Why in the World is Carmen Fariña?

The always reliable Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat has been following an intriguing story, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s efforts to roll back or close down many of the programs and projects begun when her predecessor, Joel Klein, was Chancellor.  She seem to have targeted for extinction what are known as ‘partnership support organizations’ like New Visions for Public Schools and the Center for Educational Innovation. As Chalkbeat’s Wall reported on February 13,

Bloomberg and his long-serving schools chief, Joel Klein, launched the partnership program in 2007 as part of their push to let schools choose the type of support they received. Nonprofit groups such as New Visions and the Urban Assembly — which had also opened new schools — joined the program, as did universities such as CUNY and Fordham.  Schools paid the groups up to $60,000 or so each year for their services, which include everything from help with hiring and budgeting to teacher training and data analysis.

Chancellor Fariña has also made clear that she does not support small high schools, which are central to the New Visions for Public Schools approach.  Again quoting Chalkbeat’s Wall:

The small schools it designed were essential to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy of closing large, low-performing high schools — a tactic despised by many parents and educators, and condemned by de Blasio. De Blasio’s schools chief, Carmen Fariña, expressed skepticism about a multiyear study that found that students who enrolled at the small schools were more likely to graduate and attend college than peers who ended up at other high schools.

When Fariña was preparing to overhaul Bloomberg’s school-support system, New Visions board members grew so concerned that they met with a top official at City Hall to argue for a continuing role under the new structure.

Met with a top official at City Hall” doesn’t quite capture what happened. My sources say that two of New York City’s major power brokers went to the Mayor and told him, point blank, that he wouldn’t get a dime from real estate, finance and law for his re-election effort if he didn’t tell Fariña to keep her hands off New Visions.  

The result: New Visions is doing better than ever. “It would have been a political nightmare for the mayor to pull the plug” on New Visions, said David Bloomfield, an education professor at the CUNY Grad Center and Brooklyn College, who has called for more scrutiny of the PSOs,” Wall reported.  

However, what is equally important here is that Mayor de Blasio did not order her to cease and desist with CEI, Fordham or any other non-governmental organizations connected with Bloomberg and Klein, and so she has continued to centralize authority and shut down programs begun during Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year Mayoralty.

What in the world is Chancellor Fariña doing?  Why?

Here are four theories:

1) Fariña, a veteran bureaucrat, is doing what comes naturally, consolidating her power;

2) Vindictiveness;

3) It’s a re-election strategy; and

4) Mayoral incompetence.

Theory #1: She is consolidating power in order to impose her vision on the system.  Chancellor Fariña often talks about “restoration,” but skeptical observers wonder what ‘good old days’ she harkens back to.  The New York City public school system has never worked for most Black and Hispanic students, and it has not done well by special needs kids either.  However, in those ‘good old days,’ power was concentrated at the top, and that’s what she’s doing.

Bloomberg and Klein believed in letting 100 flowers bloom (as long as school principals were the gardeners and unions were on the sidelines).  In contrast, supporting teachers is clearly central to Chancellor Fariña’s vision. In the two speeches I heard her deliver early in her tenure, she talked about elevating teachers, restoring respect for them and so on. But that was the extent of it, from what I heard. I didn’t detect any grand vision for the million+ students she’s responsible for.

Theory #2: Vindictiveness.  Could closing down Bloomberg/Klein initiatives (including successful ones) be nothing more than an effort to erase Bloomberg’s legacy?  Those who remember how the new Mayor allowed speaker after speaker at his inauguration to attack the departing Mayor (who was sitting in the front row) believe this is more of the same petty behavior.

As one non-fan of the current Mayor says, “It’s bad to be a sore loser, but it’s really unforgivable to be a sore winner.”

Is Chancellor Fariña vindictive?  I don’t have a clear reading. In public, she’s still seen as the “Sweet Grandmother Who Was Persuaded to Come out of Retirement to Serve,” but her critics describe her as controlling, small-minded and mean-spirited, adjectives that have also been employed to describe her boss.

Theory #3: It’s all about being re-elected, and that requires getting close to teachers. The lobbyist that Mayor de Blasio has met with most often happens to be Michael Mulgrew, the President of the UFT, the local teacher union.  

The men usually chat weekly and sometimes daily. The mayor has become a regular at union parties, lunches and other events. Mr. Mulgrew says he often suggests education policy to City Hall,” Josh Dawsey reported in the Wall Street Journal on March 15th.  He continued:

The teachers union, which has about 200,000 members, didn’t originally warm to Mr. de Blasio. It endorsed Bill Thompson the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor. It went on to endorse Mr. de Blasio in the general election, making him the first winning candidate for mayor endorsed by the union since David Dinkins in 1989.

With an eye to the 2017 election, the mayor’s political team sees the union as an important ally. With polls showing that New Yorkers aren’t happy with the city’s public schools, the issue is a vulnerable one for the mayor.

So, erasing Bloomberg/Klein could be de Blasio’s way of cozying up to teachers and their union. Perhaps he’s gambling that putting his re-election eggs in the teacher union basket will be enough to win him another term.

Theory #4: Another Rookie Mistake:  This could be just another fumble by de Blasio.  He wanted Montgomery County (MD) Superintendent Josh Starr as his Schools Chancellor. Starr is a true progressive as well as a New Yorker. I have it on good authority that Education Secretary Arne Duncan called de Blasio to voice his disapproval, and it’s possible that the UFT made its objections known as well.  Rather than search for another progressive, de Blasio turned to Fariña, a conventional educator.

That isn’t the Mayor’s only fumble in the education arena. Although de Blasio campaigned on a promise to create universal free pre-kindergarten and had Governor Andrew Cuomo’s financial commitment, he did not move to close that deal on Day One. Instead, he chose to attack Eva Moskowitz over the issue of co-locating her Success Academy charter schools in traditional school buildings.  Enraged, the fiery former City Council Member went into full attack mode.  She enlisted the support of Daniel Loeb and other billionaire donors and bused hundreds of Success Academy children and parents to Albany for a rally that Governor Cuomo spoke at.  In sum, she gave de Blasio an old-fashioned schoolyard whupping.

After his ill-timed attack on Moskowitz, a desperate de Blasio tried an end run with the Legislature.  When that failed, our Mayor lost more credibility, and Governor Cuomo put the City’s ‘mayoral control of schools’ on a very short leash.  From that day forward, Governor Cuomo has gone out of his way to embarrass the rookie Mayor.

Whether the explanation for what Chancellor Fariña is doing is a classic bureaucratic power grab, vindictiveness, a re-election strategy, or incompetence–or some combination, two things seem clear to me: Good programs are being cancelled and much-needed supports for struggling students are being removed.  That’s a crying shame.

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25 thoughts on “Why in the World is Carmen Fariña?

  1. Smells of cronyism, regression toward mediocrity and a total lack of innovation and creativity. SOS, Same Old Stuff, bad design, bad policy and the losers are kids. Conventional doesn’t work any longer for most kids and some administrators just can’t seem to get that through nor into their old, thick heads.

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  2. John:

    What you describe in your article is exactly what happened in Seattle after our efforts to improve the schools. What I learned is that the district is not the entity of change. Granted, you can change a district (like Klein did), but it is not sustainable. The book I wrote deals with that reality. What I learned is that the entity of change is the state. Unless and until we start there, nothing is sustainable. Given your interest in what DeBlasio is doing, you might find my book of interest.

    Don

    Donald P. Nielsen Senior Fellow Author: “Every School” 206-915-0451 dnielsen@discovery.org [cid:DA1641F6-265D-465E-97ED-6ED63F41E5D5]

    From: The Merrow Report <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: The Merrow Report <comment+zejkjznmikqeko_co-08cny@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 12:12 PM To: Don Nielsen <dnielsen@discovery.org> Subject: [New post] Why in the World is Carmen Fariña?

    John Merrow posted: “The always reliable Scott Wall of Chalkbeat has been following an intriguing story, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s efforts to roll back or close down many of the programs and projects begun when her predecessor, Joel Klein, was Chancellor. She seem t”

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  3. Sorry, any support of Ms. Moskowitz and her aggressive attempts to expand her use of NY public schools for little or no payment doesn’t meet the smell test.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Thanks for sharing this unfortunate, but sadly “all too common” story of “a classic bureaucratic power grab, vindictiveness, a re-election strategy, or incompetence.” Sadly, I’ve seen many similar behaviors in 45 years as an inner city public school teacher, administrator, parent, PTA president, researcher, writer and advocate.

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  5. I am not defending Carmen Farina, but you did leave out an obvious reason why she might have wanted to close those small schools — because they were only working by weeding out low-performing students. In fact, Bloomberg’s “small school” initiative often simply closed large failing schools and replaced them with a small school favored with the better students and the other school for the low-performing students. That is why OVERALL his policies didn’t have any effect. But they sure did reward the people who ran the schools where struggling students were shown the door (if they were even allowed in, in the first place).

    I believe a much better system is a large high school which also has honors tracks — as you see in many cities. The idea that we should pay money to outside organizations to state the obvious is pretty sad. Under Bloomberg those private “partnerships” were paid right out of public school budgets. So each public school’s “per pupil” expenditure included money that went right to consultants instead of to the kids. But that was hidden of course. The cost of all those private consultants came right out of the “per pupil” amount each public school was given. It was an ingenious way to undermine them because 1. those public schools never saw that money that went right to consultants and 2. the privatizers could claim those public schools were getting all that money and so their charter schools deserved to match it (even though those public schools never saw that money.)

    The fact that those organizations got rich while public schools were falling apart and teachers were buying their own supplies is a crime whose effects has yet to be reported. Those organizations did absolutely nothing for schools except take a cut of the money directly from the poorest public school students. I wish you would follow up by explaining what “value added” those organizations gave those schools because it sure seems that people were profiting handsomely because they were happy to take money that should have been spent for the kids.

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  6. Thanks for writing. As far as I know, the Chancellor is NOT closing small schools, as you assume. She is cutting off funds to NGO’s that have been working with troubled schools (some of them small, no doubt). What contradicts your interpretation is the fact that at least some of these schools have found alternate funds so they can maintain the relationship with the NGO.

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    • Thank you replying and especially, thank you for all your reporting on education issues. As a public school parent, I am grateful for journalists who are willing to question the powerful people and not just do the easy thing and rewrite press releases with “independent reporting” that usually involves interviewing a student or parent trotted out by the people in power to show how great the school is.

      I might have misunderstood your post, but I was responding to what you wrote here:

      “…Schools paid the groups up to $60,000 or so each year for their services, which include everything from help with hiring and budgeting to teacher training and data analysis.

      Chancellor Fariña has also made clear that she does not support small high schools, which are central to the New Visions for Public Schools approach. Again quoting Chalkbeat’s Wall:

      The small schools it designed were essential to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy of closing large, low-performing high schools — a tactic despised by many parents and educators, and condemned by de Blasio. De Blasio’s schools chief, Carmen Fariña, expressed skepticism about a multiyear study that found that students who enrolled at the small schools were more likely to graduate and attend college than peers who ended up at other high schools….”

      I should not have said “close small schools” – what I intended was to point out that NGO’s like New Visions were greatly supported because Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE hired them to work with lots of those small schools he created. Those NGO’s certainly grew under that policy and I wonder what they were paying their administrators. Did they offer any value added? Certainly New Visions had very powerful friends who were able to lobby the DOE by threatening to have their powerful friends start using their money against the Mayor. Which makes me question New Visions and whether it really did add any value. More likely a lot of public money went into their coffers for a layer of “help” that could have been done just as cheaply by current DOE employees. And of course, being a NGO was there any real DOE oversight allowed?

      If New Visions was giving added value for all the money it was taking right out of the education budget of very poor schools, then they should have made that argument on the facts. Instead, they got their powerful friends to use threats. That convinces me that they probably didn’t add much value that they could actually show. And yes, the Mayor’s office got burned by the powerful friends of Success Academy so now as soon as the people whose interest is in directing public tax dollars out of public schools and into private hands start to threaten him they cave.

      But if anything, the actions of the DOE to try to limit the power of NGOs like New Visions should be lauded. I don’t want any education dollars going to an organization that is not open for public scrutiny. That is what Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE did and many people got rich from those dollars and public school kids suffered.

      By the way, as a public school parent who carefully watched what happened when Mayor de Blasio first took office, I disagree with your characterization of what Mayor de Blasio did with regards to Success Academy. Because I believe it is so discouraging that the misleading talking points by the PR mavens now get cited as fact, I am going to do a second post on that. (I’m sorry this is so long, but it is incredibly important to me as a public school parent that the truth not get lost because without honesty, the right wing and the most unethical people win.)

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      • As I mentioned in my previous comment, this is a second post because I was really concerned to see an excellent journalist like you seeming to accept as truth the myth that expensive public relations have managed to convince people is true.

        You wrote: “Although de Blasio campaigned on a promise to create universal free pre-kindergarten and had Governor Andrew Cuomo’s financial commitment, he did not move to close that deal on Day One. Instead, he chose to attack Eva Moskowitz over the issue of co-locating her Success Academy charter schools in traditional school buildings.”

        That comment completely mischaracterized what I saw unfolding. I was watching those early months of Mayor de Blasio’s term to see if he would keep his promises or not. Here is what really happened:

        NY Daily News report BEFORE the PR campaign by Success Academy to thwart good public policy:

        http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fari-sits-charter-school-leaders-co-locations-article-1.1698850

        “Facing a LOOMING DEADLINE for Mayor de Blasio to decide the fate of 28 charter schools set to be co-located in September, Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Saturday sat down for the first time with about 100 charter school leaders.”
        ….The city has to decide by around March 1 whether to allow the more than TWO DOZEN charter school co-locations that were initially approved by the OUTGOING Bloomberg administration.”

        Note: There was no “attack” in those early days. There was a looming deadline. You may recall that in the last days — yes, the last days!!! — of the Bloomberg administration they took unprecedented action to reward their pals in the charter school industry, caring not at all as to what public school students might be harmed. It was one of the most unethical things that the Bloomberg DOE did and what is most appalling is that they knew they would never have to deal with the fallout of those actions! Hey, some public school kids will suffer greatly, but since the de Blasio administration will have to figure out how to deal with that, who cares? After all, they are just poor kids and without the kind of parents who would ever be “friends with Mayor Bloomberg” so let’s shaft them and let someone else deal with it.

        Now you are right that Mayor de Blasio could have done the “political” thing and said “these were terrible decisions that will harm countless children, but we can’t cross a powerful charter school leader so we better allow them to go through and if some severely handicapped poor kids have to suffer, well, that’s fine because better they suffer than to stand up for what is RIGHT.” I guess that would make him typical of the Democrats today who are happy to sacrifice kids and doing the right thing for “political” reasons because hey, rich billionaires might start a campaign calling them “liberal commies” if they don’t. I, for one, am glad that Mayor de Blasio decided not to do the “political” thing and actually did the right thing.

        By the way, that “right” decision in no way targeted Eva Moskowitz. Here is an article after the decision:

        http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/de-blasio-nixes-success-charters-run-foe-article-1.1704709

        “The three new schools killed by de Blasio were among a group of 17 charter schools promised free space in public school buildings last October. Fourteen of those publicly funded, privately run charters will open in September as planned, INCLUDING FIVE OPERATED by Moskowitz, who now runs the city’s largest charter network….
        …..But Education officials insisted the three Success schools in Harlem, lower Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens, were targeted because they would have taken space from needy students in existing schools.
        The mayor’s political ally, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, said de Blasio hadn’t gone far enough. “I am concerned about the fact that the vast majority of co-locations approved by the previous administration will be moving ahead,” she said in a statement.
        …Besides chopping three charter schools, city officials also CALLED A HALT ON PLANS TO OPEN SIX PUBLIC SCHOOLS in buildings that already house existing schools.
        But the decision to cut the charters aroused the most controversy. ”

        To summarize: There was a DEADLINE on the politically motivated and rushed co-locations of the Bloomberg administration. Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE found that 3 Success Academy charters, as well as 6 public schools, had been given co-location space that would harm the kids in the existing school. In the case of Success Academy, the kids being harmed in one spot were severely handicapped!

        Mayor de Blasio did not stop ALL new Success Academy schools because it wasn’t about them — it was about good governance. Five new Success Academy schools would open. But because that wasn’t good enough, Eva Moskowitz and her backers chose to spend millions of dollars not to find new space the way other charter schools had done (look at Brooklyn Prospect for an example of how it can be done by a charter with far less money than Success had) but to mount a PR campaign. And frankly when asked whether that PR campaign — trying to undermine de Blasio when he was lobbying for universal Pre-K funds — would hurt pre-k, do you know what Ms. Moskowitz said? That pre-k is NOT nearly as important as her charter schools and who cares if there is universal pre-k! In fact, her attempt to convince politicians that universal pre-k was not nearly as important as her charter schools didn’t work, but it was truly an appalling money grab by someone who didn’t need the money at all to open those schools.

        It’s ironic that journalists have conveniently forgotten how dismissive Ms. Moskowitz was about universal pre-k and how much she claimed that her K-12 charter schools were far more important and therefore she felt good about undermining de Blasio’s desire for universal pre-k because it wasn’t very important! Now that she sees a way to expand without having to take too many of those at-risk kids she often needs to put on “got to go” lists, she suddenly DEMANDS her own pre-k. But where? In her schools with the most middle class families! Not the ones in the Bronx! or in Harlem. No need for universal pre-k there, I guess.

        Once again, I apologize for this lengthy post, but I feel that it is important for journalists to remember the truth of what unfolded in those days. And it was not about de Blasio purposely going up against Eva Moskowitz as “punishment”. And he never “attacked” Success Academy in the making of that decision — on the contrary the DOE supported 5 new schools opening! They put a halt on the 3 (and 6 other public schools) that were just plain wrong. And it’s troubling to me that a good journalist like you is suggesting that the administration should have done the wrong thing because crossing the billionaires who support Eva Moskowitz was not worth sticking up for some low-income handicapped kids. I very strongly disagree. Standing up for the RIGHT thing is always worth it politically. Refusing to fight those battles at all because you have already decided they are “too hard” and who cares if some handicapped kids suffer is the actions of the kind of Mayor I was glad de Blasio was NOT. The fact that it looks like he is becoming that kind of Mayor thanks to the journalists who have forgotten the real story saddens me.

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    • As I mentioned in my previous comment, this is a second post because I was really concerned to see an excellent journalist like you seeming to accept as truth the myth that expensive public relations have managed to convince people is true.

      You wrote: “Although de Blasio campaigned on a promise to create universal free pre-kindergarten and had Governor Andrew Cuomo’s financial commitment, he did not move to close that deal on Day One. Instead, he chose to attack Eva Moskowitz over the issue of co-locating her Success Academy charter schools in traditional school buildings.”

      That comment completely mischaracterized what I saw unfolding. I was watching those early months of Mayor de Blasio’s term to see if he would keep his promises or not. Here is what really happened:

      NY Daily News report BEFORE the PR campaign by Success Academy to thwart good public policy:

      http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fari-sits-charter-school-leaders-co-locations-article-1.1698850

      “Facing a LOOMING DEADLINE for Mayor de Blasio to decide the fate of 28 charter schools set to be co-located in September, Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Saturday sat down for the first time with about 100 charter school leaders.”
      ….The city has to decide by around March 1 whether to allow the more than TWO DOZEN charter school co-locations that were initially approved by the OUTGOING Bloomberg administration.”

      Note: There was no “attack” in those early days. There was a looming deadline. You may recall that in the last days — yes, the last days!!! — of the Bloomberg administration they took unprecedented action to reward their pals in the charter school industry, caring not at all as to what public school students might be harmed. It was one of the most unethical things that the Bloomberg DOE did and what is most appalling is that they knew they would never have to deal with the fallout of those actions! Hey, some public school kids will suffer greatly, but since the de Blasio administration will have to figure out how to deal with that, who cares? After all, they are just poor kids and without the kind of parents who would ever be “friends with Mayor Bloomberg” so let’s shaft them and let someone else deal with it.

      Now you are right that Mayor de Blasio could have done the “political” thing and said “these were terrible decisions that will harm countless children, but we can’t cross a powerful charter school leader so we better allow them to go through and if some severely handicapped poor kids have to suffer, well, that’s fine because better they suffer than to stand up for what is RIGHT.” I guess that would make him typical of the Democrats today who are happy to sacrifice kids and doing the right thing for “political” reasons because hey, rich billionaires might start a campaign calling them “liberal commies” if they don’t. I, for one, am glad that Mayor de Blasio decided not to do the “political” thing and actually did the right thing.

      By the way, that “right” decision in no way targeted Eva Moskowitz. Here is an article after the decision:

      http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/de-blasio-nixes-success-charters-run-foe-article-1.1704709

      “The three new schools killed by de Blasio were among a group of 17 charter schools promised free space in public school buildings last October. Fourteen of those publicly funded, privately run charters will open in September as planned, INCLUDING FIVE OPERATED by Moskowitz, who now runs the city’s largest charter network….
      …..But Education officials insisted the three Success schools in Harlem, lower Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens, were targeted because they would have taken space from needy students in existing schools.
      The mayor’s political ally, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, said de Blasio hadn’t gone far enough. “I am concerned about the fact that the vast majority of co-locations approved by the previous administration will be moving ahead,” she said in a statement.
      …Besides chopping three charter schools, city officials also CALLED A HALT ON PLANS TO OPEN SIX PUBLIC SCHOOLS in buildings that already house existing schools.
      But the decision to cut the charters aroused the most controversy. ”

      To summarize: There was a DEADLINE on the politically motivated and rushed co-locations of the Bloomberg administration. Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE found that 3 Success Academy charters, as well as 6 public schools, had been given co-location space that would harm the kids in the existing school. In the case of Success Academy, the kids being harmed in one spot were severely handicapped!

      Mayor de Blasio did not stop ALL new Success Academy schools because it wasn’t about them — it was about good governance. Five new Success Academy schools would open. But because that wasn’t good enough, Eva Moskowitz and her backers chose to spend millions of dollars not to find new space the way other charter schools had done (look at Brooklyn Prospect for an example of how it can be done by a charter with far less money than Success had) but to mount a PR campaign. And frankly when asked whether that PR campaign — trying to undermine de Blasio when he was lobbying for universal Pre-K funds — would hurt pre-k, do you know what Ms. Moskowitz said? That pre-k is NOT nearly as important as her charter schools and who cares if there is universal pre-k! In fact, her attempt to convince politicians that universal pre-k was not nearly as important as her charter schools didn’t work, but it was truly an appalling money grab by someone who didn’t need the money at all to open those schools.

      It’s ironic that journalists have conveniently forgotten how dismissive Ms. Moskowitz was about universal pre-k and how much she claimed that her K-12 charter schools were far more important and therefore she felt good about undermining de Blasio’s desire for universal pre-k because it wasn’t very important! Now that she sees a way to expand without having to take too many of those at-risk kids she often needs to put on “got to go” lists, she suddenly DEMANDS her own pre-k. But where? In her schools with the most middle class families! Not the ones in the Bronx! or in Harlem. No need for universal pre-k there, I guess.

      Once again, I apologize for this lengthy post, but I feel that it is important for journalists to remember the truth of what unfolded in those days. And it was not about de Blasio purposely going up against Eva Moskowitz as “punishment”. And he never “attacked” Success Academy in the making of that decision — on the contrary the DOE supported 5 new schools opening! They put a halt on the 3 (and 6 other public schools) that were just plain wrong. And it’s troubling to me that a good journalist like you is suggesting that the administration should have done the wrong thing because crossing the billionaires who support Eva Moskowitz was not worth sticking up for some low-income handicapped kids. I very strongly disagree. Standing up for the RIGHT thing is always worth it politically. Refusing to fight those battles at all because you have already decided they are “too hard” and who cares if some handicapped kids suffer is the actions of the kind of Mayor I was glad de Blasio was NOT. The fact that it looks like he is becoming that kind of Mayor thanks to the journalists who have forgotten the real story saddens me.

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  7. NYC parent parent010203, we agree that it’s important to focus on facts and truth. Here are a few examples:

    As John Merrow reported for PBS, the success of small schools in NYC goes back more than 30 years, starting in East Harlem. That’s decades before Bloomberg.

    For 25 New Visions played a key role in helping NYC teachers and parents who had “new visions” of more effective ways to organize learning and teaching. That’s also well before Bloomberg.

    Large comprehensive high schools should be an option. But many of them have had very bad results with many youngsters. A terrific example of a large school that was closed and reopened with small district schools, started by NYC district teachers, is the Julia Richman complex. http://www.jrec.org/

    NYC has a long (and I’d stay unfortunate) history of creating quasi private publicly funded schools that are open only to those who score very very well on standardized tests. Schools like Sty, Dewey and others that screen out most applicants based on test scores are inconsistent with what public schools are supposed to be – open to all kinds of kids.

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    • Good points, Joe. I don’t want to dismiss the concerns of parent010203 — because the truth is that, under the Ed-Reform banner, a lot of dollars have gone to places they shouldn’t have gone. But New Visions and a number of other groups have worked admirably (and with little fanfare) to improve public education. It’s also true that most of us in NYC pay little attention to the fact that the specialized crown jewels of our public high schools are held to indefensible standards regarding equitable treatment of different student demographics — while our charter schools are continually lambasted for lesser offenses.

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      • Steve, I think we agree that some district & charter groups waste money. Are you also agreeing that the “specialized” – read – admissions tests schools – are allowed to get away with admissions practices that should not be permitted in public education?

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      • Yes, I am, Joe — sorry if I wasn’t clear before. The point I was trying to make is that these schools are so highly sought after that people who should know better ignore the fact that the admission practices are not befitting a democratic society.

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    • Joe Nathan and Steve Zimmerman, let me see if I understand you correctly.

      Stuyvesant and other public high schools screen students. Therefore, charter schools should be allowed to screen students. Expecting a charter school to educate the same students as a NON-screened public school — which constitute the vast majority of public schools including the failing ones — is completely unfair because why in the world would charters want those nasty kids in their school?

      Do I have that right?

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      • No, we are not communicating. I don’t think we should have public schools, district or charter, that are allowed to screen out students on the basis of test scores. I think places like Sty etc. are inconsistent with the ideals of public education.

        Re Julia Richman – weren’t kids in the neighborhood given the opportunity to attend the small schools that were created in that building? My understanding is that the answer is “yes.”

        Teachers also were allowed to create new options that they felt did a better job of educating at least some kids. I also think that’s a good thing.

        Again, I completely disagree with allowing schools to pick students on the basis of test scores (or auditions) for that matter. And as John Merrow knows, I’ve spent more than 40 years helping create public schools and legislation that supports the ideals of no admissions tests, empowerment of families (especially those from low income families) and empowerment of teachers to create options.

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      • Joe Nathan, I respect your opinion that we should not allow public or charter schools to screen students on the basis of test scores. It’s certainly valid and I wish you luck in your pursuit to make such screening illegal — right now the state wants specialized high schools to screen only using test scores and Mayor de Blasio and others have certainly wanted to change that and were attacked by many sides. He could use the support of people who completely agree with him like you do.

        You are being a bit disingenuous when you say “I don’t think charter or public schools should screen on the basis of test scores”. Should public or charter schools be able to screen at all? You seem to think that is okay, as long as it isn’t based on test scores. Should we prevent schools from knowing anything about a student’s report card, attendance, or behavior too, or do you approve of screening via that and it is just using the SHSAT that you don’t like? I would appreciate you making that clear.

        What I don’t respect is people who say “well there are a few very successful public schools that screen applicants via a test and I don’t like it even though screening applicants has proven to make a very successful public school. But I don’t have a problem with charter schools screening out the problem kids — even after they enroll — because that is the way to make a successful school.”

        MOST public schools in NYC don’t screen applicants via one test. And in fact, not a single FAILING public school screens applicants based on their academic and behavioral superiority.

        Charters were supposed to provide a solution to failing schools — the ones that DON’T screen applicants. The ones who educate all students. And now you seem to be telling me that charter schools aren’t for any kid — just the ones who will do well in whatever type of program the charter school wants to offer. In other words, charter schools should be free to abandon the lowest performing kids just like the small percentage of screened public schools do.

        You are either for weeding out large cohorts of the undesirable kids as the only truly successful charters do. Or you are for doing what the low-performing charters do and keeping every student and meeting them at THEIR needs and not the charter school’s needs. I get that you want to justify the high-performing charters ridding themselves of many low-performing kids by saying that a very small number of successful public schools do that so charters should be free to do the same. But then OWN it. Don’t pretend to be against what you keep trying to justify. You realize that is the way to be successful and why can’t a few charters do it too so they can also be successful?

        What I dislike and find dishonest is when charter school advocates enable those high performing charters who rid themselves of low-performing kids in order to justify your own existence. Because if you look at the performance of charter schools who keep every kid, it just isn’t very good. If you can average in the high performing charter schools, charter schools look better overall. Just like if you average the high attrition rates of the “good” charters with the low attrition rates of the low-performing ones that keep most of the students, you can fool people into thinking that charter school success has no correlation with the number of students on their got to go list. When both of us know that isn’t true.

        I think we agree on one thing: the more students you are free to screen out or weed out from your charter or public school, the more “successful” it will be. It may not help most of the students in those failing public schools, but apparently, that is no longer what charter schools are all about anyway. My mistake as I ignorantly assumed it was. If charters’ new reason for existence is to create “successful” schools by being only for the kids who will be successful in their schools, then I’m not sure what purpose they serve. Everyone knows if you screen out the kids who don’t do well your school will improve and even thrive.

        Will you at least tell organizations like Families for Excellent Schools to stop pretending to care about the kids in failing public schools? Since you don’t seem to believe that charters have a legal obligation to serve any of those kids except the ones who will do well in whatever system they find convenient to teach. The rest should be sent back to those failing schools but at least we won’t have the appalling dishonesty of organizations like FES spending millions to advertise their faux concern for them. I realize it benefits lots of people who make a very nice living from bashing the public schools who serve the students charter schools demand the right to throw out with the trash. But I certainly hope those people are called out on exactly what they care about and it certainly isn’t the students in failing schools who DON’T screen applicants like Stuy does.

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      • I do not support allowing public schools to use any form of assessment to screen out kids. That applies also to where kids live.

        We’ve been able to adopt legislation allowing students to move across district lines here in Minnesota, to attend district or charter public schools outside the community or district where they live. That legislation does not either district or charters to use any admissions tests.

        I also don’t think there is any single solution to improving public education. I write a weekly column for a number of Mn newspapers about various strategies that some schools are using well. You’ll see both district & charter public schools represented in these columns. For example, in the last 3 weeks, columns have discussed district, charter and alternative public schools.
        http://hometownsource.com/tag/joe-nathan/?category=columns-opinion

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    • Joe Nathan, I am also completely confused by your reference to the Julia Richman complex. Are you saying it is a bad thing because the smaller schools select the students? Or are you saying that it is a good thing because the smaller schools select the students and therefore the schools are more successful?

      I agree that if you shut down a failing school and ship the students elsewhere, you can then open up 4 smaller schools that select students. Some of the students from that failing school might even be among those selected. Of course, some of them won’t. What happens to them? Measuring those 4 schools as a success because they no longer have to teach those kids doesn’t really provide much of an answer, does it?

      Here’s a solution you will probably find distasteful. What if Julia Richman High School had allowed each of the CURRENT students to enroll in one of 4 programs? One would be the “Talent Unlimited” program. One would be the Urban Academy program. One would be the Manhattan International School for new learners of English. Each of the CURRENT students at that big failing school would be able to choose which of those selective programs you admire. But you would have to develop one of those small programs within the larger school for ALL students.

      See the difference? In my vision, you don’t keep to ship out the students you don’t want and create the “successful” school of your dreams. You actually try to create the school for the students who are there! Not figure out a program that will attract the students you want to teach while pretending the rest no longer exist because you don’t want responsibility for them anymore.

      The one thing I think is fabulous about the new Julia Richman complex is all their wraparound services like health clinics, etc. for all the students. That is a fantastic idea! If that was something New Visions started, then I tip my hat to their good thinking.

      Again, I think the small schools are the Julia Richman complex are wonderful. But you seem to think that has solved the problem of how to educate the kids in the large failing public school that was previously there. On the contrary, all it did was make many of those kids someone else’s problem. I think we are responsible for educating ALL kids honestly. Pretending that opening a smaller school that excludes many of them is a solution that needs to be rewarded for “good results”, while the schools where the most unwanted students among them are warehoused and remain underfunded and under attacked, is just so absolutely wrong.

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  8. Joe Nathan
    May 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm
    “I do not support allowing public schools to use any form of assessment to screen out kids.

    What are you talking about? Public school systems – unlike charter school systems — cannot “screen out” kids. Their obligation to the child remains, even if it means the school system spends $100,000 year to enroll that child in a private special needs school.

    “Screen out” implies that the NYC school system is abandoning their obligation to educate a student. It is ONE system. With an obligation to ALL children in it, and a child who doesn’t get into Stuy is not “screened out” of the NYC public school system because he attends another school in the system. Guess what? If you ask one of the thousands of parents whose kids didn’t get into Stuy and are attending other public schools in NYC whether they were screened out of the NYC school system, they would look at you like you were crazy. Maybe because you are in Minnesota where there is usually only one school per system, you are confused. And I would agree with you completely that if there was only one public school and it screened out the kids it didn’t want like charter schools do, that would be a problem.

    Only charter schools “screen out” kids. When they are put got to go lists and leave the charter school, the charter gets to abandon all responsibility for them, period. THAT is what “screening out” means.

    Maybe this will make it easier for you to understand: When Edina High School tells a student he can’t take an AP class in chemistry, and the student has to take regular chemistry instead, the student has not been “screened out” of Edina High School. If he was told he had to leave the high school and the high school abandoned all responsibility for him, THEN you could say he was “screened out”. See how that works. And see why the first example is what public schools do and the second is what charter schools do.

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