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.


call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”