Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a lead article today evaluating Carmen Fariña’s first year as the NYC schools chancellor. It comments on a number of education issues including the qualifications of principles, charter schools, data-driven decision making, and her relationship with teachers. The theme of the article is how Ms. Fariña has dismantled a number of the Michael Bloomberg/Joel Klein policies. Here is an example:
“In the little more than a year since Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed her to lead the city’s Education Department, Ms. Fariña has presided over a methodical dismantling of the policies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s first and last chancellors, Joel I. Klein and Dennis M. Walcott.
She inherited a department that tracked data closely and used it to decide schools’ fates, rating schools annually from A to F. Principals, many of whom during Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure were drawn from the ranks of novice teachers and given managerial training, were given as much freedom as possible.
If their schools did not score high enough on an array of data points — graduation rates, attendance, the number of students passing classes and going to college — they were subject to being closed. In 12 years, the Bloomberg administration either shut down or began to phase out 157 schools and opened 656 new, smaller schools. It was also supportive of charter schools, which are privately operated with public money; 173 of them opened in the city under Mr. Bloomberg.
Ms. Fariña, in contrast, believes that principals need both more experience and more supervision than they had during the Bloomberg years. She increased the requirements for new principals’ teaching experience to seven years from three. (One former aide reported hearing Ms. Fariña, 71, say that it was “ridiculous to think that you can be a principal under the age of 35,” though the policy is age-neutral.) And last month she re-established the importance of the system’s superintendents, whose role in overseeing principals had diminished during the Bloomberg years. Rather than closing struggling schools, she has said she will support them with more guidance and an infusion of social services, from family counseling to optometry. Shutting schools is to be a last resort.”
The article clearly presents Ms. Fariña as the seasoned educator who has taken over a struggling urban school system that was subjected to twelve years of reform made mostly by individuals committed to a business approach to K-12 education. Anyone who has followed the NYC schools knows that the many of the Bloomberg/Klein policies were problematic. It remains to be seen whether Ms. Fariña can right the ship. Her wealth of experience and knowledge of public education is something that the NYC public schools very much needed.