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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Carmen Farina and The Inequality Contradiction


Mayor de Blasio's schools chief is a competent steward of the failing status quo.

 Inequality Contradiction

The Bill de Blasio era begins in New York City on New Year's Day, and the new mayor is saying his main preoccupation will be reducing inequality. No doubt he means it, but his appointment Monday of Carmen Fariña as schools chancellor won't do much for that cause.
Ms. Fariña is by all accounts a competent steward of the education status quo. Known as a fine teacher herself, the 70-year-old served for a time as a deputy chancellor during the Bloomberg era but wasn't a reform leader. Mr. de Blasio made a point in his Monday remarks announcing her selection that she had retired because she was unhappy with the direction of the Bloomberg reforms.

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New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman on incoming school chancellor Carmen Farina.
Those radical reform ideas included more competition (charter schools) and more accountability (measuring school and teacher performance in part by how well students do on tests). Ms. Fariña is said to favor collaboration, rather than competition, among schools. Collaboration is a nice word, but it will achieve nothing if all it means is accommodating the demands of unions for less school choice and less accountability while demanding more money.
The contradiction of the liberal inequality agenda is that it ignores the single biggest obstacle to upward economic mobility—the failure of inner-city public schools. Mr. de Blasio built his "tale of two cities" mayoral campaign, much as President Obama has built his economic agenda, around income redistribution. Raise taxes and spread the wealth.
But no amount of wealth shifting will raise the lifetime prospects of kids who can't read or can only do 8th-grade math before they drop out of school. The education reform agenda is about reducing income inequality the old-fashioned American way—upward mobility and economic opportunity. By accommodating the education status quo, Mr. de Blasio will make the income gap even larger.

Mayor Bill De Blasio Makes a Huge Error in Choosing Carmen Farina as Chancellor

How soon do politicians forget, hoping that the parents and teachers of New York City public schools do too?
Carmen Farina

Carmen Farina is a disaster for individual liberty, freedom of speech, and asking questions about School Leadership Teams and where money flows when it enters a Principal's hands. She rammed TERC math down the throats of everyone at PS 6, and, when my 4th grade daughter wrote an article about how she hated it, Carmen removed her from Math Team:

Then to please Joel Klein, Carmen became the partner in buying the education-vendor-complex nonsense ("I don't care what the curriculum is, but I have to make money from it or I wont use it").  She replaced disgraced Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam. Elizabeth Carson of NYC HOLD says this:

" Farina was a perfectly aligned replacement for Lam, supportive of her failed education ideology
and universal Children First curricular choices, curricular choices that now even former Chancellor Klein himself admits were a disaster !!!"

Elizabeth sent this to me on facebook (thanks, Elizabeth!):

On the Lam

The mayor wanted basic change in the schools, and Diana Lam provided it—until unsavory tactics proved her undoing. Where does the chancellor turn now?

Joel Klein is not the man he was two years ago when Mike Bloomberg asked him to head the nation’s largest public-school system, and much of his evolution—especially his belief that children learn as much reading alone as they do from being taught by teachers—took place at the knee of Diana Lam. In a cabinet of private-sector and think-tank émigrés, Lam, Klein’s deputy for instruction, was the only career educator; while most of his team focused on rejiggering the bureaucracy, Lam introduced the one piece of reform that actually had to do with the way kids are taught. But now that she has left in disgrace—forced out for nepotism, igniting the mayor’s first major personnel scandal—Klein finds himself in an awkward position: He feels the need to defend her as an educator while condemning her sin. And yet, even as the scandal grows, Klein’s condemnation seems halfhearted.
“Some people for ideological reasons disagreed with her about the curriculum,” Klein says. “That became an issue. And in this business, people get polarized. That’s unfortunate. But I think that she was a sound educator, and I have confidence in her educational judgments.”
Klein defended Lam to Bloomberg, too, before the mayor finally persuaded him to get her resignation, which suggests either a certain political myopia or a devotedness to the deputy who became his mentor. In the beginning, Klein had hired her to be a change agent, offering her the job after just a few meetings not because of her educational philosophy but because they clicked. “I liked her style,” he told me last year. Did he know anything about the educational programs she used? “No,” he admitted. But he did know this: Four times, in four different cities, Lam would start up a campaign of parental engagement, introduce a new curriculum, and see test scores bump up a tick or two. And for an education novice whose boss needed the scores to go up before the next election, that seemed like a good deal.

In Lam, Klein had found a fellow anti-incrementalist; in a pedagogical culture of marathoners, she was a sprinter. Revamp the middle schools? No problem. Cut out social promotion in the third grade? Done. Devise a special-ed plan and break up the big high schools? You got it. She was dynamic and uncompromising at a time when managing the educational bureaucracy was at the forefront of the mayor’s thinking about education.
She was also impolitic, a lousy listener. She didn’t mind whom she provoked. The $800,000 buyout in San Antonio. The wacky three-day campaign for mayor in Boston. The bad blood in Dubuque. And the last few months in Providence, where she rigged a bidding war with Portland, Oregon, to boost her salary and then abruptly accepted the job in New York, giving notice by e-mail. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.
Last summer, newspapers were tipped off that her husband, Peter Plattes, was working in a department that reports directly to her. Lam claimed that Plattes never formally accepted the job, but another tipster revealed this to be a lie. Guessing who whispered to investigators about Lam’s indiscretions has become a parlor game at Tweed Courthouse. “She was done in by people inside the system who work for her,” says one source who sat on a board with Lam. “Not by reporters or teachers.”
In the final act last week, when a report by the schools investigator forced Bloomberg’s hand, Lam made sure she wouldn’t flame out alone: She said she’d been given the blessing of general counsel Chad Vignola, who resigned a few days later. For a mayor who has staked his reelection on cleaning up the schools, this is no time for an accountability crisis. But Klein, claiming all is well, continues to cast himself as a reformer—and Lam as a target of those who opposed reform.
“She didn’t mind whom she provoked. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.”
Lam’s enemies were ideological and political as well as personal. Phonics fans like Diane Ravitch were appalled by her philosophy of allowing long blocks of unstructured time for children to simply read and write on their own. Liberals hated the pressure the program put on teachers. The joke around Tweed was that for the first time, teachers-union chief Randi Weingarten and Manhattan Institute pundit Sol Stern agreed on something—that Diana Lam was a disaster.
“Wherever she went, the teachers hated her,” says Stern. “Her forte is a tremendous emphasis on top-down staff development. You haul all of the teachers and principals out of the classrooms constantly and pound into them what it is you want done.” Those headlines about how teachers are shocked that they have to keep lessons to less than eleven minutes—Lam took the blame for that. Which is why Weingarten felt comfortable sending Lam off last week with the hope that “we can start making educational decisions based on what works for children rather than on one administrator’s personal ideology.”
In recasting the system in Lam’s image, Klein embraced a curriculum already used in wealthier parts of town like the Upper West and Upper East sides—alarming conservatives who believe poor kids need something more structured, like phonics. Klein and Lam capitulated, making a phonics program available to qualify for federal money, but it’s clear Klein still believes in Lam’s approach. “People want to put adjectives on it instead of understanding the texture and nuance,” Klein says, “which is a much more complicated set of issues about how you not only teach children how to read words but to have an excitement for reading—to share ideas. So I think this is the right solution, and I think people are giving this a bad rap.”
in the last several months, lam had become so disliked that Klein was shielding her from public exposure. “Clearly, she was the lead educational thinker,” says Eva Moskowitz, chair of the City Council’s education committee. “But there was a vacuum when it came to who would be allowed to publicly defend the rationale. I don’t think either Klein or Lam really took seriously the level of dissatisfaction in the system.”
Now that she’s gone, there’s not much of a chance for Klein to exhale. “I think we have the right mix of talent,” he says. “Let’s wait and see if we bring in somebody else to fill that role on a permanent basis.”


“Well, it’ll depend, obviously, on whether we find the right person,” he says.
Much of what people found provocative about Diana Lam—the new curricula, the speed of the reforms—remains in place. But from here on out, Klein will be taking the heat alone. He’s graduated.
and this:
Making The Grade: Is Education Reform Working in NYC?

Making The Grade: Is Education Reform Working in NYC?

When the New York state legislature voted to dismantle the central board of education in 2002, Michael Bloomberg became the first mayor in thirty-three years with broad control over the largest school system in the world. Soon after, the mayor appointed former antitrust lawyer Joel Klein schools chancellor, and began a radical overhaul of the city's 1200 public schools.

Three years later, what has mayoral control meant for the city's 1.1 million students? How has it affected life in the classroom? In this three-part series, NEW YORK VOICES' host Rafael Pi Roman takes an in-depth look at some of the key initiatives in the city's educational reform program.

Part 1: A Standard Curriculum
(Video at right »)

Before mayoral control, public elementary schools were allowed to pick their own curricula, but in September 2003, the NYC Department of Education instituted a new standard reading and math program in every public elementary school in the city except for the top 200. This reform meant that teachers in almost every classroom in the five boroughs were taking the same approach to teaching reading, writing, and math, so that when a student transferred schools, he or she wouldn't have to readjust to a new curriculum. It also allowed the NYC Department of Education to take a more direct role in determining the way that individual schools teach basic subjects.

Making The Grade: Is Education Reform Working in NYC?

But there has been an ongoing debate over the specific curricula chosen by the city. The English program selected is called "Balanced Literacy," which was paired with a word study approach called "Month by Month Phonics." Critics say these programs don't provide enough direct instruction, and lack a systematic approach to teaching reading through phonics. For its standard math curriculum, the city chose "Everyday Math," which critics say overemphasizes self-discovery learning without spending enough time teaching basic principles.

Deputy Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who is in charge of the curriculum, says that both programs do teach the fundamentals. She also says that Month by Month Phonics is no longer the city's main word study program, and there's now a menu of approaches that principals and teachers can choose from, many of which do take a systematic approach to teaching phonics. While critics of the math curriculum object to the fact that elementary school kids are encouraged to use calculators, Fariña says that the curriculum prepares students for a world in which basic computation skills aren't as necessary as they once were.

Making The Grade: Is Education Reform Working in NYC?

What are the pros and cons of the standard curricula, and did the NYC Department of Education implement the right programs? An in-depth field report assesses how educators in schools have responded to the changes, and how the teachers union and those close to the classroom assess instruction. Education expert Sol Stern, from the Manhattan Institute, and parent-activist Elizabeth Carson of NYC HOLD lay out criticism of the reading and math programs, while Deputy School Chancellor Carmen Fariña responds.

Read more about the participants in this program

Part 2: The Small School Initiative
(Video at top right »)

Since the mayor was given control over the public schools system in 2002, the NYC Department of Education has started 149 new small high schools, while phasing out many of the city's largest schools. The main idea behind this reform is that in a small environment it's much harder for students to slip between the cracks, while teachers and administrators are forced to take responsibility for all of their students, including the ones who are failing. Replacing big schools with small schools is the city's main line of attack in reducing its dismal 54 percent four-year high school graduation rate. And philanthropists have also gotten into the act: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationhas given the city more than $100 million over the past three years to help create new small high schools.

Making The Grade: Is Education Reform Working in NYC?
But does changing the size of a school really increase its graduation rate? And how is this reform effort different than the small schools initiative carried out in the early 90s, which had mixed results? An in-depth report is followed by a panel of education reporters discussing the small schools initiative and other aspects of education reform since mayoral control.

Read more about the participants in this program

Part 3: Money, Power, and Public Accountability
(Video at top right »)

Since 2002, the mayor has held direct control over the public school system. But has mayoral control resulted in substantive reforms and a system that better serves 1.1 million students? And is the new system accountable enough to parents and taxpayers?

Read more about the participants in this program

I'm not going to be silent.

Betsy Combier