “But that’s impossible.”
Mother: “Then give me as much as he needs to get a passing grade.”
Teacher: “But that’s impossible! Max has been in class twenty days since September.
He has not read a book, taken a test, written an essay, or even…”
Mother: “Look, you can try to help him…”
AP to
Teacher: “Tests aren’t everything.”
Teacher: “He hasn’t read the books. Since September, we have finished three books. We are on book four.
Even if I give Max all the work on one book, he still can’t do it because he didn’t read…”
AP: “How do you know he didn’t read the books?”
Mother: “My son loves to read. I’m sure he read those books.”
Teacher: “Okay! I’ll give Max the homework for the books. I’m not sure how I can get this done, but…”
AP: “Just give him homework for one book, the current book.”
Mother: “I’ll make sure he does it.”
Teacher: “Homework for the current book only? Where are we going with this?”
Mother: “You are the teacher. You have to help him pass his class. That’s your job.”
AP to
Teacher: “Look, we have to help him. Give him some work he can do in a week or so,
and then give him a grade.”
Teacher: “If you are asking me to give Max a passing grade for the semester, I can’t do that.”
AP to
Teacher: “Look, all I’m asking is for you to give this student some work;
just give him a chance. Yes, give him a passing grade.”
Teacher: “I can’t do that. I can’t give an absent student a grade of 65. Max lost a
semester’s worth of work. You as AP have the power to do what is necessary…”
Mother to
Teacher: “Ms. Blank, you are a hard woman…”
AP to
Teacher: “We have to be less rigid and try to help as many students as possible…”
Teacher: “I am willing to help my students, but I’m not willing to help them cheat.”
Mother: “Who’s cheating? Cheating? My son did not cheat! I can’t see why you’re making such a fuss.
His other teachers agreed to help him. You’re the only one giving us a hard time.”
AP to
Mother: “Look, Ms. Mother, I understand your concern. Ms. Blank is going to give you make-up work
for one book; make sure he does it…”
Teacher to
AP: “It will take at least two hours for me to locate and put together this material for Max.
I’ll go and do it right now, but I still won’t give Max a passing grade for 5 percent of
a semester’s work.”
Mother
To Teacher: “You’re a hard woman.”
AP to
Mother: [patting her arm] “We’ll see what we can do. The teachers are here to help.”

[Exit Teacher. Mother and AP hold hands and plan the death, destruction, and downfall of the unsuspecting and uncooperative teacher.]

The English teacher left to waste two hours of her time on three losers, the student, the mother, and the AP. After this tense and thrashing meeting, it was quite obvious that Max would be passing this English class. The mother and the AP are accomplices to cheating and corruption, the teacher is the bad guy, the AP is the hero, and the student wins the game.

Where was this concerned mother when her son was cutting classes?

This is New York City public education. This is No Child Left Behind. A student can stay home (or go who knows where) for five months, have his mother beg and berate the teacher, and the AP will make everything right. Sixty-five is the name of the game.

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