Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Stupid Principal With No Principles

According to this report on CNN.com, a high school principal in Southern California sent a memo to teachers asking them to "reconsider" the grades of some seniors who would not pass--and used NCLB as the reason.

Lots of things wrong with this story. Let's go after them one by one.

1. This principal said that the school needed 95% of its seniors to graduate in order to meet federal requirements, but in fact needed only 82% to graduate. Did she not know the correct number, or did she lie? Neither answer is very comforting.

2. This principal is obviously not aware of California Ed Code Section 49066, one of my favorite sections of Ed Code. I'll quote it here:

49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.

3. This story is a wonderful cautionary tale showing why I disapprove of Governor Schwarzenegger's initiative relating to teacher tenure. This principal could easily have threatened any teacher with 5 or fewer years of service in the district with dismissal--49066 be damned, because there's very little due process for untenured teachers. If the governor wants to dismiss bad teachers, streamline the due process requirements (which I've previously called 'undue' process) but do not get rid of them, as this initiative will. I don't trust administrators or anyone else to have that much power over others. The principal in this story doesn't have that kind of power but tried to exercise it anyway! Imagine what could be done when she's given that kind of power.

It's good that the superintendent realized that the principal was wrong in this situation and didn't try to tiptoe around that point or shrug it off. Kudos to him.

3 comments:

EdWonk said...

I couldn't resist linking this on a post: Would You Like A Passing Grade With That Zero?.

David said...

Because power can be abused doesn't mean it shouldn't exist.

Principals should have hiring/firing authority, subject to one-over-one review as is common in corporations...and the principals themselves should be held to strict standards of accountability, including but not limited to the success of their students. Anyone attempting to manipulate grades and/or test scores to make performance looks better than it is should be charged with a criminal offense: if appropriate legislation does not exist for this (I would think the fraud statutes would be sufficient) it needs to be passed.

Darren said...

Power in government agencies is a little different than in the corporate world, where I spent several years before becoming a teacher. Education administrators are notoriously bad--someone who *wants* that job more than likely shouldn't be allowed to have that job!

My observations, anyway. There's no profit motive, no observable cost, to hiring/firing teachers. It's all personalities, and the fairness principle in me can't allow for such abuse.