The Exemption Pass



  • At my old public highschool, the District (maybe even the State)
    mandated that every class must have a final exam, and it must account
    for 20% of the student's grade.  Of course, this fails to explain how
    it is even possible to give a final in, say, Vocal Music.  The teachers
    hated it and even the principal sympathized, and thus was born the
    Exemption System.



    I should start with a brief primer of how my school's computerized
    records worked.  A few years before, they discovered that their
    existing client/server OLE networked grading system was hackable (some
    fool stole the client off of a public network share and told everyone),
    and so the District authorized a multi-million dollar expenditure to
    'upgrade' the system.  The upgrade consisted of constructing a Java web
    application that was hosted over SSL.  There were strong password
    requirements and MD5 hashing that they undoubtedly borrowed from some
    other library, and all the other bullet points you need in a
    multimillion dollar government contract.  What everyone failed to
    realize, however, was that all the SQL commands were being sent to the
    SQL server in unencrypted plain text over a standard TCP connection.



    One of the 'hacker' students must have noticed this on ettercap, or
    something, because it wasn't long before someone opened a telnet
    session to 172.16.55.55:2500 and sent "DROP TABLE GRADES."  Of course,
    the SQL server kept no IP logs, and even if it did, there were no logs
    to tie an IP address to the user logged on at that workstation, and
    there were several well-known anonymous accounts (more about that in
    another WTF).  The software company characterized the loss of 100% of
    the grades throughout the entire school of 2500 students as a "server
    crash" and pushed for more upgrades and more patches that the State
    paid for.  In most cases these 'patches' amounted to introducing new
    loading screens that said exciting things like "Encrypting access..."
    and "Enabling cyphertext..." (not kidding).  This continued for several
    weeks, and eventually teachers went back to tracking grades in a
    physical gradebook, and just re-entering every week after a "crash."



    Anyway, this same SQL server and software was used to track absences,
    and someone had the bright idea of extending it to form the Exemption
    System.  The idea was that if you missed only a couple of classes a
    semester, you would receive an Exemption Pass that you could use in a
    single class to skip the final exam.  Of course, there was great
    success duplicating the paper Exemption Passes (attempts to thwart this
    included deliberately misspelling the name of the high school). 
    Automating this should be easy enough, right?  Just write an SQL query
    that SELECTs all STUDENTS WHERE ABSENCES < 3 and hand them all
    passes.



    There was also a little bit of logic to exclude certain absences
    (bereavement, jury duty, etc. should not count against you). 
    Unfortunately, there were several absence codes stored in the database
    that were not really an absence--that is, the software would sometimes
    store other information (a student's year, or their state-wide test
    scores) as a "fake" absence code.  If you have "J" marked on a day,
    that might be jury duty, and "B" might be bereavement, but "L" on
    January 25th means you're a Sophomore.  Long story short, many students
    who should have gotten exemption passes did not.  Mass panic.



    So half the student body (1200+ students) shows up in the main office
    on the day exemption passes were handed out at 4:00PM, demanding
    absence reports (fortunately these were generated in a way that they
    did not include "fake" absences).  The students were to go to one
    office, get their attendence report printed out, go to another office
    on the other side of the building and get it checked (and hopefully get
    an Exemption Pass).  Of course, there were only one or two days before
    the exams, because the administration didn't want the precious
    Exemption Passes out long enough for students to be able to forge them
    (it would be easier to forge the Attendence Reports, they looked for
    all the world like Excel spreadsheets).  This means that 1200 students
    needed their pass TODAY, and the Attendence Office typically had a
    turnaround time of 24 hours (e.g. you would submit a request for a
    report and receive it the next day).  Somebody discovered that teachers
    could print out attendence reports for their students, and thus the
    Attendence Office was saved from printing out 1200 reports, and
    individual teachers had to print out the reports.



    So I got my report printed out by a sympathetic teacher and headed to
    the Main Office to fight with the powers that be.  There were three
    people dealing with 1200 angry students.  I waited in line for a few
    hours and finally got in to see The Exemption Lady.  She was bald and
    overweight, with curly graying hair.  She looked at my Attendence
    Report and determined that I had more than three absences.  The
    sympathetic teacher had accidentally printed out an Attendence Report
    for the year, of which this was the second semester, and the Exemption
    Passes were handed out based on per-semester attendence (not per
    year).  Now this wasn't some type of totals sheet--the Attendence
    Report had a row for every school day and its date along with the
    attendence code.  So it would be easy to just start counting in January
    on page two rather than in August on page one.  This logic completely
    escaped her--she counted the absence codes, completely ignoring the
    dates, and she counted more than three.  When I got up from my chair so
    that I could point to January on the page and the fact that it might
    make sense to start counting there, she flipped out and threatened to
    have me suspended for what she perceived to be "agression."  I was a
    white kid with glasses, weighing maybe 160, and she weighed like 220,
    at least.  Anyway, I decided that it might be easier to just get
    another report.



    And so I did, this time making sure the teacher clicked the "Semester
    only" button.  Got back in line, waited a few more hours (it was like
    7:00 at this point).  Saw the Exemption Lady again, this time with a
    new report, that started on page two with "January".  This was
    literally the exact same document, except it had 60-70 records less
    than the last one did.  She held the two reports side-by-side and
    looked slowly to one and then to the other.  I was thinking "any minute
    now, she will see it!  One is for a single semester and the other is
    for the entire year!"  After a few minutes of careful scrutiny she held
    them both up to the light.  I don't know what watermark she expected to
    see; they were both printed out using the school's printers.  Finally
    she said "This is odd.  According to this report, you have too many
    absences, but according to this other one, I can give you a pass."  I
    sat there, dumbfounded, hoping to get away without being hauled out for
    'agression'.  Finally, she put both reports down, gave me a long
    lecture about how I much further in life I can get if I'm not
    'agressive', and she gave me my pass.



  • TRWTF is that nobody in the school figured out "Write your name on the top of your paper" can count as a final exam.

     We had a rule similar to this that everyone had to give a final, the teachers who hated it basically did something like "Your final is that you can find the seat you sat in all semester.  If your butt is in that seat, you pass the final"

     We also had a policy that if you had perfect attendance for that class during that semester, the final could only help you. 

    Now that I've been out of HS for a while, I see how much work they did to avoid doing work. 
     



  • @compaqdrew said:

    I was a white kid
    Why should this matter? You're racist. Quit being racist.



  • @compaqdrew said:

    She was bald [...] with curly graying hair.

    So if there wasn't any hair on her head, where was the graying hair hiding at?



  •  What I meant to say was, she had a very prominent bald spot.



  • @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @compaqdrew said:
    She was bald [...] with curly graying hair.

    So if there wasn't any hair on her head, where was the graying hair hiding at?

     

    He didn't say the gray hair was on her head



  • @taylonr said:

    @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @compaqdrew said:
    She was bald [...] with curly graying hair.

    So if there wasn't any hair on her head, where was the graying hair hiding at?

     

    He didn't say the gray hair was on her head

    That would explain why it's curly.



  • @bstorer said:

    @compaqdrew said:
    I was a white kid
    Why should this matter? You're racist. Quit being racist.

    Because tanned people are troublemakers, dummy. 



  • @Zylon said:

    Because tanned people are troublemakers terrorists, dummy. 
     

     FTFY



  • @bstorer said:

    You're racist. Quit being racist.

     

    Better a castist than a racist?  Personally I didn't feel the color of his skin was relevant to the story either.  However, I wouldn't label him a racist for stating he was white anymore than I would say a person was a sexist for mentioning he was a man (or woman).  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>Since you called it out, I suspect you probably have a bigger issue with race than the author of the post.<o:p></o:p>

     



  • @jreasons68 said:

    Better a castist than a racist?

    lolwut?

     

    @jreasons68 said:

    ...for mentioning he was a man (or woman).

    Hint: When "he" tells you he's a woman, it's generally not a good idea to go home with "him".

     

    @jreasons68 said:

    Since you called it out, I suspect you probably have a bigger issue with race than the author of the post.

    The end of slavery meant the loss of a lot of property in Virginia, so yeah pstorer might have a problem with that. 



  • @MasterPlanSoftware said:

    @Zylon said:

    Because tanned people are troublemakers terrorists, dummy. 
     

     FTFY

     

    That's it, you're on George Hamilton's list. 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Hint: When "he" tells you he's a woman, it's generally not a good idea to go home with "him".

    Now that's funny.  Then again... there are some pretty attractive she-males out there.



  • @jreasons68 said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    Hint: When "he" tells you he's a woman, it's generally not a good idea to go home with "him".

    Now that's funny.  Then again... there are some pretty attractive she-males out there.

     

    Bridget?

    Anyway, while on the topic of high school, a minor WTF happened this year at my high school.

    They replaced the beloved ulocker system with a new "DocuShare" system. Now there's nothing really wrong with DocuShare (nothing really right with it either), but ulocker was rather simple to use. When you log onto a school computer, you're connected to a network folder that only you can access. There were also instructions for connecting to it from a home computer (on Win98, WinXP, or Mac OSX, anyway), and if all else failed there was a browser interface for it.

    However, DocuShare is confusing. It took most of the students the better part of first semester to figure out how to upload files to their DocuShare: you have to click a link on the page, which takes you to a page where you can upload files. Two problems:

    1. Your "Personal Collection" is displayed on your front page. Why do you have to click a link to go to your "Personal Collection" again to upload files?

    2. If you hover over this link, the icon next to it is also underlined, and vice-versa. The icon is also a link. It does not go to the same place.

    And, surprise: nobody - teacher, librarian, resident IT guy, nobody - ever explained how to use DocuShare at all, other than how to get to it, how to log on, and how to upload files to a teacher's "dropbox" (for handing in assignments). Because of this, many students were actually using teachers' folders for storing their files. (Mostly the teachers didn't care.)

    And in case you're wondering, how are you supposed to get to DocuShare?

    1. Go to school district's webpage.

    2. Go to the "Search" feature.

    3. Type in "docshare3" and press Enter. Sometimes you have to press it twice, for reasons no one really knows.

    4. It will take you to the login page.

    Or, my version:

    1. Enter "docshare3.schooldistrict.com" and press Enter.

    And why docshare3? Well, docushare and docshare2 take you to the staff version. docshare1 does not exist, but "docshare" takes you to a lovely "Apache server installation successful" page. (And yes, all of the manual links work.)



  • DELETE FROM Days WHERE pupil="yourname"; ?



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    Hint: When "he" tells you he's a woman, it's generally not a good idea to go home with "him".
     

    Yeah, you are one to talk there....



  • @jreasons68 said:

    Since you called it out, I suspect you probably have a bigger issue with race than the author of the post.
    A sense of humor: get one.


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