My goodness, this is a really UGLY little story. Earlier this year, a teacher comes forward with a sensational claim: that a star athlete with lamentable attendance and a failing grade in his spring 2008 course had his grade changed from an 'F' to an 'A'. claiming a student who cut his class more than 60 times in one semester and failed the course. An administrator at the same school initially confirmed these particulars. Shortly afterwards, the teacher was placed on administrative leave and it was further alleged that his classroom computer was swiped, recovered by administration but not returned to the teacher.

Now, in a substantial (this is not a sound bite) press conference that begins with a bit of rhetorical hand-washing with respect to his goals as a Supe, Dr. Michael Hanson puts the finger of blame squarely on the instructor in question. You can watch the entire performance here.

I sit here and wonder, along with Pilate, 'What is truth?' It's really hard to understand why the instructor would've allegedly blown the whistle on himself. It's equally hard to understand why the administration would find it productive to demonize the teacher. At worst, the teacher is part of the problem, not the sole problem. If there is a school culture in some places in the district where some kids manage to miss class regularly yet end up, in Hanson's words, in Ivy League schools, then I have to say I missed the memo. If a kid has more than 10 absences with me in a semester, they will almost certainly earn a below-average grade. Hanson suggests that this may be a systemic problem, and that's a concern.

Anyway, while I don't agree with everything that comes down the pike from administration, I have to say that I like Hanson's approach personally. He works hard and stays on-message. We are starting to see some gains in performance from incoming freshmen, and our Supe and his team deserve some credit for that, doubtless. After the me-driven, all style-but-no-substance tenure of his predecessor, Hanson's work ethic and willingness to commit new financial resources to areas of need is refreshing.

But...still....was it absolutely the best thing to provide such a detailed breakdown of 'deficiencies in employee performance' ? Absence of evidence (that someone other than the teacher might've cooked the gradebook on June 11th) is not evidence of absence, and there is a little thing called due process. Hanson is doubtless correct that the district will be litigated, but does the stand taken in this press conference makes it more or less likely that things will go well for administration? I have to wonder.


The Fresno Teacher's Association has issued a bulletin to classroom teachers expressing their (to put it mildly) disappointment and concern about how the Edison teacher has been treated, and expressing their doubts as to the teacher's culpability. The story being given to the media by the district is not the same tale that is being circulated by the union. Imagine that! Anyway, while I am inclined to believe it is possible that the classroom teacher may have not been sufficiently diligent with securing the district's computer, I agree with a show of solidarity in support of the teacher, who has not exactly been afforded due process. The union is requesting that we wear black shirts every Wednesday until this matter has been resolved, among other things.

Guess what color T-shirt I have on at the moment?



Badger3k said...

Reduced grade? By Texas state law (Texas education code): " § 25.092. MINIMUM ATTENDANCE FOR CLASS CREDIT.
(a) Except as provided by this section, a student may not be given credit for a class unless the student is in attendance for at least 90 percent of the days the class is offered."

This translates as 10+ days a semester. Missing less will affect their scores, if only through daily or weekly grades, while they can lose all credit by unexcused absences. This is an issue in the credit-recovery lab where I teach as most of our students have missed this number easily.

Badger3k said...

Edit - sorry, I meant "earn a below-average grade" - wanted to get the proper wording.

R. Moore said...

"If a kid has more than 10 absences with me in a semester, they will almost certainly earn a below-average grade."

I assume you mean uncleared absences. Multi-sport athletes would easily miss more than 10 afternoon classes in a school year.

Hansen's CYA today merely clouded the waters on this issue, and the teacher in question is doing themselves no favors. Any math teacher who would give an A to any but the most dedicated students better have a very good reason.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

I assume you mean uncleared absences. Multi-sport athletes would easily miss more than 10 afternoon classes in a school year.

Yes, but I was talking about any sort of absence in a SEMESTER, not a school year. It really doesn't matter what generates the absence; if the student isn't there in class, they are unlikely to do well in the course. Please note that I am not saying that I drop their grades purely on the basis of attendance. It's just if they don't come to class, and they don't immediately make up their work, their grade suffers.

BTW, many student athletes have been among my best students, precisely because they minimize their actual absences and make up any unavoidable absences immediately. The one program at Bullard that seems to claim a lot of academic victims is freshman football. A very large number of boys are not ready to make the all-consuming commitment to football while also being pulled out of afternoon classes once a week. They manage to hang on long enough in the program to miss several classes, then often are dropped from the team after the 1st quarter progress report comes in. I see it every year, and it just seems to go with the territory.

BTW, still have your notebook!