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A Philly teacher said she'd trade gift cards for increased grades, one family says. Now she's under investigation

Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

A Philadelphia teacher is under investigation for allegedly requesting gift cards in exchange for improving students' grades.

Approached by one student who was concerned about her grade at the end of the marking period this week, Samira Mack, a science teacher at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, made an offer, the student and her parent said.

"I said, 'Is there anything I can do?' and she said, 'I take gift cards to Starbucks, Target, Dunkin', etc.," said the student, a CAPA junior who asked that her name be withheld for fear of reprisal. The student said Mack told her she had made the offer to others, and said every $10 gift card would get her grade raised 5 points.

An 80 — the grade the student was looking for — would cost $20 in gift cards, Mack told her.

At first, the student wasn't sure if it was a joke.

Several classmates, desperate to raise their grades, did bring gift cards, the mother and daughter said.


"Most of them were scared of failing, or their parents finding out," the student said. "When your teacher tells you that's your only opportunity, some people would do anything to fix their grades."

The young woman said she was deeply unsettled over the incident. She did not entertain the idea of swapping a gift card for a better grade; instead, she told her family what had happened.

Her mother reported it immediately — to the school principal, to state authorities, to city officials. She filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Principal Joanne Beaver acted swiftly, the parent said. The principal told the parent that actions had been taken, but that they were confidential.


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