The principal of New York City’s Bryant High School, Namita Dwarka, is under investigation after it was revealed that more than 100 students were granted extra time to finish state exams that are required for graduation because they were falsely labeled “FELL” (former English language learner).
Many of the students however, are native English speakers, writes Susan Edelman for The New York Post. Those who are not, became proficient in the language at least two years ago, some as far back as 2005. After double-checking the students labeled as FELL, a teacher found that eight had never taken an English as a Second Language (ESL).
“I was born in New York. I grew up in this country. I speak perfect English,” said a senior at the Astoria school who took the English Regents exam on Thursday — and got an extra hour.
The school’s roster for March showed 110 of the 154 students (71%) labeled FELL. Records show almost none of the students were labeled as such as recently as October.
Many of the school’s teachers suspect Dwarka of the falsified information.
“It may be a way to skew the Regents results, or skew the credit the school gets for graduating these students,” a teacher wrote to the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation last week.
The investigation comes about a week after over 200 students and teachers held a protest outside the school, asking for removal of the principal.
Protestors claim Dwarka neglected the needs of special education students, cancelled math and science programs, and has altered students’ grades in an effort to make the school look better.
“It’s all because she wants to increase graduation rates,” Gus Prentzas, president of the school’s Parent Association, told The News. “She would do anything to make herself look good.”
Teachers are also at odds with the principal, claiming she modifies their performance reviews, cancels after-school programs, and fires them from coaching positions when they speak out against her management, writes Jill Castellano for The New York Daily News.
In 2013, Adele Lynn, the school’s health teacher, had failed a student for not showing up to class for the entire marking period. She had offered the student a chance to hand in a make-up assignment three times. Lynn gave the student a 45, but her official transcript reads 85.
“Ms. Dwarka never informed me that she was changing the grade. I checked the student’s transcript,” Lynn said in the complaint. “I have taught school for 24 years and have never experienced this amount of disrespect.”
According to Marge Feinberg for the Education Department, the three complaints filed against Dwarka this year have not been substantiated.
“We take these complaints seriously and will continue to work with our school community,” she said.