Saturday, March 26, 2005

At some point in this story you'll stop believing me

Normally, I'd just link to the story, give it a tsk-tsk and go on my way. But I want to see if this tale strains your credulity as far as it does mine. At what point in this narrative does your train of thought jump the tracks?
  • The State of New York requires its teachers to pass a certification test.
  • 19,000 teachers take this test each year: About 95% of them pass it.
  • The City of New York has been waivered by the State from meeting the requirement due to a lack of qualified teachers.
But... never mind. Keep going.
  • Middle School 142 is, according to the Daily News, "one of the city's most dysfunctional schools."
  • Wayne Brightly is a teacher at M.S. 142.
  • Brightly has been teaching since 1992, full time since 1998.
  • He has taken this test every year. He has never passed it.
  • If he fails it again, he may lose his job. (Even New York's patience is not endless, I guess.)
  • Brightly sought tutoring from one Rubin Leitner.
  • Brightly, 38, has a Master's in history from Brooklyn College. Leitner, 58, is an Asperger's syndrome patient with degrees in American and Asian history from Brooklyn College. They met in the college's alumni office.
  • Tutoring having failed, Brightly paid Leitner to take the test for him.
  • Brightly paid Leitner $2.
  • Brightly is 38, black, tall and thin. Leitner is 58, white, short and overweight.
  • Brightly arranged for fake IDs for Leitner, so that no one would question his veracity.
  • No one did.
  • Leitner aced the test. (!)
  • He scored so well that the State got suspicious.
Pardon me, I'm laughing so hard I can't type.
  • They also noticed that "Brightly's" handwriting had changed.
But not that he'd turned white and aged twenty years. You are who your ID says you are, and that's that, apparently.
MS 142 is one of the city's most dysfunctional schools. Fewer than 20% of its students perform at or above grade level; its principal was fired last year for incompetence. It's the type of school that experienced teachers flee, leaving children to the mercies of teachers like Brightly.
Is it actually possible that Brightly is the best they can do?

Sources: NY Daily News (front page); New York Times; New York Daily News (editorials, 2nd item).

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