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Ask Marilyn: Educators Under the Gun
Anonymous in Tampa, Florida, writes:
Marilyn: I just retired from teaching math, and I found your column about padding grades interesting. (February 3, 2013) A couple of years ago, my school was assigned a new principal. His first action was to harass the veteran teachers in hopes of making us retire or quit. He even changed my teaching assignment from teaching honors and advanced students to teaching the lowest of the performers and attendees. I had no problem trying to help the underachievers, but then this man directed me to give everyone in my math classes an A. Throughout my teaching tenure, I have been awarding honest grades and, as you might imagine, it was not pretty at the lower end of the spectrum from a performance and discipline standpoint.
Being a math major, and reflecting on my educational background, I thought this was quite an unusual directive. I arranged for a meeting with him and my union representative, and he repeated his mandate, even putting it in writing. The union rep was flabbergasted! But when we brought this to the attention of the superintendent, the end result was me being forced to retire from a school where I had taught for 25 years.
If he were a businessman, he would have been fired, but there is no shortage of unprofessional behavior in our educational system. Too many people support cooking the books so that everything looks peachy. What appears to be reality is nothing more than a skewed perception of achievement. I find this very disheartening as there are so many dedicated teachers who pour their hearts and souls into helping children yet are unappreciated and abused.
Apparently there is no shortage of educational corruption from Baltimore to Tampa and points in between. I would not be surprised to find this is standard operating procedure nationwide, since there are so many mandates to show success for funding. As teachers, we do not make the raw products that we are sent; we can only try to nurture and polish them to the best of our abilities. It's a sad state of affairs.
Thank you. Letters from readers indicate that the problem is rampant, and worse—many people believe that padding grades is the right thing to do.