Bizarre Course Credit Scandal Rocks South Bronx School

Sharron Smalls, the principal of the Jane Addams High School in the South Bronx, is under investigation by the Department of Education after teachers claim administrators gave students credit for courses they never took, writes Ben Chapman at the New York Daily News.

"It's criminal what's been going on at this school," said math instructor Stephen Tavano, 58, who has almost 20 years experience at the school.

"Clearly, there's an agenda of credit accumulation, and it certainly plays into this. There's tremendous pressure to get students to graduate, but what has to be understood is that they've got to graduate the right way, according to the standards of New York State. And the principal made it a point to break the rules."

The city's Department of Education is investigating allegations that the school engaged in what one teacher referred to as "double dipping," the practice of giving students credits for multiple courses for taking a single class, writes Anna M. Phillips at the New York Times.

A school-issued "Dual Credited Course Table" shows how teachers were asked to award bogus credits to nearly all of the 720-student body.

For example, kids in tourism classes were also credited as having taken geography, and beauty classes passed for studying the periodic tables.

"They did it all so the kids would graduate without taking the required courses," a guidance counselor told The Daily News.

Teachers at the school insist that the school hasn't had a chemistry instructor since 2009.

"Kids are supposed to come first, but here they don't come first."

189 seniors who graduated in 2009, 237 grads in 2010 and 161 seniors in 2011 received bogus credits, claims the disgruntled teachers.

In 2011, just 45% of Jane Addams students graduated on time.

"The irony is that even with all that cheating we still got an F on our latest progress report," said a teacher.

The credit shortage came to light after new teachers refused to participate in the "Dual Credits" program. A group of teachers then had to warn the school's current seniors that only half of them had enough math coursework to graduate on time.

Angelica Taveras, 17, one of the seniors lacking math credits currently has a 76 average but is worried that she might not graduate because of the mix up:

"It's not fair," she said.

Principal Smalls formally worked for the Department of Education, currently earns $140,074 a year and has been at the school since 2007. However, when she was confronted, she told the kids she understood their concerns, but dodged questions about the credit shortage, Taveras said.

Education officials say they are investigating the allegations.


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