Vox populi

Comments of the week: A feud over breadth of Stuy cheating

This week kicked off with a bang, as the city named its pick to lead Stuyvesant High School. It has fizzled since then, so we’re moving our regular Friday feature to today and highlighting some extra-interesting comments our readers left on the news story about the new principal, Jie Zhang. On Friday, GothamSchools will publish only if there’s breaking news.

Zhang is taking over Stuyvesant after the Department of Education’s top officials intervened in a high-profile cheating scandal at the ultra-selective school. She told reporters that she didn’t think cheating was a major problem at Stuyvesant — also her children’s school — but that she would nonetheless work immediately to establish a culture of integrity.

Our readers were divided about the scope of the cheating problem Zhang will have to confront — and about whether she could be more honest about it. In the second comment on the story, “Yes” wrote:

If there is a widespread cheating problem … and there is ……..with the NUMEROUS facebook pages with kids posting their homework….is a principal whose own children may be knee deep in it the right choice?

Another reader, posting as “ActualStudent,” expressed a similar sentiment:

To have 2 children go to this school, and think this was an isolated incident?

Either lying or entirely oblivious.

“123” said there could be a very good reason that Zhang was out of the loop on cheating that did take place:

How is it surprising that she didn’t know?
Teenagers keep lots of secrets from their parents, and a group of cheaters is not necessarily a topic that comes up during dinner conversations.

Cheating is a dinner-table conversation for another commenter, parent, “rf486”:

My daughter will be a junior at another large specialized high school. When we discussed the cheating scandal at Stuy, as well as the market in amphetamines among high school students recently publicized in an article in the Times, she said, yes, some kids cheat, some kids take drugs to do better on tests or sell their drugs. But not all students, not most students. My guess is that it’s similar at Stuy.

ActualStudent responded with a quick rebuttal:

it’s not

Stuyvesant had plenty of cheating scandals while Jie Zhang was part of the PTA.

School wide scandals such as a departmental final examination having to be re-administered after a student obtained a copy and distributed it to the grade. These stories did not get passed around to the media, but were well known about within the school.

To be part of the PTA, and not hear about things like that…

Another commenter who said he was a Stuyvesant student, “Anonymous,” offered additional details about what cheating there looks like to him:

What’s worse is that the cheating that happens at Stuyvesant is on such a cooperative level. I remember being in classes where the entire student body worked together to cheat.

Cheating here is different from other schools, because the students are more clever in their methods of cheating.

Aside from the cheating issue, other commenters weighed in on whether Zhang was a good choice for the school. She has been a math teacher, assistant principal, principal, and network leader in the Department of Education.

One commenter, “Tim,” wrote that he was surprised more commenters did not praise that trajectory:

Any time there’s been a reason on this site to discuss a Leadership Academy or younger principal, inevitably there are comments about how principals should have extensive classroom experience, graduate to becoming an AP, and then grow into the principal’s role.

Here is someone who has taken pretty much exactly that route, and who has five years’ worth of experience as the principal of another selective exam school to boot, and in the span of four hours here we’ve seen her called a “Tweed stooge” and an “apparatchik,” and had it implied that she condones cheating and must have been a failure as a network leader.

Unbelievable.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.