Valedictorian denied diploma

The valedictorian of Brooklyn’s High School for Legal Studies was denied her diploma because she criticized the school in her graduation speech. Tiffany Schley, who’s heading to Smith on a full scholarship, refuses to apologize, reports the New York Daily News.

Among her gripes: The school has had four principals in four years, overcrowded classes, a shortage of textbooks and other basic materials, unqualified teachers, unstable staffing and uncaring administrators who refused to meet with students to discuss the school’s problems.

“They always want to keep the problems hush-hush, but what goes on in this school is real,” said Tiffany, who was also the editor of the school newspaper, yearbook chairwoman and a member of the student council.

One teacher who attended the graduation said the audience was shocked by the speech.

“The administration was very nervous, but the students were definitely in support of her,” the teacher said.

When Schley came to school yesterday to pick up her diploma with the rest of her classmates, she and her mother were told they had been disrespectful and were escorted out of the building.

If the school has taught its students anything about the law, I’m sure she’ll get her diploma without having to grovel.

The High School for Legal Studies was created when a large, very bad high school was broken into small, specialized schools. While small schools are supposed to engage students and create a sense of community, many are faddish and unaccountable for results, opines Ryan Safer in the New York Post. He doesn’t think much of the new “Peace and Diversity Academy,” one of 70 small schools that will open this fall.

. . . there’s the dingbat problem: The city’s top advocate of small schools is the leftist group New Visions for Public Schools, which is concerned mainly with self-esteem and political activism. The group has gotten fat off of city contracts. It will run 43 of this fall’s new schools.

. . . So many of the city’s small high schools have been exempted from Regents exams, and allowed to judge students based on fuzzy “portfolios” of their work, that there’s no test-score data to review. The best the city can point to: slightly above-average attendance rates.

Academically rigorous schools are “placed in neighborhoods where parents fully expect their children to go to college.” The faddish schools end up in the Bronx and Harlem. For example, New Visions opened the Urban Peace Academy in East Harlem in 1993.

The school says it addresses “issues of peace and justice, wealth and power, racism and oppression and the creation of ourselves and our cultures.” What’s missing there? Hint: Fewer than half of Urban Peace Academy’s class of 2003 met state Regents English standards and none met Regents math standards.

Some of the new schools that will open in a few months don’t have principals or teachers hired yet.

Update: Valedictorian Tiffany Schley will get her diploma, without having to apologize for her graduation speech. The New York Daily News reports:

Before the ceremony, she submitted her speech to an assistant principal, as required, but he rewrote it and gave it back to her on graduation day, she said.

“He typed over it and had me glorifying the school,” she said.

She stuck with her first speech, but couldn’t finish giving it because the assistant principal cut the microphone — before she got to her positive comments about the school.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Your Blog was featured on 3-Blogs A Day. I hope this gains you at least one new reader. Thanks.

  2. Mad Scientist says:

    Amazing how this article just confirms what was in the “Protest Warrior” thread.

    It appears that freedom of speech is perfectly fine: you are free to speak your mind as long as we approve of what you are saying.

    Just remember, that “diploma” is just a scrap of paper. If she gets it, she should make a copy of it, use it as toilet paper, and mail it back to them.

  3. These administrators are gonna be toast. This is a direct First Amendment question, unlike the situation in the “protest Warrior” theread mentioned above. They will be hard-pressed to get away without huge legal damages unless they requiredup front that the speech be pre-cleared with the administration and indicated that any significant variation from the text would be grounds for disciplianry action. Somehow I doubt they did.

    Apology deserved? Yeah, perhaps — “I’m sorry that we have had to put up with all this crap all year, and that the administration of this school is so out of contact with the law and the Constitution that they would try to deny my right to speak on the issue.”

  4. Somehow I think that the more the school insists on not giving this girl her diploma, the more her claims of incompetence are going to be shown as true…

  5. Rita C. says:

    I’ve received several recruiting packets from the NYC SD this summer.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What a horrible thing to do to people – take their money and then cheat them out of an education.

  7. Alex Bensky says:

    You’d think they’d learn. The kid gives a nasty, albeit undoubtedly deserved speech. You give her the diploma and two days later the incident is completely forgotten.

    Instead they’ve managed to focus a lot of attention on themselves, and almost all of it will be unwanted.

  8. Give her that diploma you idiots!

    Interesting article about the small high schools to train political activists. Creating lifelong victims requires little work or training, but creating just the right kind of victim is harder. Practice makes perfect.

  9. According to Sunday’s New York Daily News, Tiffany Schley will be picking up her diploma on Monday. “Our position is that while she should have handled the matter differently, she will receive her diploma,” according to Education Department spokesman Stephen Morello. “We’ll also ask her if she’ll come in and meet with regional district officials about our concerns and her concerns about the school.”

  10. Bob Diethrich says:

    Hey Boys and Girls:

    How about the small schools part of JJ’s post? That is rich. Lousy neighborhood schools where an education is about the only legal way out of poverty and they are going to learn about racism and social justice (ie left wing boilerplate)

    This is too classic.

    Oh well I guess they can rail about “Da Man” and the plight of lesbians in Burkina Faso while they take their places in society at Subway, McDonalds, Cinemark movie theatres etc. etc.

    Oh that’s right they will probably be too uneducated to even work the computer at those places!

  11. Mark Odell says:

    JR wrote: “We’ll also ask her if she’ll come in and meet with regional district officials about our concerns and her concerns about the school.”

    “No,” said Tiffany, who knew the correct reply.

  12. Actually, she should go to the meeting and insist on raising her concerns firts — only to end the meeting when they attempt to browbeat her over their concerns.

    After all, she has the right as an American to petition for redress of grievances. They have no right to abuse her for exercising that right.

  13. stolypin says:

    These administrators are gonna be toast.

    Texas Teacher – – – as much as I would like to agree with you – – – I think the opposite will be the case. I think they will be treated as defenders of the faith and not rebuked for their actions.

  14. Andrew Stillman says:

    I teach at the School for Legal Studies. While we are a small “theme school,” the article’s attempt to spin this as a bastion of leftist ideology is flatly inaccurate. The school was actually taken over by the Chancellor four years ago because its charter principal ran it into the ground. Since takeover, the administrative ethics have been decidedly conservative.

    Tiffany’s complaints chronicle an era of a manically test-driven school administration. The problem has been that bureaucratic accountability standards create a whole strata of professionals who specialize in statistical snow jobs, Rod Paige being our snow jobber in cheif. With bonuses based on performance, our school was given the gift of a ringer principal who fattened his pension with a year of “academic gains” and then retired to the Pocanos. Since then, we have had two more pricipals. For students, this administrative instability has undermined all appearances of legitimacy, however parents in the community have no mechanism for screening school leaders and lack the social capital to make these “foster guardians” accountable.

    Tiffany blasted the administration not because she has learned to play the victim, but because dedicated teachers and lawyer mentors have inspired in her a genuine understanding of democracy. (Qualification of bias: My rather conservastive fiancee is her government teacher.)

    May her freshman year at Smith embolden her to return to this community and continue the fight.

  15. Superdestroyer says:

    I like the phrase “faddish” schools. In Washington, DC there was a push for a high school run like a military academy for black students. I thought the idea of a school where marching, calling cadence, and spit shining boots is empahsized to be the ulitmate expression of backhanded racism. No one who kids were in academicaly rigorous schools would want their kids wasting time shining shoes.

  16. Mad Scientist says:

    I find the juxtaposition of these two comments somewhat ironic:

    While we are a small “theme school,” the article’s attempt to spin this as a bastion of leftist ideology is flatly inaccurate.”

    The problem has been that bureaucratic accountability standards create a whole strata of professionals who specialize in statistical snow jobs, Rod Paige being our snow jobber in cheif [sic].”

    Thes two sentences are somewhat in conflict with each other. It is a tenent of leftist ideology that testing is bad. Also, that anything to do with the Bush administration is also bad.

  17. Andrew Stillman says:

    The NY state curricula and exams are not well aligned with national standards or the latest educational research, so one might question their legitimacy even on conservative grounds.

    The point is, the girl’s complaints come from four years of experience in a school driven by the right wing testing agenda. This is a “results driven” school…and over Tiffany’s term our test scores have significantly improved due to singularly test-focused instruction.

    To no great surprise, if students are drilled with every example problem ever authored, they will make measurable improvement on a test of the same format. Good dog.

    The problem with test-driven instruction is that students still can’t think for themselves or apply their shallow grasp of the content to a new context, which is the core of the latest national teaching standards!

  18. Lou Gots says:

    “Peace Academy?” Let me get this right. We let a bunch of Red Diaper Babies identify themselves, put them all together where they are less likely to contaminate loyal Americans, and then we let them forgo learning to read, write and compute in favor of pleasuring themselves with useless PC B.S., and this is a BAD thing?

  19. Mr Stillman–

    Would you mind listing for us the schools you attended?

  20. Jack Tanner says:

    Tiffany Schley, who’s heading to Smith on a full scholarship, refuses to apologize,

    My wife’s a smith grad – Miss Schley will fit right in

  21. Mark Odell says:

    Texas Teacher wrote: Actually, she should go to the meeting and insist on raising her concerns firts

    She already raised her concerns sufficiently in her graduation speech (“a word to the wise is sufficient”). The obvious solution is for the school administration to do the opposite of what they’ve been doing.

    — only to end the meeting when they attempt to browbeat her over their concerns.

    I wouldn’t give them the opportunity.

    After all, she has the right as an American to petition for redress of grievances.

    More specifically, “to petition the Government for redress of grievances“, which I submit points us towards the root cause of the problem.

    They have no right to abuse her for exercising that right.

    Again, I wouldn’t give them the opportunity.

  22. Mad Scientist says:

    The point is, the girl’s complaints come from four years of experience in a school driven by the right wing testing agenda.”

    I would submit that whatever is not measured can never be improved upon. If testing is a part of the “right wing agenda”, then all teachers who give tests to measure how students have mastered the material are only a part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

    But I guess it is wicked to be held accountable for how well students learn their lessons.

    Or you just don’t want to be held accountable for what you are teaching them.

  23. Having been the valedictorian myself, I will say that one should use caution in delivering messages that are hard to swallow.

    I’d be interested to see the transcript, but I have no doubt what this girl said was true. The delivery may be what’s in question. And while there are no set rules/regulations on what a person should and shouldn’t be able to say, the unwritten conduct of good taste, wise judgement, and class should be brought to light in a situation such as this.

    Nevertheless, the school’s out of line for withholding a diploma and escorting the girl out of the school. That’s only because it’s a public school. In my very private high school, they could’ve done just about anything.

  24. Andrew Stillman says:

    “I would submit that whatever is not measured can never be improved upon.”

    As a Physics teacher (with a 2nd major in Philosophy) this strikes me as a simplistic understanding of the task of measurement.

    100 years of modern physics show that the act of measuring fundamentally changes the system being measured.

    I submit that for systems more complicated than two by fours and race cars, such as networks of human beings, designing appropriate measurements becomes equally complicated. Assessment of knowledge is best carried out by and for the free-thinking members of the communities concerned (as is the practice in our most competitive higher educational institutions) or by private, third-party test authors, not by appointed panels of educrats.

    I submit that some conservatives are unwittingly promoting a naive positivism and statism bearing much resemblance to the national socialist educational structures in Europe.

    My schooling:

    Public Schools in Montrose and Croton, NY (EXEMPTED from NY State Regents Examinations)
    Lycee Jean Dautet, France
    Swarthmore College
    The University of Oregon
    The City College of New York

  25. Mad Scientist says:

    It is a truism that “that which is measured is done“. If you threaten to measure something, you can damn well be assured that people will work to have the measurement reflect favorably on their performance.

    While it is true that measuring fundamentally changes what is being measured, without a measurement you can only rely on “feelings” and instinct.

    And it is ridiculous to assert that one needs to be a free thinker to understand that to measure whether or not one knows that 2 + 2 = 4 one needs to be a free thinker. Or to be able to tell the difference between a noun and a verb. Or how to use them correctly.

    That is the arrogance of the anti-testing crowd.

  26. Mr. Stillman,

    I think your credentials more than adequately explain your statements and attitudes–those regarding this article, as well as your comments on ‘physics’ and politics.

    I issue my deepest sympathies to any student who has the misfortune to have you as a teacher.

  27. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    Jack,
    No need to be an ass.

  28. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    By the way, she got her degree.

  29. Mad Scientist says:

    I just re-read my last post.

    Hello, good morning and welcome! This is the Department of Redundancy Department. May I aid, assist, or otherwise help you today?

    That is what one gets when one is suffering low blood sugar just prior to lunch.