‘The school did nothing and they gave me A’s’

“Adam,” a Hispanic high school junior in California, is “a bright, hard-working student who has lived a tough life, yet still maintains a very positive attitude about his future,” writes an adult who’s come to know him. Despite his excellent grades, he’s not prepared for college, she fears.

Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail he sent her:

. . . last year i reported some of my teachers who didn’t teach me to the state, all we did was watch “R”movies and my other teacher fight and drew chairs, but the school did nothing and they gave me “A’s.

(The principal) is doing nothing about it he tells my mom that the SCHOOL has more rights and power than me and the parent.

As an A student, he’ll get into college, even with low test scores. But he’ll be assigned to remedial English with all the other students who were cheated out of a college-prep education by low expectations. He’d like to improve his writing skills now.

I suggested he ask his English teacher for help, as the first step. You never know till you ask. He also could check into community college courses he could take over the summer.

Another option is EPGY (Education Program for Gifted Youth), which offers online grammar and writing classes in addition to an array of math and science classes. However, Adam will need a scholarship. The grammar course costs $495; expository writing costs $600.

Adam is willing to try anything to achieve his college goals. Teachers (and others), what would you advise to help Adam prepare for college?

About Joanne


  1. I’d recommend Adam go to the media. Either the outrage of taxpayers will put pressure of the school to offer him better classes OR it’s likely that someone will learn of his situation and perhaps offer him a scholarship.

    I agree that I’d start by asking his current teachers. I think a lot of people are eager to work with kids who actually want to try and learn.

  2. If he lives in the L.A. area, I can try to help him — maybe get him into a better school — mine, for example (the lights work quite well these days). If not, I’d be happy to tutor him in some capacity long distance. He can contact me at Lmystrauss@aol.com

    If he doesn’t have a computer, I can get him my telephone number in some way other than posting it in this very public forum….

    Thank you for telling his story.
    It is shameful and I’m afraid far too common.

    I once nearly had an altercation with a student, an ex-gangbanger, because I was making him work in my class. He scowled at me and said that for 12 years teachers had feared him enough that if he kept quiet and stayed in his seat they would pass him, sometimes with a B or an A. He wanted to be a real student but it was difficult for him, after so many years, to be one.

  3. And a related question: where should those of us with teaching experience, who would like to help these smart and dedicated students, go if we want to teach online? While no one believes more strongly than I do in the importance of face-to-face instruction, there are many students out there who could benefit greatly from online interactions with creative teachers, and (I think) there are plenty of clever and under-employed teachers out there whose talents are not being fully utilized. It seems to me there’s a market open for someone who can get these two groups of people together.

  4. “I’d recommend Adam go to the media.”

    Yeah? Chances are the school would discipline him, possibly expel him, and it wouldn’t even rate a mention in the media.

    NDC, any guesses about how hard it would be to fire those unionoids? Here’s a tip; Google for Sara Boyd, once Vice-Principal of Menlo-Atherton High.

    Let me know what you think.

  5. Ragnarok,

    Give it up, buddy.

  6. I think it’s unlikely that school would discipline or expel him for telling his story to the press. And on the off chance they tried, I’m sure a lawyer would volunteer to sue them for all they were worth.

  7. Okay, I looked up Sara Boyd. It’s really sad that she couldn’t pass the test. If California will stick to it’s guns though the teachers in the state shouldn’t be that dumb in the future. Ideally, you’d have an even more rigorous test, but that’s up to the voters I guess.

    Why are you addressing this stuff to me?

  8. NDC said:

    “If California will stick to it’s guns though the teachers in the state shouldn’t be that dumb in the future.”

    Actually that should be “its”.

    But on a more serious note, do you realise that this woman sued the state alleging discrimination? And that the suit made some headway?

    Just curious, what subject do you teach? and what grade?

  9. Ragnarok, you asked NCD, “do you realise that this woman…”

    Try REALIZE with a Z….

    That’s bad, when someone as ignorant as me has to correct you.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  10. Wayne Martin says:

    I don’t think it’s productive to snipe at each other other typing “errors”, particularly since there are a goodly number of alternative spellings of words. US folks might not be accostomed to all of the alternative (thanks to their public school education), but none-the-less these spellings are valid and can be found in a decent dictionary.

    For instance, Realize .. has a british spelling ..

    **Also, especially British, re·al·ise. ***

    Any one who might have grown up in the current, or former, British Empire is more likely to spell in the “British” way, rather than the “American” way.

  11. Well, actually, my old school was an outpost of the Empire (it’s now 141 years old), and I enjoy the usage I learned as a boy.

    Not at work, though; too many people rush in to correct me, and it’s tiring and inefficient. On a blog, though, I can afford to be rather more relaxed.

  12. Forgot to say that I’m more interested in the idea than in the grammar or syntax, except when someone is an expert witness, so to speak. For example, Larry made a mistake in his last post, but c’est la vie. And NDC’s made her bones many times over, but again c’est la vie!

  13. Yes, Wayne Martin, I couldn’t agree more.

    And, anyway, I guess I’m the one once again displaying his ignorance. I do not know quite a few British spellings — grille, colour, etc (I’ve read enough Dickens, Orwell, etc. to have grown accustomed) but I didn’t realize (or realise) that realise was a British spelling of realize.

    I meant it not to take a snipe so much as to mock the prior snipes.

    Enough of that.

    Ragnarok, what exactly do you mean by “unionoid”?
    People who support unions?
    People who belong to unions?
    People who belong to unions and, at least in your opinion, do not think for themselves?

    NDC, I understand your suggestion to go to the media but I have my reservations. I may not serve his interests to publically embarrass himself in order to get the educational services to which he is entitled?

    Going to the local community college is a much better solution, though he is now into the third week of the semester. Perhaps it isn’t too late.

  14. Ooops!

    I meant, “I do know quite a few Brittish spellings”

    Not sure how that NOT got in there.

    Thanks, Ragnarok, for overlooking that other error of mine you caught…

  15. “unionoid” = union android.

  16. None of your business, Ragnarok. I’m not interested in having you know any more about me. The fact that you are following me around from thread to thread and making comments unrelated to the matter at hand is weirdly personal enough without my providing biographic information.

    In any of the school examples that I’ve addressed, I also indicated that anyone who visited the schools could see the same thing, so I haven’t claimed an expert knowledge related to my being a teacher.

    Again, I ask what any of what you are pointing out has to do with me?
    What do I have to do with teacher certification or lawsuits in California? I believe the woman’s suit was based on her claims racial bias on the test. Why are you asking me to respond to this?

    We should probably all proofread better, but I don’t know that misspellings and typos in posts composed hastily on a comment thread are a particularly good measure of anything. They certainly don’t affect the overall validity of the person’s point, in my opinion. Would we be getting this scrutiny if we agreed with you about everything? I somehow doubt it.

    But if it’s a general policy of yours to ignore the ideas of people who can’t spell, occasionally type the wrong form of a word, or make typos and leave words out, then please, by all means, you are welcome to ignore my comments, Ragnarok and Wayne.

    Again, I think what you are doing here represents you and your ideas far more negatively than any errors I’m making in my posts.

  17. Larry,

    I understand that it would be embarrassing, but perhaps if more people knew about what was going on, they would vote for different candidates with different educational philosophy who would then put pressure on the school, etc. Certainly, they could rally about Adam and get him what he needed.

    In Georgia we have countless TV news segments with kind of a “whistle blower” focus. Our media would be all over the story, and someone would respond. The reporters might even be open to hiding his identity from the general public. Maybe that wouldn’t happen out there.

    It might not be the way for him to go, but if he stays quiet about the situation, then there’s little likelihood of change at his school. That may not be his goal, and you are right that he can get what he needs other ways.

  18. I think Adam needs an assessment to see where he really falls since the grade inflation has probably masked that. Otherwise, you’re throwing darts into the air. This is the first step. How far off level is he? And in what areas?

    I imagine teachers in the school could help with that, but there might be something online, particularly under homeschooling websites. That way he could figure out where to start targeting his efforts.

    If his own school doesn’t have any summer school options, other districts often will have something. The community college idea is excellent, also.

    The main thing is to push forward. If the school won’t help you, go around them.

  19. Yes, I see your point, NDC.

    Just as victims of any crime should report it and risk further harm in order to prevent similar injury to others.

    Ragnarok, a very clever term indeed. But, again, what does it mean?

    I mean, literally, an andoid is a fake human, a non-person made in a laboratory.

    Are you implying that people who belong to unions are not fully human? Or that union members lack any intellectual autonomy?

    It is, as I say, a clever term. Forgive me for not fully understanding.

  20. That’s android (not andoid).


  21. I want to thank everyone for there advice. Thank You. Because I reported the school last year on the computer. They have baned me from all school computers, they are getting revenge at me because I reported them. Last week I was Suspended for one day because I went on a computer that my teacher gave permission to. I attend Rowland Unifield School District, the Assistant Superintendent is doing nothing

  22. If you were using a computer that any student was allowed to use at a time that any student was allowed to use it in a way that students were permitted to use it (for example, you were permitted to use the internet), it seems to me that the ACLU might be interested in how this might violate your first amendment rights because you certainly seem to be being punished by a government agency for what you said or for saying it, which would seem to abridge your free speech.

    If there were other policies that you were breaking to report the school (like you were skipping math to write the email or they don’t let anybody use email) then it’s not quite the same although they may know of a lawyer who could help you. I, of course, am not a lawyer, and I really do think you’d benefit from one. Joanne Jacobs implies that money was an issue for you, but you might find someone willing to represent you without money from you.

    All of that advice assumes you want to waste a lot of energy on something that isn’t going to help you with the academic issue at hand but would maybe help students who went to the school after you did.
    I don’t know if I’d want to make that kind of investment or if I’d just want learn what I wasn’t learning.

    If you do go public with your story, I think people will step up to help you. If you explain the trouble your having, the people who run the online coursed JJ recommended in her post may help you for free.

    You really might be surprised how many people are on your side and ready to help you once they know you need it.

  23. What Adam reports is what I was afraid of. Schools cab be very petty, and it’s hard to fight a bureaucracy. Nevertheless, having come to this point, it’s probably best to push ahead.

    An assessment would be a good start, but are there groups that could help him? Possibly FIRE?

    Larry, I wouldn’t worry much about the term “unionoid”. I use it to imply that many union members march in lockstep, willingly giving up their own beliefs. Not all – I know that there are plenty of teachers who don’t believe in the union’s agenda, but they don’t have a choice.

  24. Adam, you are a courageous and admirable young man.

    While many students accept and even desire an inferior education — one that does not challenge them — you are demanding what you are entitled to, what you deserve.

    If you were at my school you would have such opportunities, and while I would be willing to pressure my principal to take you (regardless of which school district’s boundaries you live within) I suspect that it is too far from where you live. We are in South Los Angeles, near the 105 Freeway and the 110 Freeway. We used to have a teacher at our school who lived in West Covina — not far from you — and it took him 90 minutes some days to get to work.

    I posted my Email earlier — Lmystrauss@aol.com — and would be willing to work with you via the internet to help get you ready for college if you like. My students, for the most part, do quite well when they get to college. A lot of them are at Cal State and UC schools.

    Your determination to succeed can get you quite far.

  25. Ragnarok:

    I believe that such people exist — those who follow a union agenda and do not think for themselves — though I have met very few of them. Perhaps because I teach at an alternative school. I don’t know.

    In the case of that unfortunate young man, Adam, and the incompetent and irresponsible teachers of which he complains, perhaps they have interpreted their union membership to be a liscence to commit educational malpractice with impunity. Perhaps.

    When I was a new teacher it used to irk me that I worked twice as hard as some of my veteran colleagues who made twice as much money as I did. But I felt the same way when, as a teenager, I worked in a corporate mailroom and saw executives lounging around in their corner offices (admittedly, my perspective was a bit clouded in that example). Now I am at the top of the pay ladder and try very hard to earn every cent of it. I don’t complain about what they pay me because I really enjoy the work.

    Last year, LA teachers elected a radical — a guy who had been considered a fringe candidate for years — as president of the union. Then, when he urged us to reject a rather small pay increase — I think it was 2 or 3% — we overwhelmingly voted to accept what he had said was an insulting offer.

    Go figure.

    In general, I think there are too many androids of all kinds, people who parrot one-dimensional opinions without much of their own thought or research.

    Thanks for the clarification on that term.

  26. Wayne Martin says:

    I don’t want to get into the “spelling wars”, but from looking at this short bit of text I’d say that English is not Adam’s strong suit:

    I want to thank everyone for there advice. Thank You. Because I reported the school last year on the computer. They have baned me from all school computers, they are getting revenge at me because I reported them. Last week I was Suspended for one day because I went on a computer that my teacher gave permission to. I attend Rowland Unifield School District, the Assistant Superintendent is doing nothing

    There are at least three spelling errors, and clearly tortured language use.

    From my passage through high school there were only three classes that were to prove of much value in college: Latin, Trigonometry and College-prep English. I had no writing skills before I took that class. While reading is important, writing becomes more important as one advances up the educational ladder, and eventually into the “real world”.

  27. I see the comments are now back on topic. Let’s keep it that way, please.

  28. I think Adam would be best off by going to the local library and checking out a zillion Schaum’s Outlines. Schaum’s Outlines were once only in technical subjects, but now they are in everything, including English Grammar and Writing and Grammar. They have Schaum’s for algebra, geometry, trig, calculus, and sophisticated higher mathematics and physics. They have Schaum’s for economics and philosophy. They probably have a Schaum’s for everything.

    They teach you a subject and provide dozens of problems, with solutions. Just do the problems. over and over until you understand every one of them cold. If you practice them, as a real test (without looking at the answers) you will learn.

    Adam’s biggest problem will be if he doesn’t know how to study. If he’s never actually learned anything before, he will have a hard time going from reading a book to doing a problem authentically, to putting something from his memory into practice. Doing every exercise in a Schaum’s outline will be good practice.

  29. Here ya go Adam:

    http://www.studygs.net/index.htm – Study Guides and Strategies
    A fairly wide range of, mostly, study skills courselets. The first six categories are: Preparing, Learning, Studying, Classroom Participation, Learning with others, and Online learning & communicating. There are nine more categories and each category has multiple courselets.

    http://www.qoolsqool.com/ – Qoolsqool
    Looks to be a sort of Yahoo for online education. Doesn’t appear to be any courses of study, just lots of courses and lectures. I watched a lecture on the Ruby programming language done for Google employees, available from the Google website (search term: engedu) and linked-to from QoolSqool. Most of the courses appear to be a bit advanced for high school but what the hell, the cost is right, right?

    http://cnx.org/ – Connexions
    From the web site:
    Connexions is a rapidly growing collection of free scholarly materials and a powerful set of free software tools to help

    * authors publish and collaborate
    * instructors rapidly build and share custom courses
    * learners explore the links among concepts, courses, and disciplines.

    Hit Study Guides first. Lots of useful learning skills instruction if no one’s shown you how to organize a project, do research or write a paper.

    Griefer’s suggestion of Schaum’s Outlines looks pretty good. I’ve never heard of them before but I’m going to find one.

    Have fun.

  30. Adam, just looking at your school district’s website, I see that Nogales is an AVID National Demonstration School, and Rowland has an AVID program. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest AVID teacher and find out about enrolling in the program.

    If you’ve been in AVID and put have forth sincere effort and it hasn’t helped you, perhaps you need to take a look in the mirror rather than looking around your school.

  31. Yes my school is a Avid Demostration school. But the school does not want me to join no club,no avid, and Student Body. My goal is to be a politician but the school has told me I can’t join nothing at their school. This is all because I reported them last year to the state, the state has not even begane there investigation. Trust me if my school let me be in AVID and other academic clubs I will join but they don’t let me.

  32. Adam,

    What were the circumstances of your complaint? Were you in clubs and organizations before you complained?

  33. Yes I was in clubs before my complaint to the state.
    Here is my whole story:

    Before I went to the Rowland School District in 2004 for high school I was in the Alhambra School District for middle school years. My family move which the district was Rowland. I was in all Special Education classes at Alhambra school distict, when I enrolled at Rowland School Distict they took me out of all my special Ed classes.
    When the first REPORT CARD came it was all “A”s. My mom ask every teacher how is Adam getting an A if he was just taken out of Special Education classes.They reply as while as Director of Special Ed at Rowland distict said “WE HAVE BAD STUDENTS, WE GRADE ADAM ON ATTITUDE NOT ACADEMICS”.

    All my teachers never thought. For English all he did was fight with the bad students and he even threw a chair one time, he always cuss.
    Foe History all he did was put rated “R” movies on and sleep in class.
    For math she said am passing Adam because he a good student, I have to many bad students. For science I got an “A” for selling candy and watching a goat, he never thought.

    MY MOM TOLD EVERYONE SHE WANTED ME TO LEARN AND BE PUT IN CLASSES THAT WILL HELP ME. THe school said “SO YOU DON’T WANT HIM WITH A HIGH SCHOOL DIAPLOMA”. My mom said yes but the importance is I am learning not the diaploma.

    I even found a video on the web showing a honors history teacher at my school letting two students fight in class. All he was doning is laughing and letting everyone film it. This is the kind of school I am going to. The Assistant Superintendent does not return my phone calls or anything. The school does not want me to use there computers and not to join no clubs or sports. They are getting revenge at me, they are trying to ruwen my crediabilty.



  36. Did you test out of special education so that you no longer qualify for services? Do you still have an IEP?

    How did you move from all special education into regular classes? Did you and your mom want this change?

    I think you should try to find a lawyer who will help you.

  37. No, I did not test out of Special Education. On my state test’s I get FAR BELOW AVERAGE. And in all my classes I get “F”s on my test and work, but they still give me an “A”. I ask my teachers why are you giving me an “A”. They reply we don’t have time to see if there right only if you did it.”WE GRADE ADAM ON ATTITUDE NOT ACADEMICS”

    No my mom or I did not want this change. The school said we have bad students and Adam is a good student.

    Yes I still I have one I.E.P. onuce a year they have me in one RSP class. But that is not helping me because the teacher is never going over class subjects. She is always on the phone or the computer, all she does is put movies on. At my IEP’s the school yells at me saying I am lieing and they don’t beleave me. And that I do bad on the state test on purpose. (I do not I do my best, because I now college look at the scores).

    The Assistant Superintendent refuses to reply back to me and respond to the phone calls i have made.

  38. Anybody in Adam’s area know a lawyer who will take his case? It seems clear that he needs one.

    It also seems that the problem is a little different that what may have been presented at first, in a way that actually will make it easier for Adam to get what he needs, I think.

    He is a special education students whose needs are not being met by his school or his district. Anybody know a good lawyer who will take this?


  1. […] week, in “The school did nothing and they gave me A’s,” I asked readers to advise “Adam,” a high school junior in southern California with good […]