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City Says Few Jane Addams Seniors Lack Credits

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 07:07 PM

After a week of reviewing students' records at a troubled high school in the South Bronx, New York City Department of Education officials said that most of the school's 200 seniors are on track to graduate this June, but a small number are missing credits that could stand between them and a diploma.

City officials said on Tuesday that while they were still investigating teachers' claims that administrators at Jane Addams High School for Academic Careers gave some students credit for classes they never took, any problems that may have resulted would have little effect on students' chances of graduating.

Fewer than 10 students are missing credits they will need to graduate and five students' transcripts require further review, officials said.

An official letter sent home with seniors on Tuesday informed students that while there would be no changes to their schedules this semester, they are to meet with counselors to review the classes they will need to take in the spring.

Stephen Tavano, a teacher and union chapter leader at the school, said that in a meeting on Monday, city officials promised to create individual plans for students to ensure that they would graduate in June or August.

"We will work to ensure that all students have the opportunity to take all classes required to graduate," the Department of Education's letter to students states.

Last week, city officials announced plans to phase out the high school over the next several years for poor performance and low graduation rates.

According to Mr. Tavano, who has claimed that administrators at Jane Addams gave students credit for taking chemistry when they actually took cosmetology, some seniors might need to take double periods of math, a foreign language or gym to earn a diploma by the year's end.

In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Mr. Tavano said that he had in his possession the transcript of a Jane Addams senior who had taken three years of algebra. She passed the class each time but was re-enrolled, potentially giving her too few math credits to graduate, he said.

"There’s going to be a number of program changes that will have to occur, and they promised support for that," Mr. Tavano said. "These changes would only have to occur if mistakes took place. So there were mistakes."

Bill Colavito, a senior fellow at the Center for Educational Innovation, which was hired by the school to give support services, said that department officials assured network staff that as long as students passed their spring classes, they would be able to graduate.

During a Tuesday morning interview on the John Gambling radio program, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said "there was possibly some sloppiness" in how students were given credits at Jane Addams, but said that it was not necessarily a result of the increased pressure principals and schools are under to lift graduation rates.

"In a system like this," he said, "you’re going to find people who try to bend rules."

Here is a letter given to Jane Addams seniors on Tuesday:

Dear Jane Addams senior,

The Department of Education has conducted a thorough review of your transcript. No changes will be made to your schedule for this current semester. In the coming days, you will be invited to meet with your guidance counselor to review the Regents exams you will be taking in January/June, and the courses you will be taking in the spring semester.

We will work to ensure that all students have the opportunity to take all classes required to graduate.

Your parent/guardian will also be invited to a meeting at the school taking place Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, at 6 p.m., where they will receive additional information.

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