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NYC Deputy Chancellor Rewards Gifted, Privileged Kids in NYC Public Schools by Raising 4 Years of AP Grades
The NYC BOE secretly went into the records of students who had taken AP courses throughout their high school years and gave them all a 10% bonus. Carmen Farina, NYC's new Deputy Chancellor For Instruction, ordered the change. We have investigated AP courses in NYC schools, and only the "best" get to take them. Here, "best" = politically correct. Betsy Combier
New York City's public school system is racially segregated and not, by any stretch of the imagination, a provider of "free and appropriate education". Policy statements are just that. Pretty paper is used to say that something is being done about school violence, social promotion, teacher certification, union contracts and everything else that happens to be a problem. Supporters of the Bloomberg/Klein administration , especially the newspapers, write about how the Mayor and the Chancellor are working together to make everything better. Remember that game that we all played, where you stand in a long line and whisper something into the ear of the person at one end, and by the time that statement is repeated at the end of the line, it is completely different?

New York City public schools do not offer the average student any AP courses. Many schools do not offer any at all, and those that do have limited enrollment, so only the best kids get into these classes. What do we mean by best? The children of PTA Presidents or at least politically correct parents get first choice. If there is a child who does extra work and becomes very friendly with a teacher, this child has an excellent chance of getting into an AP class. We should add that schools with 100% minority kids are not given the option of an AP class - because in most cases there simply are none offered due to political issues and/or space availability - and therefore we are left with the disturbing thought that perhaps Carmen Farina "rewarded" a selected class of students by making their overall weighted average higher.

Carmen Farina's Performance Review

Pandemonium in Schools As City Upends Grades For Graduating Seniors
BY JULIA LEVY - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 13, 2004


Just as ambitious high-school seniors were submitting their early college applications, they discovered that without notice the Department of Education had substantially altered their grade-point averages, with some fearing pandemonium.

That was a bonanza for students who took Advanced Placement courses. But dreams were shattered for others, who were on track to be valedictorians but had not taken the college-level courses.

The change added 10% to all AP grades going back to when seniors first entered high school. The grade recorded for a student who earned 85% in AP American History last year has now been changed to 93.5%. A student who earned 92% is boosted into the grading stratosphere, with 101.2%. Students who took AP classes now have a distinct advantage, in terms of grade point average, over those who did not.

Despite the significance of the citywide change, principals and guidance counselors said they discovered the new system only after logging on to the city's central computer system. Administrators of at least one school are manually overriding the computerized 10% AP bonus, in violation of city policy.

"It's a mandate. It's a done deal," a spokeswoman for the Education Department, Kelly Devers, said. "We are working with individual principals where there are implementation issues."

But the head of the principals union, Jill Levy, said the 10% AP bonus is consistent with her concerns about the Department of Education's decision-making style.

"They botched the whole idea of it. They secretly, by computer, entered children's records and changed them, changing the dynamics for children who are potential valedictorians, salutatorians," Ms. Levy said. "This is unheard of."

Although Ms. Levy said she does support the concept of having a uniform policy for extra credit across the city, she was outraged by the lack of consultation with parents and principals.

"If I were the parent of a child who might have taken an AP class if I had known there would be additional credits given to me on average," she said, "I would be up in arms because my child was denied the opportunity."

School officials defended the change, ordered by the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Carmen Farina. The 10% bonus for AP classes has been in place for years at other districts, including those on Long Island. It is intended to encourage students to take the most challenging courses available.

"Traditionally, there has been no cohesive approach to weighted grades, resulting in variation across schools as individual schools in New York City have used their own system for evaluating and weighting grades," Ms. Devers said. "This year the Department of Education has taken steps to greater cohesion and equity."

In the past, schools were allowed to give extra weight to honors classes or classes that they consider even more challenging than Advanced Placement. They no longer have that option.

The new mandate from the central administration has led to pandemonium at the city's more-than-300 public high schools.

Among them, the prestigious Stuyvesant High School sent colleges three GPAs, calculated three different ways. Another top school, Brooklyn Technical High School, instructed the city's centralized computer to ignore the 10% bonus for its students.

"We didn't do it in the class because it just wasn't a policy we thought would be appropriate," said Brooklyn Tech's principal, Lee McCaskill. "We did not want to change the game in the middle."

Mr. McCaskill said the bonus system's alteration of class rank might work going forward, starting with this year's freshmen, so seniors currently expecting to be valedictorians are not pushed aside by students who happened to have taken more AP classes.

Historically, Brooklyn Tech has weighted courses differently only if they are double-period courses in which students spend more time, the principal said.

"I think there is a communication gap," Mr. McCaskill said. "They need to re-examine how and when it should be implemented.

Mr. McCaskill was a member of a special committee convened by Ms. Farina in the fall to discuss issues like weighted GPAs, but he said he never signed off on the new 10% bonus.

Stuyvesant's principal, Stanley Teitel, didn't return a phone call or email requesting comment, but students and parents from the school said the new policy has created college-application mayhem.

The school sent out three GPAs for each student in the early admissions round: an old-fashioned unweighted GPA, a GPA with the new 10% AP bonus, and yet another that actually penalizes students who took AP classes but did poorly. The third method multiplies each AP grade by 110% but adds 10% to the number of courses taken.

College representatives said the inconsistency among the city's high schools - including Stuyvesant's unprecedented system - shouldn't be a problem, as long as the schools provide written explanations along with transcripts.

"We've always asked schools to give us a sense of the relative level of rigor of each applicant's curriculum," said the director of admissions for Dart mouth College, Maria Laskaris. "Even with an unweighted grade-point average, we are aware of which students are taking what the schools consider to be their most rigorous courses."

Despite such assurances, anxious parents awaiting college decisions worry how the new policy will affect their children's admissions chances.

The head of Stuyvesant's parent association, Linda Lam, said "parents went crazy" when they heard transcripts had been retroactively altered.

"Any policy should be announced in advance," she said. "The kids should be allowed the opportunity to enroll or not enroll in an AP class."

At Stuyvesant, students expressed mixed opinions of the policy shift.

"There are post-AP courses that don't get inflated," Terry McDonnell, 17, said Friday morning on his way into Stuyvesant, explaining that his school offers classes like engineering, computer science, and multi-variable calculus, which are more challenging than A.P. classes but get no extra boost.

"This is not meant for Stuyvesant," he said. "It's meant for schools where A.P.s are not the norm. Most kids here take three or four at least."

Another Stuyvesant senior, Amory Meltzer, 17, said, "I don't like it at all. If you take an AP course, you're expected to do AP work, work at an AP level. This goes right against what Stuyvesant stands for, really what education stands for."

Other students, though, said if it helps them get into college, they don't care.

"I like it," Ula Kudelski, 17, said. Ms. Kudelski, who took eight AP classes, boosting her GPA to 97 from 95 under the city's system, said: "I know a lot of other schools have that system. I don't see why Stuy shouldn't."

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation