Optimism, relief, and an open invitation to visit schools: New York City responds to Carranza’s appointment as chancellor

PHOTO: Youtube/DefenderMediaGroup1

Reaction to the appointment of Richard Carranza as New York City schools chancellor was a little slow to get started — likely a result of Mayor Bill de Blasio keeping news of the appointment under wraps until shortly before announcing it at City Hall Monday afternoon.

But once the city’s education insiders started weighing in, many expressed optimism. Those with a positive take included union officials who detailed Carranza’s track record in Houston and local educators who back his positions on school discipline and special education.

Critics of de Blasio’s education administration also expressed optimism — that Carranza would soon turn against the mayor.

And an outgoing city official expressed relief that Carranza appears committed to the job, unlike de Blasio’s first choice.

Here’s the reaction that has rolled in so far. We’ll update as we see more.

From Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers:

Mr. Carranza has earned a reputation for collaboration with teachers, parents and school communities and has been a real champion of public schools. We are encouraged by his commitment to all children, his resistance to a “testing culture” and his support for the community schools approach.

From James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center:

We welcome Richard Carranza to New York City, and we’re excited to work with him to keep improving educational opportunities for more children. Carranza has an inspiring life story and career as an educator. We look forward to partnering with him in his new role here as chancellor.

Richard Buery, the outgoing deputy mayor, told Chalkbeat:

He is actually taking the job, so that’s a plus. He’s got great big city experience, and that’s not easy to come by.

From Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY:

We welcome Richard Carranza as NYC Schools Chancellor and hope he will show himself to be an independent leader who critically reviews Mayor de Blasio’s education policies and charts a new course. Carranza said he will ‘look under the hood’ and when he does, he’ll see that Mayor de Blasio’s inattention to K-12 school improvement and the achievement gap, his hostility to school choice and his failed turnaround programs mean that a change is needed.

From Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten:

Houston’s loss is New York City’s gain. Under Superintendent Carranza’s leadership and vision, we collaborated to strengthen and support public education in Houston. Together, we ended the teacher assessment sham that was VAM (value-added measures), and we coordinated to get schools aid and new books in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Richard worked tirelessly to help communities recover and heal, well after the floodwater receded. He was a proud servant of the children of Houston, and, if his track record is any guide, he’ll be a similarly indispensable asset to the children of New York. While we’re sad to see Richard leave Texas, we congratulate him on his appointment and New York City on its wise choice.

Evan Stone, co-founder and co-CEO of Educators for Excellence, a teacher advocacy group:

In selecting Richard Carranza, Mayor de Blasio has chosen a lifelong educator and a proven leader with a track record of leading large and diverse school districts, seeking the input of communities and teachers and focusing on improving outcomes for students who have been historically underserved – experiences that should set him up for success in our nation’s largest school district. We are also excited by Mr. Carranza’s history of coupling improved student achievement with a reduction in punitive discipline. Today, Mr. Carranza emphasized the need for both equity and innovation. For our 1.1 million students we hope that translates into ensuring our education system provides each child with the support and resources that they need to excel, and that teachers receive the professional development, autonomy and meaningful feedback they need to provide an excellent education for all our children. E4E-New York teachers extend our new Chancellor an invitation to work together in this critical mission.

Leona Fowler, a teacher at P233 in Queens and Educators for Excellence member:

As an educator, I need a leader who prioritizes listening to teachers and parents in making important decisions for children. We need someone who will continue the fight for equity and equality in New York City to make sure all our families, students and teachers have a voice. Superintendent Carranza today stated that he will fight for the unheard students of New York City. Teachers like me look forward to working with him to build on the work we’ve done to make schools welcoming and safe for all our students, and that educators have the training and support required to help our children reach their academic potential, and protect the most vulnerable among them.

From Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who did not include Carranza on her list of 14 chancellor suggestions:

Congratulations to Chancellor Carranza. We look forward to showing you the 46 Success Academies that make up the highest performing school district in the state.

From the consul general of Mexico in New York City:



‘Genius grant’ writer to Memphis: ‘We’re losing the only gains we’ve made’ against segregation

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning New York Times Magazine writer, speaks on school segregation during her first public appearance in Memphis.

Memphis is a “perfectly sad place” to talk about school segregation, a nationally renowned journalist said while visiting the city this week.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, who writes about race and school segregation for the New York Times Magazine, was in Memphis as part of a speaker series sponsored by Center for Southern Literary Arts, Chalkbeat Tennessee and MLK50: Justice in Journalism.

She was among the 24 recent winners of a no-strings-attached prize known as the MacArthur “Genius Award.” (Read more about her work here.)

Her award-winning piece, the “The Resegregation of Jefferson County” was a deeply reported  article on how racially motivated school district secessions are contributing to school segregation in Alabama.

In her talk, Hannah-Jones compared what happened in her article with what happened in Memphis in 2014, when six mostly white municipal districts broke away from the large, predominantly black Shelby County Schools.

Listen to part of Hannah-Jones’s story:

“The resegregation in Jefferson County is exactly what’s happened here,” Hannah-Jones said.

“It’s white communities breaking off from school districts,” she said. “They can wipe their hands of it and say it’s not about race, we just want districts to represent my community. It is about race.”

Hannah-Jones said resegregation is a trend recently documented by national researchers — both in the relatively new trend of district sessessions and in white Americans moving into communities of color but refusing to send their children to neighborhood schools.

Schools were segregated in Tennessee during the first part of the 20th Century. After the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1954 that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, school districts in Tennessee slowly began to integrate and then stalled. Now, researchers and journalists say segregation is getting worse.

“As the south resegregates, we’re losing the only gains we’ve made,” Hannah-Jones said. “We want to pretend that our decisions aren’t impacting other kids, but they are.… You cannot say you believe in equality and seek to advantage your child every step of the way. ”

Hannah-Jones wrote in 2016 about choosing a school in New York City for her own daughter. She eventually settled on a neighborhood school — one that is majority black and poor. She challenged Memphians, in particular white, middle-class Memphians, to think more equitably about where they send their own children to school.

“White children aren’t hurt at all by going to these schools — their test scores don’t go down,” she said, a statement backed by research. “But look in Detroit, inner-city Memphis, Chicago. No one is coming.”

“The piece I did about my daughter, the reason it had such an impact is that I was honest. It wasn’t an easy choice when I had my own child. Morals and values in abstract are great, but reality is more difficult.”

She began the Tuesday night event with a story about a student she grew close to — and whose story embodies some of the issues of segregation —  before participating in a panel with MLK50 founder Wendi Thomas and Tami Sawyer, a Teach for America director and local activist.

Hannah-Jones said she’s now working on a book about Detroit — specifically looking at how poverty makes educating children “impossible.” (To learn more about schools in Detroit, go here).

In talks

Hopson asks state to let struggling Memphis school remain with local district

PHOTO: Marta W. Aldrich
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson is in talks with state officials about the future of American Way Middle, a struggling Memphis school that the state has identified for conversion to a charter school under Shelby County Schools or takeover by Tennessee's Achievement School District.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson is asking Tennessee’s education chief to let Shelby County Schools keep control of American Way Middle School and place the struggling school in its own turnaround program, the Innovation Zone.

And Commissioner Candice McQueen is hinting that she’s willing to talk.

Hopson’s official request came this week despite McQueen’s plan for the Memphis district to convert American Way Middle to a charter school or risk having it placed in the state’s Achievement School District.

“Our Board voted to place American Way in the iZone next year,” Hopson wrote McQueen on Tuesday. “The Board was uncomfortable waiting for an additional year before taking action.”

McQueen wants the school to become a charter school in the fall of 2019 under the state’s new accountability plan. The board voted to place it in the iZone a year earlier than that.

But Hopson said the district’s concerns extend beyond timing.

“During its robust discussion regarding a district-led charter conversion, the Board was particularly concerned because we are unaware of any middle school charter operators who have strong track records of success in the turnaround space,” Hopson wrote. “For these reasons, the Board indicated that it will not approve a district-led charter conversation.

He added: “Given the I-Zone’s progress, we respectfully request that the State allow American Way to remain in the I-Zone for at least 3 years. Notably, one of American Way’s feeder schools is also in the I-Zone.”

McQueen said Friday that her office needs more information about the district’s proposal for American Way Middle before she makes a decision.

“We had a conversation with the district this week to make it clear that simply saying the school will be in the iZone next year does not tell us what the plan for that school is, and we still need more details on what it would look like for the school to be served by the iZone,” McQueen told Chalkbeat through a spokeswoman. “It is also not clear what charter options the district explored.”