Teachers at a high school under investigation for grade-changing were surprised to receive the school’s yearly progress report this week. The report was supposed to be under wraps until an investigation into the school’s grading process ended.
But a bureaucratic mistake at the Department of Education led to the letter grade being released and folded into a report that was given to the school and posted online.
Last year, when the DOE published schools’ grades, Herbert Lehman High School was left off the list. Allegations that the school’s executive principal, Janet Saraceno, was changing dozens of grades to boost the school’s graduation rate, were serious enough that the progress report data couldn’t be published, officials decided. The report, which is based on Regents passage, credit accumulation, and graduation rates, heavily relies on data that could be compromised by Saraceno’s alleged actions.
So Lehman teachers were more than a little surprised last Monday when Saraceno announced to the staff that the school received a low B and had been mere points away from a dreaded C grade.
“She was pointing to some document that she projected onto the screen of the auditorium,” said a veteran teacher at the school who asked to remain anonymous.
“And a few of us looked up and said wait a minute, we thought we would have heard that the info was being released.”
Lehman also received a B in 2008. Though its overall score was higher in 2009, raised cutoff scores caused it to fall into the B range last year as well.
The leak was an honest mistake, said DOE spokesman David Cantor. In addition to progress reports, all schools receive a report called a CEP School Demographics and Accountability Snapshot that includes their enrollment data, quality review score, and progress report grade.
Lehman’s administration never saw its official progress report, Cantor said, but it did get the snapshot report, which had the school’s letter grade and its scores in the various categories like “student progress” and “school environment.”
When I brought it to the department’s attention that Lehman’s principal had divulged the grade to her staff, the DOE removed all the progress report data from the school’s website.
“When we learned it was up there, we got rid of it because they don’t technically have a progress report grade,” Cantor said. The city’s investigation into the school is not complete.
According to the veteran teacher, Saraceno has told the school’s staff that she’s innocent of any wrongdoing.
Still, the DOE is taking extra precautions this year. Lehman students’ Regents exams are typically graded on campus, but this year teachers at the Theodore Roosevelt Educational Complex are overseeing the grading.