Mayor de Blasio’s to-do list for Richard Carranza: Sell my agenda and boost literacy

Mayor Bill de Blasio offered hints about his new schools chief’s to-do list Wednesday, saying Chancellor Richard Carranza will be “obsessively focused” on students reading at grade level and will spread the word about the mayor’s education agenda.

In the coming weeks and months, the mayor said, he and Carranza will press their case for his “Equity and Excellence” agenda, referring to a suite of initiatives launched in 2015.
“The Equity and Excellence vision really lays out a roadmap, but it’s not one that’s well enough known,” de Blasio said.

“I think [Carranza is] going to have the ability to talk to students, to talk to parents, to talk to community members in a powerful way and help them join into this Equity and Excellence vision,” the mayor added.

De Blasio’s comments, which came during his first formal weekly meeting with Carranza since he officially took the helm of the city’s schools Monday, suggested that the new chancellor will be primarily responsible for shepherding the mayor’s existing agenda.

That suite of “Equity and Excellence” initiatives aim to boost resources in schools that haven’t always received them by offering Advanced Placement courses in each high school, taking thousands of students on college trips, making sure all students have access to computer science and algebra classes, and ensuring students are up to par on reading by third grade.

De Blasio suggested the chancellor would need to move quickly.

“What Richard Carranza and I have talked about throughout is a need for a sense of urgency in everything we do over the next three years and nine months,” the mayor said.

But many of de Blasio’s education initiatives aren’t scheduled to be phased in until he leaves office, and it isn’t clear exactly how the mayor wants Carranza to speed things up. De Blasio’s pledge to ensure all eighth graders will have access to algebra courses isn’t scheduled to be fully phased in until 2022, for instance. The benchmark for his even more ambitious call to have every student reading on grade level by third grade is 2026 — five years after de Blasio is set to leave office. (De Blasio said Carranza will “supercharge” that effort, but did not offer additional details.)

For his part, Carranza said he’s excited to hit the ground running, noting that he drove to New York from Houston in a Penske truck with his wife.

“We’re swinging for the fences and that’s the urgency we have with our team,” Carranza said. “By 2021 we will all celebrate just how far we’ve come.”