Over the years, we’ve seen some teacher comments on school report cards that would be red flags to admissions officers. It could be something like, “It would serve John to be able to be more of a team player in group projects.” Or it could be, “John tends to be reticent during class discussions.” Or maybe even worse. When Bev worked as a high school counselor, she also saw lots of teacher letters of recommendation that were either totally generic or actually included some sentences that created significant obstacles for applicants in their quest to gain admission to top colleges. But one teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women in Rochester, New York recently went a step further to hurt a student’s case for admission to elite universities.
As Scott Jaschik reports for Inside Higher Ed in a piece entitled “When a Teacher Ruins a Student’s Chances,” “Lola DeAscentiis was a senior this year at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women, in Rochester, N.Y., and had her heart set on attending the University of Pennsylvania. Lots of talented students want to attend Penn, and the university rejects tens of thousands of students who are bright and could do the work. But DeAscentiis had very strong grades and a range of activities. DeAscentiis applied early to Penn—and was rejected shortly after a teacher at Mercy revoked a letter of recommendation. The original letter said, ‘She excels at applying classroom knowledge to real world experiences, which greatly distinguishes her from her peers’ and called DeAscentiis a young woman of ‘piety, compassion and integrity.’ But the teacher sent a subsequent letter saying she was withdrawing the first letter because DeAscentiis ‘breached ethical conduct, broke confidentiality, and betrayed trust.’ She did not say how.”
You’ll learn from reading the piece that Ms. DeAscentiis didn’t seem to do anything outrageously wrong. She didn’t cheat on a test nor did she help a student cheat on a test. She didn’t plagiarize a paper. She didn’t commit a crime. Rather, she just didn’t attend an afternoon meeting for the school’s literary magazine after what seems was an email mixup. Indeed it appears, after reading the Inside Higher Ed piece, that the teacher, who unsurprisingly no longer works at the school, simply had a personal vendetta against the student — and it’s a real shame the school’s administration didn’t put a stop to this rogue teacher before it led to the student’s rejection in the Early Decision round at UPenn. Yet for the student, Ms. DeAscentiis, it all worked out in the end. While she was denied admission in the Early Decision round to UPenn, she got into Harvard University through Regular Decision. And if you’re thinking the high school’s administration may have called Harvard, imploring them to admit her after this teacher did wrong by their student, yes, it’s certainly a possibility in our book. Frankly, it would have been the right thing for the school’s administration to do! One of their teachers did wrong by one of their students. It makes sense they’d wish to rectify the situation.
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