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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

NYC Chancellor Says He Will Not "Waste A Good Crisis", Then Slashes Fellowships and Scraps Grading in K-8

PS 50 in the Bronx
NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza has been quoted as saying that he never "wastes a good crisis" to get his agenda put into place. 
He and his partner-in-crime NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio love this time of turmoil and are gleefully ignoring public opinions criticizing their education overhaul as they scrap grades in K-8, leaving parents and students upset about how graduation to new schools will work, and slashing fellowships. And this is just for starters. What happens next is unknown, but what we and they know for sure is, they - Carranza and de Blasio - are above the law and not beholden to anyone because the behemoth known as the New York City Department of Education is under Mayoral control. The DOE gets more than $34 billion in taxpayer money (fiscal year 2019-2020).

What does "mayoral control" mean? This means we, the general public, have no input. Nothing we say is listened to or matters to the Big Chiefs of the NYC DOE. I testified in front of the NY State Assembly Education Committee when they held a meeting downtown on Mayoral control a few months ago. The Chair of the Committee, Michael Benedetto, pictured above,  actually told every public speaker that no criticism of Mayor de Blasio or Richard Carranza would be allowed or heard. He put it out to everyone as a warning.
Jo Anne Simon
I was shocked. I was also greatly saddened by the silence of Jo Anne Simon who was also on the panel with Mr. Benedetto. I have followed her work as an attorney for children with disabilities for many years, but she agreed with Benedetto's threats to the speakers.
I think it is abominable that New York City is under Mayoral control, which means that all the members of our school board - the Panel For Educational Policy ("PEP") - are in place to agree to whatever the Mayor wants.  Since 2004, when I started attending the monthly meetings, PEP members openly violate Education Law by closing schools for no reason, voting on spending millions of dollars for programs or products which do not support our kids, etc. I could go on and on, as I have done on this blog and my website
We have been protesting Mayoral control and the PEP puppets since 2003. Indeed, I wrote the Department of Justice complaining about the proposal sent to the DOJ's Steven Rich clearly removing the right to vote by minorities in NYC who, General Counsel Michael Cardozo wrote, don't vote anyway. You can read my article on the denial of rights and the statement sent to Washington D.C., below:
Now that the PEP meetings are on video, you can see Chancellor Richard Carranza's temper tantrums and incompetency yourself.

We parents, educators and concerned citizens need a voice now more than ever in making sure our kids are learning the academic subjects as well as how to deal with life in general. The overhaul of the public school system in New York City that will be put in place in September will sadly not have the input of any of us.

Betsy Combier,
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
NYC DOE slashes fellowship program cutting hundreds of teaching jobs
Selim Algar, NY POST, May 13, 2020

Richard CarranzaTaidgh Barron/NY Post
Citing the coronavirus, the Department of Education has gutted a fellowship program that would have placed hundreds of teachers into city schools next year, The Post has learned.
A total of 475 accepted applicants were slated to begin training this summer for eventual placement in the fall.
But the program was hacked down to just 75 — and even those surviving participants aren’t guaranteed employment.
“Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, we are actively assessing our hiring needs for next year, and this summer we will have training for a small cohort of fellows in order to fill critical positions in District 75,” said DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson.
There are roughly 10,000 current city teachers who launched their careers through the program, Filson said.
“It’s shocking,” said a Brooklyn woman who was supposed to start training this summer and is now without any job prospects for next year. “It’s really hard to look forward to a new career and to have this happen. It’s like, now what?”
City Hall plans to cleave the education budget by $827 million to combat pandemic related shortfalls next year.
Critics have blasted the slashing, arguing that too many essential programs are being gashed while other areas — including central administrative costs — are avoiding the blade.
“Cutting a program like this is going to have a direct impact on children,” the spurned applicant said. “These are people who really sought out being teachers in New York City.”
Filson said the DOE is working to plug staffing shortfalls and noted that the number of traditional applications for city teaching posts is still strong.
“This administration has made unprecedented investments in teacher training and leadership programs and we will be prioritizing this cohort’s applications in future programs and offering them early opportunities to enroll,” she added.
, NY POST May 7, 2020

Mayor de Blasio affirmed Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has provided he and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza an opportunity to radically change the city’s public high school admissions policy next year.

Last month, de Blasio announced that the city was scrapping the traditional grading policy for kindergarten through eighth-grade students this year because of the coronavirus crisis. The normal grading, however, remains for high school students.
The pandemic has also resulted in the cancellation of state exams and the removal of attendance as an admissions metric.
Asked about The Post front page Thursday on a survey that found 92 percent of parents are “extremely or very concerned” that the scrapping of the grades this year will provide an opening to push through radical changes on admissions processes, the mayor said, “Many things are going to be re-evaluated as a result of this crisis.”
“We are just not going to bring New York City back to the status quo that was there before,” Hizzoner said.
The mayor continued, “We’re going to try to create a series of changes that bring equity … certainly the screened schools are being re-evaluated.”
De Blasio said only that the school admissions policy “will be addressed soon.”
The mayor was at first evasive when asked by a Post reporter about Carranza telling fellow administrators not to “waste a good crisis” in the pursuit of systemic change in a panel discussion last month.
“I don’t know the specific panel discussion you’re talking about, so I can’t respond to comments I haven’t seen the context of,” the mayor said.
But later, provided with details of the national Association of Latino Supervisors and Superintendents video conference held in mid-April, the mayor added, “The Chancellor was clearly speaking to our ability to address underlying issues as we move forward from this crisis.”
Asked how city seventh-graders will apply for high school next year, the mayor acknowledged changes are afoot behind the scenes.
“We’ve been clear in this administration that we are re-evaluating the admissions process across the board and we’re asking important questions about what is fair and equitable going forward,” he said.
Asked why grading was maintained for high school students and not middle schoolers, whose seventh-grade scores are used to weigh admissions to the city’s high schools when they apply in eighth grade, City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer said, “High school grades are on students’ transcripts which are used for college applications, internships and other external uses. There is also a greater independence of learners for high school students, versus lower grades.”
She tellingly added, “We have the ability to adjust the high school admissions process in a way that we can’t for colleges and universities. We will have more to share on admissions processes soon.”
Meanwhile, big-name backers of specialized high school admissions testing — which is based solely on a single citywide standardized test that determines exceptance to an elite eight schools in the city — also blasted potential overhauls of the city’s grading and screening systems.
In a letter to de Blasio and Carranza, members of the Education Equity Campaign — led by cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder, former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, and activist Kirsten John Foy — pressed for more resources rather than a systemic reboot.
The group called for city leaders to leverage new technology to increase test prep access among other services.
“We cannot waste time and resources on plans that will cause more chaos and turmoil in our school admissions system,” the letter read.

Richard Carranza
Credit: Stefan Jeremiah
DOE could end screening for top NYC schools after coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus may kill the controversial practice of “screening” students for admittance to NYC’s most coveted middle and high schools, at least temporarily.
With this year’s state math and English exams canceled, a watered-down grading policy enacted, and the tossing of attendance, the key factors for admission to selective schools have been dropped or diminished.
David C. Bloomfield
“This may be the beginning of the end of screening as we know it,” said David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor.
The city Department of Education has so far left anxious parents of current 4th and 7th graders — who would normally apply to middle and high schools by early December for the 2021-22 academic year — in the dark about how admissions will be determined.
But schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who recently told principals to “never waste a good crisis,” is likely to embrace the coronavirus-caused elimination of screens as a way to achieve his diversity agenda.
Carranza has campaigned against the use of a single exam, the SHSAT, to determine admission to eight elite high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, and has declared his disdain for other public schools that select students based on high grades and test scores, along with attendance records.
“We are screening children?” Carranza said at a press conference with Mayor de Blasio in May 2018. “I don’t get that. We’re a public school system in one of the most diverse cities — not in America — but the world.”
Carranza has said he believes screening was started to keep white, middle-class families in the system — to the detriment of many black and brown kids who can’t get into top schools.
“Clearly, the screened schools are an area where some real change is needed,” de Blasio told a parent in 2018. The mayor’s own two kids attended highly selective high schools — Brooklyn Tech and Beacon School in Manhattan.
About a third of 400-plus city high schools have screened students for years, ranking kids by state test scores, grades and attendance as the main factors.
The School Diversity Advisory Group, a panel appointed by de Blasio, recommended in August 2018 that the DOE eliminate gifted programs as well as selective admissions at most schools. Such practices “create segregation by race, class, disability, home language, and academic ability,” it said.
The gifted programs remain intact so far, but the pandemic has virtually wiped out the traditional screens.
After this year’s state ELA and math exams for grades 3-8 were canceled, the DOE announced it would waive attendance as an admission factor due to the COVID-19 shutdown, and switch to remote learning.
On April 28, the DOE unveiled a soft new grading policy, in which elementary and middle school students will be rated as “meeting standards” or “needs improvement.”
Many high-achieving students and their parents oppose the new system.
Seventh-grader Jude Listanowsky, 13, (pictured at left) started a petition last week asking the mayor to count grades given during the first and second marking periods — before the COVID-19 shutdown — for high school admissions.
The DOE’s relaxed grading policy, he said, “will make not me but all of my classmates feel that the effort we put in our first 7 months of school was for nothing. We will have no motivation to perform our best during this time of COVID, which was something that was keeping us distracted from the emotional pain of missing friends,” Jude wrote.

“With the new change, students with a grade of 98 will have the same grade as ones with a 70 — clearly erasing all need for effort.”
As of Saturday, his petition had gathered 755 signatures.
“What will high schools look at to see whether students should go into their schools? What’s the new criteria for high school acceptance?” asked Christina Muniz, whose son Miguel Mendez, 13, earned a 100 percent-plus average in the first and second marking periods at JHS 104 in Gramercy.
“I worked extremely hard for these grades and high schools should recognize what I have done,” said Miguel, who hopes to attend Bronx HS of Science or Eleanore Roosevelt HS in Manhattan.
Frances Kweller, director of Kweller Prep, a tutoring service to prepare kids for competitive middle and high school entrance exams, said the writing is on the wall: “This pandemic is being used by the mayor as a golden opportunity to eradicate the screening process at top NYC schools.”
A DOE spokeswoman did not respond to questions about screening or admissions.

Enlarge I
In Manhattan’s District 2, where getting into a coveted middle or high school is like a competitive sport, hundreds of parents streamed into an emergency virtual meeting last week.
It was the eve before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced schools would toss out traditional grades for students as part of the city’s response to school buildings being shuttered during the coronavirus crisis.
Parent after parent lobbied, ultimately unsuccessfully, for keeping traditional grades intact for elementary and middle schoolers. Without those marks, many wondered, how would their children get accepted into the most selective schools next year?
City and education leaders have yet to answer that question. But it’s clear that applying to “screened” middle and high schools next year promises to be unlike any other. That’s because the city’s response to the coronavirus crisis means the main data points that competitive schools use to admit — and stress out — the city’s 10- and 13-year olds are gone: attendancestate tests, and grades.
What happens next could make the process even more confusing to navigate. Or it could have the surprising consequence of making schools more diverse — if de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza decide to act.
Integration advocates have long lobbied the mayor to tear down or pare back screens, which contribute to the city’s surprising status as home to one of the most segregated school systems in the county. Now, as buildings are closed for about a third of the academic year and more than 1 million city students are forced to learn from their homes, the coronavirus has exacerbated deep inequities across the system.
Pushback to any possible changes is already beginning to emerge, as families who have managed to navigate the city’s admissions maze deftly are upset about the rules changing in the middle of the game.
City leaders have said that new policy regarding admissions is in the works. Sean Corcoran, who has researched screening and segregation in New York City schools, said parents and schools need clear guidance to follow, but that the education department’s next steps should be taken carefully.
“We should be cautious moving forward, and major changes in the way admissions are done could have an impact on the way schools operate,” said Corcoran, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University. “Hopefully, they’ll do it sooner rather than later so parents know what to expect. There’s nothing that makes parents in New York City more anxious than knowing where their kid is going to go to school.”

Next year’s admissions still murky

New York City stands out as having a higher share than anywhere else in the country of schools that use competitive admissions criteria to admit students.
In a typical year, each school sets its own admissions criteria, creating a patchwork of standards and requirements that families and students often struggle to understand. Some may require a minimum grade point average, others can count a single absence against a student’s chance for admissions. Often, schools do not disclose how they weigh applications, making the odds of getting an offer a mystery. Families have a leg up if they have the time to visit open houses, the savvy to guide their children with their applications, and money to pay private consultants to help them decode the process.
Sorting through students can require an immense investment of school leaders’ time — especially now, without data points like test scores that allow for quick distinctions among students. Next year, some schools might decide it’s too much work to figure out new ways to select students, and drop screens all together.
There is precedent for such sweeping admissions changes: Brooklyn’s District 15 recently eliminated competitive admissions standards in favor of a lottery system. Other screened schools across the city have dropped some of their admissions screens as the crush of applications became overwhelming.
On the other hand, schools that are committed to separating students by their academic records could simply double down, creating new entrance criteria. Many of the most coveted schools already use measures beyond attendance, grades, and test scores. Bard High School Early College administers its own entrance tests. Beacon High School requires a portfolio of work.
It’s also possible schools could pivot to use grades accumulated before the shutdown, if those are made available, or test scores from prior school years.
Without a citywide policy in place, the admissions process could become even more confusing and less fair to students, said Corcoran, the Vanderbilt professor.
“If you don’t provide enough structure for screened programs then they will engage in activities that are unequal or perhaps less transparent than what they’ve done in the past — and people have already complained that screens are not transparent,” he said.
One simple solution the city could consider, he said, is requiring schools to share their rubrics publicly. Chalkbeat submitted a public records request in November for school rubrics, and the education department says it needs until June 30th to respond.

What it means for integration

Student activists have been organizing school-wide walkouts, occupied City Hall during council hearings, and have hounded the mayor during public appearances to push for change within the admissions system — to little avail. Now, in the span of a few weeks, the pandemic has forced the potential to usher in reforms.
“It is incredibly frustrating that it took a pandemic,” said Emma Rehac, a high school senior with the youth advocacy group IntegrateNYC. “Now people are looking at all these solutions that we’ve been organizing around. They are always urgent, not just now.”
Diverse schools can boost outcomes for low-income students and those of color — and their white and more affluent peers. Integration efforts have led to lower drop out rates, higher college enrollment, and reduced racial prejudice.
But screened schools tend to enroll disproportionately fewer economically disadvantaged students, or those who are black and Hispanic. Using attendance measures has been shown to screen out those students, who are more likely to suffer from health complications like asthma, or lack permanent housing, and therefore find it hard to be present in school every day. Grades and test scores can reflect that children in segregated schools often don’t have the same opportunities to learn — for example, schools serving mostly low-income students tend to have higher teacher turnover.
The coronavirus has made it more clear than ever what some students are up against: Hundreds of thousands began remote learning without computers or WiFi that would allow them to tune into online classes. Schools had been closed for about seven weeks by the time the city was able to deliver a device to the more than 300,000 students who needed one.
“If they decide to use screens, then they’re not being fair to anyone,” said Lennox Thomas, a high school senior in Brooklyn and member of Teens Take Charge, a youth advocacy group that has pressured the mayor to change admissions standards. “They’re just going to be assessing a students’ access to internet, and that’s obviously not fair because some students can’t afford a computer. Some students don’t have access to WiFi.”

Pushback mounting

Even during a pandemic, the mayor is likely to face pushback if the city radically changes screening practices — especially from middle-class and white parents who often manage to navigate the system well.
Opposition has already bubbled up. A seventh-grader at a competitive school recently launched a petition with more than 1,400 people supporting his call for the city to preserve students’ grades from before schools shut down so they can be used in high school admissions.
“I sacrificed participating in sports at my school in order to do my best in an important year,” he wrote. “This grading policy change will make not [only] me but all of my classmates feel that the effort we put in our first 7 months of school was for nothing.”
Jodie Loverro, a mother of three children in District 2, has one child in fourth-grade and another is in seventh — critical years for admissions. Since applications are due early in fifth- and eighth-grade, schools typically consider the academic records of students from their previous full year in school.
Loverro, who works as a substitute teacher in the district, decided to work part-time this year so she could ensure her fourth-grader made it to school on time everyday — knowing that attendance would play a big role in where she would get accepted to middle school. Her seventh-grade son, meanwhile, put in extra effort this semester to boost his grades above 90%, hoping it would improve his chances for a top high school.
Without knowing what will happen for next year’s admissions, Loverro is thinking about private schools and considering homeschooling. Most of all, she just wants clarity from the education department about what admissions will look like next year.
“It’s confusing. I honestly just feel like this was a lot to throw at people, and they’re already dealing with a lot,” she told Chalkbeat. “You’re putting this in place in an attempt to even the playing field, but you are also hurting the kids that are trying to excel.”
Parents who want to preserve screening often wonder whether schools can serve a broad range of students well and argue that students with top grades should be rewarded with a placement in a coveted school.
“The kids who are high achievers should have a chance to be high achievers. It’s not the most politically correct thing to say, but it’s also true,” said Elissa Stein, a consultant who helps families navigate the application process. “If next year is a lottery and kids end up in schools where they’re not academically prepared, it could make for a very challenging experience.”

It’s up to de Blasio

Whatever happens next year may ultimately be an anomaly rather than result in any structural change, integration advocates believe.
Though the schools chancellor has forcefully questioned the widespread use of screens and heralded the importance of diverse schools, the mayor is ultimately in charge of education department policy. Throughout his tenure, de Blasio has preferred to let individual schools or districts take on their own diversity efforts, avoiding any citywide policy.
The mayor appointed an advisory group that recommended ways to better integrate schools, but he has not acted for eight months on the most controversial proposals — to overhaul gifted programs and eliminate some specific screens.
That was before the coronavirus brought New York City to its knees. Today, schools are meal hubs serving hundreds of thousands of meals to hungry students and their families, as unemployment reaches historic levels. Teachers, while pivoting to online instruction on a dime, have also taken on the roles of social workers and counselors — raising money for their students’ families to help keep roofs over their heads, and attending virtual funerals for those who have lost family members.
All of that could make it hard to argue that now is the time to focus on diversity in schools.
“If there’s any sense that any issue is going to be politically different, I don’t see the desire or the courage from City Hall to really take on those issues,” said Matt Gonzales, who advocates for integration policies at the New York University Metro Center. “I feel pessimistic about what could happen under this administration, but I also know this moment itself calls for decisive and real action.”
Community Education Council District 2 meeting held at PS 340 in 2019.Stefan Jeremiah
NYC parents warring over representation in screened schools debate
by Selim Algar, NY POST, May  15, 2020

City parents are warring over representation in the high stakes debate over screened school admissions.
One faction argues that the Department of Education has given a partisan advocacy group a pivotal role — a claim the agency denies.
The DOE tapped the Education Council Consortium — whose co-chairs oppose screened schools — to conduct a video meeting on the issue Saturday to collect parental opinion.
Helmed by Shino Tanikawa and NeQuan McLean, the ECC is an independent advocacy group comprised of elected Community Education Council members who choose to opt into the organization. CECs are parental advisory boards present in every city district.
The DOE asserted that Saturday’s meeting is only the beginning of their parent engagement process and that critics were overstating its impact on a final decision.
Some parents — particularly those in favor of preserving schools with academics-based admissions — note that the ECC successfully sought an exemption from open meeting laws in January.
Len Silverman, a member of the DOE-recognized Chancellors Parent Advisory Committee of parent association presidents, questioned the arrangement this week.
“We’re the elected parent leaders, we represent parents from each district,” Silverman said during a CPAC meeting with DOE officials Thursday. “The ECC is a private advocacy group and they have no formal role in the DOE.”
Silverman said Saturday’s meeting could confuse city parents as to the basis of their representation.
“It seems like we’re conflating the ECC with CPAC,” he said. “Although the ECC does some great work and I’d like to acknowledge their efforts, there are other groups such as Class Size Matters, PLACE, that also do great work. My question is, what role are private advocacy groups going to have in terms of these decisions that are being made?”
Arguing that it draws members from across the ideological spectrum, McClean staunchly defended the ECC’s role in Saturday’s meeting and its work on matters of equity and school desegregation overall.
“The Education Council Consortium, a collective of elected parent leaders representing all intersections of race, age, nationality, religion, and ability in NYC, will continue to advocate for every child, not merely a select few,” McLean told The Post.
The group, which meets regularly with schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, has more than 200 members from across the city, according to its website.
Tanikawa and McLean, both members of Mayor de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group, have called for the elimination of screened schools, calling them unfair instruments of racial segregation.
They also oppose the specialized high school admissions test and the structure of Gifted and Talented programs.
The ECC’s Twitter account argues in favor of screened school elimination, arguing that they unfairly favor those with resources at the expense of low-income kids black and Hispanic students.
CEC 26 president Adriana Aviles noted this week that the ECC remains a largely unknown entity among parents in her Queens district.
“That’s where some of the frustration is right now,” she said. “The average parent has no idea what the ECC is. Even a lot of CEC members don’t know what it is or what it does. Communities feel that they have not been represented properly in these conversations.”
The presidents of three CECs, Philip Wong, Deborah Alexander and Maud Maron, sent a letter to schools Carranza this week objecting to the DOE’s handling of parent engagement.
All three are members of the ECC but contend that the group is tightly managed and insufficiently transparent.
“We cannot adequately express our deep disappointment in the dishonest and faithless way in which the DOE has decided to pretend to listen to parent communities,” it states. “Many communities were ignored in the formulating of the Grading Policy and now those same communities are being promised engagement in public when the reality is a fake, pre-ordained process, behind closed doors.”
The letter argued that the DOE should hold formal public meetings with individual CECs.
McLean fired back, arguing that their opposition was misplaced given inequities in the school system.
“It is unfortunate that, in a world where reporting has highlighted our city as one of the most segregated school systems in the country, certain people are resorting to aggressive, hostile, cruel personal attacks against those fighting for equity,” McLean said.
A DOE spokeswoman stressed that the ECC will be one of many groups they will engage on the screening issue in the coming weeks and months.
“We are coordinating citywide engagements with parent leaders and the public—there are no secretive policy decisions made with any one group,” said Katie O’Hanlon. “We’re going to hear all parent voices on equal footing, not just the loudest ones, and won’t decide on a policy until we do.”