Chancellor Carmen Fariña gave some big hints about how the city will be handling the Common Core, co-locations, and gifted policy to parents in Far Rockaway on Monday night.
“We wanted to come to the end of the world before we did things close to home,” Fariña said, to laughs from the crowd of parents from Queens’ District 27.
In addition to her announcement about pre-kindergarten seats, some of the takeaways:
Details about new co-location policy: The Department of Education unveiled the broad outline of a new policy for space planning decisions on Monday, including more community meetings and walkthroughs of affected schools by a senior official.
In addition, “One of the things I will guarantee you is they will be done with the approval of the community and with one of my four deputy chancellors walking the building with the [school leadership teams] and making sure that everything being written up is exactly what we’re going to do,” Fariña said.
That addresses two major complaints of the existing co-location process: that local input is ignored and that the plans often misrepresent a building’s available space. It also signals Fariña’s expectation that the affected school will approve of the space-sharing plans—consensus that has been hard to come by in recent years.
Fariña also made it clear that the re-evaluation of the city’s space-planning guidebook, the “Blue Book,” would shift it toward a more conservative view of what spaces could be converted to new uses. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, schools frequently used space in unconventional ways to accommodate additional schools in the building.
“To me a science room is a science room, it is not a potential classroom,” Fariña said.
Common Core will get an official fresh start: “We’re going to re-roll it out,” Fariña said of the standards, though she offered few new specifics beyond points she’s made before: officials will be looking to better align the curriculum with student abilities and improve teacher training.
Another interesting tidbit: Fariña said that the city will, “to the degree we can,” pay schools for Common Core-aligned curriculum materials they wrote or edited if schools can show that their work could be used by others.
Gifted & Talented gets downplayed: When a parent asked about the dearth of gifted and talented options in District 27, Fariña didn’t answer her directly. Instead, the chancellor said her “goal would be to have neighborhood schools that provide gifted practices to all students.”
To train teachers, she said she’s bringing back Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis—researchers known for what’s called the Schoolwide Enrichment Model of providing high-level instruction for students of varying ability levels. (For parents who still want their children in independent, specially designed classes, that model is a frequent target of criticism.)
“My children did not go to gifted and talented [programs], and I think they had wonderful educations because their teachers taught all the kids in that class to the highest level,” Fariña said.
After the meeting, Fariña clarified that she wasn’t proposing changes to existing gifted programs, but the Renzulli training would be an option for schools moving forward.
More parent coordinator training on the way: Fariña said she’s bringing back serious training for parent coordinators, harkening back to her days as deputy chancellor when she took new parent coordinators to workshops at Teachers College and on museum tours to learn how to lead parent groups.
“They should also be the people who assist the principal, but not necessarily doing paperwork. In many cases they become the ex officio paperwork person when they should actually be the first person parents talk to and learn from,” Fariña said, mentioning parents of special needs students and English Language Learners in particular.
That’s exactly what some parent coordinators said they wanted from Fariña back in January.