Tuesday, December 8, 2015

N.Y.C. Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina: "Every School Will Be Great"

“Today marks an unprecedented commitment to deliver for our schools that need extra support, and I know this will translate into real improvements in student outcomes,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said. “With the right leadership, rigorous instruction, community partnerships, family engagement, and ongoing support, every school can be great. We will ensure our school communities are anchored in trust, and with the cooperation of all major stakeholders, we will support our schools-our students deserve no less, and I’m determined to get this right.”
“Every school will be great.” That was New York City Chancellor Carmen Farina’s promise a year ago that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Renewal Program would convert the city’s worst schools into havens of student achievement. In a sharp departure from former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Chancellor Joel Klein’s strategy, which involved closing failure factories, replacing them with small schools, and encouraging charter expansion from the best operators, the de Blasio Administration instead is relying on pouring at least $400 million into the 5% worst-performing schools in the hope that these extra resources will result in turnarounds.

They need only look across the Hudson River to the bridge and tunnel crowd in New Jersey to see how well this works. Decades of what N.J. calls “Abbott funding,” or markedly increasingly funding to as much as $30,000 per student per year in its 31 worst districts, has had only lukewarm impact.

Today the New York Times reviews the history of the fledgling program, noting that the strategy intended to “draw a bright line between Mr. de Blasio’s educational policies and those of his predecessor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Mr. Bloomberg shut down many of the city’s worst-performing schools, opening new, smaller institutions in their place. Mr. de Blasio, instead, said schools could be turned around with additional money and support, and he named 94 of them to the Renewal program. “

However, over the last week de Blasio and Farina have come under attack for setting absurdly low goals for these 94 schools and also not releasing information on exactly what those goals are.
From the Times:
The Renewal goals are all supposed to be met by 2017. But in some instances, they were set so low that targets have already been surpassed. At John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Queens, for example, the school’s college readiness index was supposed to hit 15.1 by 2016. But the score is already 20.2.
Spokespeople for the D.O.E. said that the goals would be increased if they were already met.
But outgoing Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch is on record disparaging the low bar for these schools and expressing mistrust that the city will set meaningful goals. For example, as Chalkbeat reports today, while newly-released (or at least newly-transparent) goals for high schools set reasonable bars for raising graduation rates to 64% over the next three years, "the targets for elementary and middle schools appeared somewhat less demanding. For the 54 schools tasked with raising students’ scores on the state English exams, they must move students from an average of a level 2.08 to 2.20 in three years. (A level three or four is considered passing.) The 49 schools with math-exam goals must boost students’ average level from a 2.03 to 2.20."

The Times quotes Tisch:
In an interview on Monday, Ms. Tisch maintained her criticism. “When you set low, low benchmarks and you are letting people pass through, it’s like social promotion — at some point it catches up with these kids,” she said. “When you have a very low benchmark, and people reach that low benchmark, you’re still no place.” 
She added that “at some point, we have to stop supporting these schools that have failed for decades.”
De Blasio and Farina, however, are betting that this time’s the charm and that more money can transform failing schools into “great” ones. In pursuing this strategy -- already disproven in New Jersey -- they enable the Administration to maintain its anti-charter school stance that goes hand in hand with its cozy relationship with the United Federation of Teachers. This strategy privileges the needs of adults above the needs of children. It also disregards both history and the urgency of need for children who attend schools like John Adams.

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