honesty policy

Dozens of Stuyvesant HS students suspended for cheating

A dozen Stuyvesant High School students will be suspended for as long as two weeks and more than 50 others could face short-term suspension for cheating.

The punishments are only one component of the school’s renewed response to a broad cheating scandal that broke this summer. Stuyvesant’s new principal, Jie Zhang, is also requiring students to sign on to an academic honesty policy, urging the creation of an “honor code,” and cracking down on student cell phones.

Department of Education officials announced in July that they had determined that 71 students had cheated on final exams, with all but two receiving answers in advance to a city Spanish exam. They said at the time that a student who provided the answers would be suspended and not allowed to return to the school, the city’s most elite. They also said more punishments could come this fall but did not say how many students faced suspension.

Today, the city announced that the number is 66. Zhang informed the students and their families today about the suspensions, which for some students will start on Monday.

A second phase in the department’s investigation into the cheating, which is ongoing, is looking at the school’s original response. The department did not learn about the cheating until nearly a week after then-Principal Stanley Teitel sent a letter to parents informing them that some students had been punished, and the penalties the school levied did not match those outlined in the city’s discipline code.

Teitel barred students who had cheated from participating in graduation activities. But city policy calls for more stringent punishment. Now, 12 students will receive a superintendent’s suspension, which is meted out for more serious offenses and can last for up to 10 days, according to the department. They will have to report to special centers that the department operates for suspended students. Another 54 could face shorter-term principal’s suspensions. In a letter to the students and their families, Zhang said the punishments would be finalized in “suspension conferences” starting next week.

Teitel retired abruptly last month and Zhang was appointed to replace him a week later. She said at the time that her first goal would be improving the school’s “culture” so that cheating does not take place.

“I have not been made aware … or have a reason to believe that there is ongoing cheating there,” Zhang said. “However, my top priority is to create a positive school culture that ensures integrity and zero tolerance for cheating.”

Changes were palpable on the first day of classes, students said as they left the building Thursday. Some reported being required to sign contracts in each class saying they would not cheat or plagiarize. The contract, which the city provided to reporters today, asked students to confirm that they had read an academic honesty policy and understood that cheating would result in no credit and possible suspensions.

One student told GothamSchools that teachers were also stricter this week about whether students could use electronic devices, such as iPods or cell phones, to take notes.

City policy bars students from bringing cell phones to school, but in some schools such as Stuyvesant where there are no metal detectors, the policy has not always been enforced. Teitel had petitioned the city for temporary metal detectors during testing periods, but the city turned down the request. The student who initiated the cheating scandal did so by taking a picture of an exam with his cell phone.

Zhang said she would enforce the city’s policy. During the first two days of classes, school officials confiscated 17 student cell phones, according to the Department of Education.

In a letter to families, Zhang said she is urging the student government to craft an honor code as “a public sign of our commitment to uphold academic integrity at Stuyvesant High School.” In the wake of the scandal, some have criticized the school for breeding a culture of competitiveness in which cheating is inevitable.

Walcott said today that he was satisfied with Zhang’s handling of the disciplinary issues.

“As we said at the start of this investigation, we have zero tolerance for cheating or academic dishonesty of any kind, and the students involved in this incident will now face disciplinary action,” he said in a statement. ” I want to thank Principal Zhang for her assistance and for the steps she has already taken to restore academic integrity.”

 

Stuyvesant Letter

Academic Honest Policy

a 'meaningful' education?

How a Colorado court case could change how public schools everywhere serve students with special needs

Dougco headquarters in Castle Rock (John Leyba/The Denver Post).

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday grappled with the question of what kind of education public schools must provide students with disabilities, hearing arguments in a case that originated with a complaint against a suburban Denver school district and that could have profound implications nationwide.

The case involves a student diagnosed with autism and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder. His parents pulled him out of his Douglas County elementary school, saying he wasn’t making enough progress and the district’s response was lacking.

They enrolled the boy in a private school for children with autism and asked the district to reimburse them for the tuition, arguing their son was due a “free appropriate public education” as required by the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The law spells out the requirements states must meet to receive federal money to educate special-needs students. The district declined, saying it had met the standard of the law.

The family eventually filed a lawsuit against the district. Lower courts all sided with the district, reasoning that it had provided the child “some” educational benefit — the standard cited in the federal statute at issue.

Lower courts across the nation have varied in their definition of the proper standard. The high court arguments Wednesday centered on whether “some” benefit was good enough, or whether special-needs students deserve a more “meaningful” benefit.

Jeffrey Fisher, an attorney for the boy’s family, told the justices that as a general rule, individualized education plans for special education students should include “a level of educational services designed to allow the child to progress from grade to grade in the general curriculum.”

Throughout the arguments, the justices expressed frustration with what Justice Samuel Alito described as “a blizzard of words” that the law and courts have used to define what’s appropriate for special needs students.

Chief Justice John Roberts said regardless of the term used, “the whole package has got to be helpful enough to allow the student to keep up with his peers.”

Neal Katyal, an attorney for the school district, argued that providing children “some benefit” is a reasonable standard.

“That’s the way court after court has interpreted it,” he said. “It’s worked well. This court shouldn’t renege on that.”

Ron Hager, senior staff attorney for special education at the National Disability Rights Network, attended the oral arguments Wednesday and said he was optimistic the lower court’s ruling would be overturned.

He said if the Supreme Court does overturn the federal Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling and requires a higher standard, it won’t necessarily come with major financial costs for school districts. Instead, he said, it will nudge them to be proactive and provide teacher training and intervention services early on instead of waiting until problems — and the expenses associated with them — snowball later.

Marijo Rymer, executive director of the Arc of Colorado, which advocates on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said she was heartened to see the case advance to the Supreme Court. Establishing a clearer standard on what constitutes a fair and appropriate education for students with disabilities is a civil rights issue, she said.

“It’s critical that federal law, which is what this is based on, be reinforced and supported, and the court is in the position to deliver that message to the nation’s schools and the taxpayers that fund them,” Rymer said.

Both Hager and Rymer acknowledged that even if the Supreme Court establishes a new, higher standard, it could be open to interpretation. Still, they said it would send a strong message to school districts about their responsibilities to students with disabilities.

Summer remix

Ten stories you may have missed this summer (and should read now as the new school year kicks in)

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Gabrielle Colburn, 7, adds her artistic flair to a mural in downtown Memphis in conjunction with the XQ Super Schools bus tour in June.

Labor Day used to signal the end of summer break and the return to school. That’s no longer the case in Tennessee, but the long holiday is a good time to catch up on all that happened over the summer. Here are 10 stories to get you up to speed on K-12 education in Tennessee and its largest school district.

TNReady is back — with a new test maker.

Last school year ended on a cliffhanger, with the State Department of Education canceling its end-of-year tests for grades 3-8 in the spring and firing testmaker Measurement Inc. after a series of missteps. In July, Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that Minnesota-based Questar will pick up where Measurement Inc. left off. She also outlined the state’s game plan for standardized tests in the coming year.

But fallout over the state’s failed TNReady test in 2015-16 will be felt for years.

The one-year void in standardized test scores has hit Tennessee at the heart of its accountability system, leaving the state digging for other ways to assess whether all of its students are improving.

Speaking of accountability, Tennessee also is updating that plan under a new federal education law.

The state Department of Education has been working with educators, policymakers and community members on new ways to evaluate schools in answer to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which requires states to judge schools by non-academic measures as well as test scores.

Meanwhile, issues of race and policing have educators talking about how to foster conversations about social justice in school.

In the wake of police-related killings that rocked the nation, five Memphis teachers talked about how they tackle difficult conversations about race all year long.

School closures made headlines again in Memphis — with more closings likely.

Closing schools has become an annual event as Tennessee’s largest district loses students and funding, and this year was no exception. The shuttering of Carver and Northside high schools brought the total number of district-run school closures to at least 21 since 2012. And more are likely. This month, Shelby County Schools is scheduled to release a facilities analysis that should set the stage for future closures. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has said the district needs to shed as many as two dozen schools — and 27,000 seats — over the next four years. A Chalkbeat analysis identifies 25 schools at risk.

Exacerbating the challenges of shifting enrollment, families in Foote Homes scrambled to register their children for school as Memphis’ last public housing project prepared to close this month amid a delay in delivering housing vouchers to move elsewhere.

The new school year has officially begun, with the budget approved not a moment too soon for Shelby County Schools.

District leaders that began the budget season facing an $86 million shortfall eventually convinced county commissioners to significantly increase local funding, while also pulling some money from the school system’s reserve funds. The result is a $959 million budget that gives most of the district’s teachers a 3 percent raise and restores funding for positions deemed critical for continued academic progress.

The district also unveiled its first annual report on its growing sector of charter schools.

With charter schools now firmly entrenched in Memphis’ educational landscape, a Shelby County Schools analysis shows a mixed bag of performance, while calling on traditional and charter schools to learn from each other and promising better ways to track quality.