Dumb Down Class, Asks Principal Memo

Ethan Rouen and Erin Einhorn, New York Daily News, December 13, 2007

The principal of an East Harlem high school last month stunned his staffers by suggesting they dumb down their classes.

“If you are not passing more than 65% of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities,” Principal Bennett Lieberman wrote in a Nov. 28 memo to teachers at Central Park East High School. “You are setting your students up for failure, which in turn, limits your success as a professional.”

The memo, obtained by the Daily News, urges teachers to review their homework and grading policies, and reminds them that “most of our students . . . have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general. They DO NOT have a similar upbringing nor a similar school experience to our experiences growing up.”

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Lieberman, a graduate of Mayor Bloomberg’s elite Leadership Academy, defended the memo and denied he was advocating lower standards.

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Students shown the memo Wednesday were insulted.

“Why are they going to let some pass who don’t deserve it? It’s not fair to those who want to work,” said Estevan Cruz, 16, an 11th-grader.

Senior Richard Palacios, 17, said 65% of his classmates don’t even show up for school. “It’s already too much of an easy ride,” He said. He estimated that only three or four of the 15 kids in his math class routinely appear.

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