The acting principal of a Brooklyn high school was secretly recorded saying that too many students — up to 71 percent — were failing remote classes, and that teachers should pass kids “just because they’re trying.”
“If a child is engaged, if the child is doing work, but somehow the child doesn’t get it, gives you the wrong answer, but the child is doing something, checking in with you, doing work … I would have passed the child,” said Costas Constantinidis, acting principal of Cobble Hill High School of American Studies in Carroll Gardens.
Two clips of leaked audio from a May 14 remote meeting of administrators shows that remote instruction amid the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated poor performance at some schools. Under pressure from the Department of Education’s upper echelons, the schools are lowering the bar to pass students and keep their graduation rates up.
“What’s going on is a push to pass every kid — with careers and tenure on the line,” a Cobble Hill staffer told The Post.
Two teachers who posted 100 percent passing rates for the latest marking period are “gaming the system,” but they have been praised by supervisors and cited as models for others not toeing the line, the staffer said.
Constantinidis said teachers are giving grades in the 85s and 90s range to struggling students, calling it “flexibility.”
His remarks echo those of schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who urged principals to adopt his mantra, “flexibility and patience,” in a staff webinar in early April, as The Post reported.
In that webinar, Carranza also hinted at the watered-down student grading policy he unveiled on April 28. Under the directive, high school students can receive numeric final grades or opt for a pass/fail, but the fail is recorded as an “incomplete.”Students have until January 2021 to make up the work.
Also attending the May 14 meeting was Anna Maria Mule, the longtime Cobble Hill principal who took a one-year position as a “new principal coach.” Her move came after whistleblowers complained to the Special Commissioner of Investigations for city schools that she masterminded rampant grade fraud. Investigators interviewed teachers at the school before the COVID-19 shutdown, an SCI spokeswoman confirmed Friday.
Mule, who is set to return in July, still guides Constantinidis, staffers say. The DOE said Mule was “not an active” member of this meeting.”
In the audio, Constantinidis and Assistant Principal Rocco Gentile discuss their alarm at the latest progress reports.
“Looking at these rates, these failing rates, to me, that’s a problem, a major problem,” Constantinidis said. “Because we cannot survive with a failing rate of 60 percent … and in some instances 70 percent.”
The failing students include some who have rarely, if ever, took part in remote classes, staffers said.
The audio clips were posted on Twitter by @ed_watchdog, who commented: “Any true educator should be outraged. Our kids deserve better than graduating not ready for college.”
Constantinidis declined to comment on the audio, saying “I’m not allowed to speak to you.” Mule could not be reached.
DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson said, “The secretly recorded conversation occurred after grades were already submitted and had no impact on how Cobble Hill students were graded. Earning credit is based on mastering course content, and the flexibility we’re providing is the Course in Progress mark, which gives students additional time to master course content through January 2021.”
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