NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza: Assessing His Performance in a Mayoral Control Environment

Richard Carranza, the New York City school chancellor walks a tightrope; the leader of a 1.1 million student school district in a mayoral control city in which the mayor is running for president as the candidate furthest to the left. The mayor is appealing to Afro-American voters and the most progressive voters on the Democratic spectrum, his education policies, he hopes, are appealing to his potential voters.

Carranza has to juggle satisfying the political needs of his boss with his own educational philosophy.

CityandStateNY, a website reporting news online on a daily basis hosts an Education Summit every August, a keynote speaker, usually the city chancellor or the state commissioner and a number of panels that confront the issues expected in the upcoming year.

Last year Carranza, who had only been on the job a few months, gave a typical speech: Who am I? What do I believe? And, “I’m one of you;” a speech trying to connect with tens of thousands of school personnel and parents. A year later:  the agenda of the mayor has dominated the chancellor’s first year.

On Thursday Carranza returned to the Education Summit, reflected on his first year and laid out his agenda for the upcoming year, a mixture of continuing the mayor’s progressive agenda and his ideas; structural changes that I find troubling.

Listen to the chancellor speech here – about 35 minutes – I urge you to listen.

The dominant education issue last year was the segregated nature of the admission process for the Specialized High Schools, and the entrance examination, the Specialized High School Admissions Test that is required by state law. Last year at Stuyvesant High School only nine Afro-American students passed the entrance exam out of over 900 students who received acceptance offers. A year later the legislature has taken no action to change the exam and the issue continues to dominate the education debate.

The mayor/chancellor has avoided another issue. There are over 200 middle and high schools with entrance requirements: test scores, interviews, portfolios, all under the discretion of the chancellor. The students are far whiter and more middle class than the school system. The schools are extremely popular with progressive voter parents. The chancellor has taken no action to alter/reduce/eliminate the screens.

School integration: an Advisory School Diversity Task Force issued a report and the chancellor has accepted almost all of the recommendations. Three school districts will be implementing locally designed integration initiatives in September with four other districts investigating plans with modest funds supporting the efforts; nibbling around the edges of “the most segregated school district in the nation.”

The mayor and chancellor continue to juggle, supporting progressive policies and avoiding major initiatives that might antagonize progressive voters.

The chancellor’s equity agenda is progressive, and, controversial.

A $23 million implicit bias training program for all staff: will a few hours of a workshop make teachers more sensitive to their implicit biases? And, how do we know it?  Or, (my cynical side) just an appeal to the most progressive voters?

The chancellor has also adopted a state initiative: Culturally Responsive – Sustaining Education. The state describes CR-SE as,

The CR-S framework helps educators create student-centered learning environments that: affirm racial, linguistic, and cultural identities; prepare students for rigor and independent learning; develop students’ abilities to across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; and, empower students as agents of social change.

 Alert: the draft California Ethnic Studies Curriculum created a firestorm.

The [curriculum] has led to bitter debate in recent weeks over whether they veer into left-wing propaganda, and whether they are inclusive enough of Jews and other ethnic groups. Now, amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions.

The materials are unapologetically activist — and jargony. They ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice.”

Will CR-SE incorporate the New York Times 1619 Project , a detailed exploration of slavery in America, in my view a wonderful resource, or, stumble as the California Ethnic Studies curriculum?

I have no objection; in fact, I support these initiatives, if they are implemented in a sensible, collegial manner. If you read the Common Core State Standards you probably agree with them, the implementation was disastrous. I fear imposed checklists rather than school-developed implementation plans.

I favor targeted more school-based targeted interventions.

I’m a pragmatist: I suggest to the chancellor:

  • Twelve month school years from pre-K through the First Grade, ideally with the same teacher with a social worker assigned to a discrete number of classes.
  • Each staff member assigned to perhaps ten students as mentors for their entire time in middle and high schools.
  • Change the Fair Student Funding formula, at risk schools, defined by chronic absenteeism, disciplinary “incidents,” and student achievement, would be assigned guidance counselors and social workers apart from the standard budget allocations.

The most challenging schools are overwhelmed each and every day; disciplinary issues, parent issues, bureaucracy “demands;” are not alleviated by a myriad of “programs.”

School culture is the key to school success, schools accepting “ownership” of their own practice; I fear the chancellor thinks that “success” can be imposed from the caverns of Tweed.

The chancellor pointed to two new structural initiatives: Instructional Leadership Frameworks (ILF) and “Edustats.”

ILF appears to be attempting to align supervisory supports, from the chancellor to executive superintendents down through the ranks: sounds like a Danielson Frameworks for supervisors.

Currently the Department collects reams of school achievement data, and, much of the data is publicly available on the Department website.  Take a look at the school performance dashboard for one school here.

The chancellor introduced a new initiative: Edustats. What are “Edustats?” As I understood the chancellor’s description: multiple tests through the school year with prescriptions for targeted interventions; that’s right, more testing.  Schools have purchased these programs for decades, without any sustained impact. On August 8th the Department posted a number of high level Edustat positions and I assume a new section at the Department churning out tests and data-sets by classroom. Sigh!!!

Changing classroom practice rarely comes from being beaten into submission; changing classroom practice comes when school leaders and teachers, collectively, devise student-centered instructional practices with rigorous curriculum and supportive assistance from superintendents and the bureaucracy.

I hope I’m misreading the Carranza approach.

3 responses to “NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza: Assessing His Performance in a Mayoral Control Environment

  1. How is it that with all of our talent in NYC, when it comes to The Chancelor we go outside the city with only 2 exceptions over the last 20 years? As for Carranza, in a few words, a race baitter from the word go! I have always known that too many of our very talented minority kids are not getting the enriched educational services they need. With that said, no child should gain from another’s loss. That is what forced quotas lead to. Open up satellite schools under BX HS SCi, or Bklyn Tech or Stuy. Startup freshman classes of 300 per annex…beats the crap out of forced startups of 20 in each…


  2. Pingback: New York City: A Report Card on Chancellor Carranza | Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Pingback: Is New York City Headed Toward a Collaborative School System Eschewing Testing for Project-Based Learning or Using Tests to Batter and Punish Schools? Schizophrenia Abounds | Ed In The Apple

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