With the arrival of New York City’s newest mayor, Bill de Blasio, new policies are starting to take effect in NYC public schools. At the start of his term and even during his mayoral campaign, de Blasio promised to bring major reforms to education in New York City. De Blasio started this off by replacing many held government positions in citywide agencies, which were previously appointed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. De Blasio makes it clear that he intends to replace many of his predecessor’s policies.
Replacing Dennis Walcott as school chancellor is Carmen Farina, a former New York City schoolteacher. With Farina in charge of the nation’s largest education system, policies consistent with Bloomberg’s administration were generally dismissed. In a press conference, she described her plan through “five C’s and an E.” Through this breakdown she called for collaboration, communication, capacity building, curriculum enhancement, celebration and efficiency within the city’s schools. Farina, following de Blasio’s agenda, opposed the sole use of standardized testing to check student performance.
A decade prior to today, schools based many of their student promotion policies on testing, most notably on state and regents exams taken every year by students. Instead of this approach, Chancellor Farina is emphasizing multiple measures to determine student progress and grade advancement. In addition to tests, factors including classwork and grades are being taken in to review in order to determine whether students are in jeopardy of not making the grade. She describes it as a “new way forward” that “…maintains accountability, but mitigates the unintended consequences of relying solely on a single test. Through a comprehensive evaluation of student work using multiple measures, our new policy is a step forward for students, parents, and schools.”
Chancellor Farina has approved of the new Common Core standards adopted by NYC public schools. She plans to continue its use, stating that a national curriculum is something that school systems “need in this country.”
Beyond changes to curriculum, the new chancellor also wants to focus on other issues pertaining to the city’s school system. Farina has made the construction of smaller middle schools a personal goal of hers. Prior to becoming chancellor, she was known for creating many successful middle schools within New York City’s District 15.
The chancellor also believes in pairing up successful schools with struggling ones, forming “sister school” relationships amongst schools throughout the city. Farina hopes these healthy relationships would help teachers and students alike learn from accomplished peers, and improve education between both schools.However, despite these goals by the de Blasio Administration, others are less happy about changes coming to the school system under the new chancellor.
Many parents and supporters of charter schools fear that support for their facilities are decreasing amongst the administration. Just last month Farina was berated after reportedly saying that charter school students in Harlem “are on their own.” The administration’s attitude towards charter schools has been raising questions amongst parents of mentioned schools and the United Federation of Teachers.
Additionally, de Blasio and Farina have been criticized for their policies on universal pre-Kindergarten. Many critics flag de Blasio as a “left wing extremist,” and believe that he is too focused on taxing the rich to fund government programs. And the decision over the school closings on the snow days still remains hot in the heads of disgruntled parents, teachers and students. Despite this criticism so early on under her leadership, Farina still has high hopes as chancellor. Even after these hurdles, Farina expressed her optimism, commenting “I really believe New York City can be the best urban city in education in this country.”