We start with the good news. In an agency known for its lack of consequences, it is heartening that the Education Department has decided to fire Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, a principal who was fixing grades at his old school, Maspeth HS in Queens.
Now the bad news: what took so long?
Why did it take a bunch of whistleblowers and a front page article in The Post for the DOE to investigate what students and teachers scornfully called “the Maspeth Minimum”? Why did it take two years to conduct this investigation and decide to fire him?
Abdul-Mutakabbir reported graduation rates of 99% – a number so out of the norm that it should have raised alarms, or at least a few eyebrows.
The answer, of course, is that they didn’t want to know.
Post reporters Susan Edelman and Carl Campanile have done a phenomenal job for years documenting the “pass it on” culture in New York City schools.
In 2014, Edelman wrote how students at Murry Bergtraum HS in Manhattan could skip classes year round, watch a video, answer a few questions online, and still be successful.
The following year, Campanile exhibited the “Easy Pass” program at Dewey HS in Brooklyn, where the kids got science credit for watching “Jurassic Park.”
Also in 2015, a William Cullen Bryant HS graduate in Queens confessed to Edelman that she skipped almost all of her classes early in the morning, but they “gave me a degree that I didn’t deserve.”
His teacher’s response? “It was not an ideal situation. If we don’t meet our academic goals, we are seen as failures as teachers. There is enormous pressure on us as teachers. I thought it was in her best interest and in the best interest of the school to overtake her.
In almost all of these cases, the city did nothing. The difference with Abdul-Mutakabbir, perhaps, was that he was so blatant about it. The answers to the tests have been erased and corrected. Ratings have been changed at all levels. And his teachers had finally had enough.
But make no mistake: this kind of shenanigans happens everywhere. Rather than holding a child to learn, too many students are being trained. Some argue that it is not fair to fail them. They have already been missed by the system.
The administration of the mayor of Blasio was more concerned with the racial makeup of the best schools in the city than with the problems of the struggling ones. His response to the Post articles was a shrug, a bashing of our reporters, and a boast about his “transformative” leadership.
The education ministry illegally blocks our freedom of information requests and then slanders us as racists for reporting the issues.
Parents are fed up. When worried about the education her African American son was getting at PS 147 in Cambria Heights, Queens, a teacher told mum Keisha Ellis to change schools.
Many have. A record number of students have left the system this year for charter, religious, private – or Florida schools. Others in the same district as Ellis’ son in Queens are calling for the change, demanding that the DOE do more.
The response so far has been to lower the standards for all students, believing that if not enough children pass tests or classes, the problem must be standards – not education. It is a scandal.
Even during the pandemic year, with its patchwork of remotes and hybrids, be prepared for the city to announce that graduation levels have hit a new all-time high. De Blasio will call a press conference to brag about it. And it will be a lie.