Education Week - January 8, 2014 - (Page 6)

Fariña to Lead N.Y.C. Public Schools New chancellor worked 40 years in district By Lesli A. Maxwell New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has chosen Carmen Fariña, a 40-year veteran of the city's public schools, to be his schools chancellor. She'll steer an agenda that could sharply pivot the nation's largest school district from the policies that have dominated it for more than a decade. Just two days before being sworn in as mayor on Jan. 1, Mr. de Blasio announced his appointment of Ms. Fariña at Middle School 51, a selective-admissions public school in Brooklyn that his two children attended. He succeeded Michael R. Bloomberg, who governed the city for 12 years and brought sweeping, often controversial, changes to its 1.1 million-student school system. Ms. Fariña, 70, who stepped down from the Bloomberg-run district in 2006 as the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, came out of retirement to take its helm. Over four decades in the city's public schools, she worked as a teacher, principal, and community and regional superintendent. Her appointment is widely viewed as the clearest signal yet that Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat elected in November, will shift from the hallmarks of Mr. Bloomberg's education agenda: rapid expansion of charter schools, the closing of underperforming schools, and an increased use of student test scores for high-stakes decisions, such as assigning letter grades to schools. Mr. de Blasio's education platform during the campaign focused on modifying or undoing those policies and ushering in more prekindergarten and early-childhood programs for the youngest children. Mr. de Blasio praised Ms. Fariña's long record as a city educator and said her experience would "immediately command the respect of parents, teachers, and principals and all members of the school community." "She is one of the great educators in this city," Mr. de Blasio said, noting that Ms. Fariña is the first educator to lead the school system in more than 12 years. Three chancellors served under Mr. Bloomberg: Joel I. Klein, a former federal prosecutor and corporate executive; Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive; and Dennis Walcott, a former deputy mayor for education. Candidate Pool Mr. de Blasio said he carefully weighed several strong candidates for the chancellor's job, including people from outside New York City. Among the candidates was District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who acknowledged she was approached about the job, but withdrew from consideration. Other reported contenders were Joshua Starr, the superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., schools, and Kathleen Cashin, a member of the New York state board of regents. "Every time I looked at different people and different options, I kept coming back to Carmen Fariña," the incoming mayor said in the Dec. 30 news conference. One urban education expert said Ms. Fariña's best asset is her deep knowledge of what needs to happen in classrooms for children to be successful. "This will be the first time in many years that New York City has a leader who understands curriculum and instruction," said Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University. "This will be huge, given the rollout of the [Common Core State Standards] and the need to know how to best support struggling schools." Ms. Fariña also brings a firsthand understanding of one of the challenges many students in New York City schools face: learning English as a second language. Ms. Fariña was an English-learner herself in her early years of education in a parochial school in the city's Brooklyn borough. She is the eldest child of immigrants from Spain. The new chancellor said she was marked absent for weeks by a teacher who called her by another name because she did not know how to correctly pronounce Ms. Fariña's name. In remarks after she was introduced by Mr. de Blasio, Ms. Fariña spoke extensively about the value of partnering with parents and treating all parents, regardless of their backgrounds, with respect. "We are going to have a system here where parents are seen as real partners, and teachers are going to understand that working with parents is a real enhancement for the classroom," she said. Outlook for Charters New York City's charter school sector-with more than 180 schools and some 70,000 students-could face a very different environment under Mayor de Blasio, who favors charging rent to charter schools that currently share space with regular city schools. Mr. de Blasio wants to put a moratorium on any future proposals to "co-locate" charter schools with regular district schools. James Merriman, the chief ex- Carmen Fariña smiles during a news conference held to announce her appointment as the chancellor of New York City's public schools. A longtime city educator, Ms. Fariña is coming out of retirement to lead the school system. ecutive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, an advocacy and support organization for charter schools, said Ms. Fariña's reputation as a tough manager who believes in accountability was "heartening." Mr. Merriman called her a bridge builder and noted that Ms. Fariña has avoided "divisive language" when talking about the role of charter schools in the city. "I think the mayor and the new chancellor recognize that there is enormous demand for good schools, and that charters are providing a lot of good seats in areas where hitherto there weren't many," he said. "I think they will agree that there is probably room for growth for charters that are getting the job done." Still, Mr. Merriman said any moratorium on allowing charter schools to share space with regular public schools would effectively freeze the opening of new charters. He also said that charging rent to co-located charter schools-which don't receive state funding for facilities-would make the city "less hospitable for great charters to start and great charters to continue, and [provide] less seats at the end of the day for students." Among the challenges Ms. Fariña will have to tackle in her first year is negotiating a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Both Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Fariña refrained from detailing forthcoming major policy changes for the school system, though the mayor unequivocally pledged to scrap the grading system that uses various metrics-including standardizedtest scores-to assign letter grades to schools. "We are going to do everything in our power to reduce the focus on high-stakes testing," he said. "It's taken us down the wrong road, and within the limits of state and federal law, we will do all we can to roll that back." He acknowledged, however, that state and federal requirements may limit his ability to make changes to testing policies. The DISTRICT DOSSIER blog tracks news and trends on this issue Judge Censures District's Use Of 'Hess Report' By Evie Blad Colorado's Douglas County school district violated state campaign laws by contracting for and disseminating an American Enterprise Institute white paper that supported the "reform agenda" of the school board, actions intended to aid the so-called "reform slate" of board candidates in the November election, a judge has ruled. The paper, promoted in a district newsletter distributed to 85,000 recipients, including parents, came to be known as the "Hess Report" for its lead author, Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies for the Washington-based think tank. Mr. Hess, who also writes an opinion blog hosted on Education Week's website, has been affiliated with the district as a consultant, the judge noted. The AEI report at the center of the controversy, which was reviewed by the district be- fore it was published in September, supports the school board's policy prescriptions, including school vouchers and teacher merit pay, the judge said. The report includes profiles of four school board candidates who supported the "reform agenda" and cites the importance of maintaining "a unified board with a coherent vision." Those candidates, two newcomers and two incumbents, all won their races in the fall. An unsuccessful challenger, Julie A. Keim, brought the complaint that led to the Dec. 24 ruling by state Administrative Law Judge Hollyce Farrell. The AEI report cost $30,000, with $15,000 paid by the district and $15,000 from a district foundation, whose funds are not considered public, the ruling said. The authors, Mr. Hess and AEI researcher Max Eden, were tasked with "describing some of the advantages" of the district's model. The use of public funds on the report, evidence that the district influenced the report's wording and reviewed its findings, and the district's dissemination of the document amounted to a violation of the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act, Judge Farrell ruled. "It was clear as discussed in the findings of fact, that the Hess Report was not a third-party, unbiased study," she wrote. "To the contrary, the report was an endorsement of the reform agenda and explained the advantage of having 6 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 8, 2014 | a unified board to fuel that agenda. ... The Hess Report was purchased with public money to influence the outcome of the board election." Plans for Appeal Judge Farrell did not order the district to pay a fine because the complainant had not requested it. Ms. Keim had raised other allegations of campaign-law violations by the district, but the judge ruled against those points. The district said in a statement that it plans to appeal the decision. "The judge seems to have concluded that it is a violation of law anytime the district disseminates positive news involving its education policy agenda if there are also candidates for school board who support that agenda," the statement said. Ms. Keim said in a statement posted on her campaign Facebook page that she was "shocked and dismayed" that the district would appeal the ruling, and that she intends to challenge the appeal. "The legislative declaration of the Fair Campaign Practices Act speaks to the importance of the strong enforcement of campaign laws in order to alleviate the disproportionate level of influence over the political process by wealthy contributors and special-interest groups, thereby negatively impacting qualified citizens from running for political office," Ms. Keim wrote. Parents' groups and the Douglas County teachers' union have questioned the influence of funding from out-of-state groups on district policy, and a local mother has said she filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that the district foundation uses that funding in violation of its nonprofit status. Mr. Hess said that he did not discuss elections with the district when it commissioned the report last February, and that he took care to disclose his involvement as a consultant when it was published. He said he allowed members of the teachers' union-and district representatives-to review the text before publication. "I think the report's very clear that we don't know whether or not what Douglas County is doing is going to deliver the hoped-for results," Mr. Hess said. The paper notes that it was "supported by Douglas County and made possible by ready access to teachers, administrators, schools, parents, and board members." Mr. Hess wrote a Sept. 18 blog post on the report for Education Week. He amended the post to clarify his role as a district consultant. The district's foundation also paid former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett $50,000 to write a report that "was an endorsement for the board's reform agenda," Judge Farrell wrote. Because that payment involved no public funds, it was not a campaignlaw violation, she held. Mark Lennihan/AP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 8, 2014

Education Week - January 8, 2014
State Legislators Fire Up Engines
Inspections Piloted for Teacher Prep
Student Views Shifting on Risks Of Marijuana
L.A. School Bridges Home-School Gap
InBloom Sputters as Data Privacy Hits the Spotlight
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Fariña to Lead N.Y.C. Public Schools
Judge Censures District’s Use of ‘Hess Report’
Los Angeles, D.C. Outshine Urban Peers in NAEP Gains
Blogs of the Week
Cloud Computing Expands, Raising Data-Privacy Concerns
Congressional Appropriators Turn To K-12 Spending Details
Rural Districts Win Big in Race To Top Awards
States Split Latest Pot of Early-Learning Aid
Blogs of the Week
ERIC A. HANUSHEK: Why the U.S. Results on PISA Matter
ROBERT WEINTRAUB & DAVID WEINTRAUB: Why Arne Duncan’s PISA Comments Miss the Mark
JACK DALE: Learning From a Test
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PETER W. COOKSON JR.: Looking for Equity on the Yellow School Bus

Education Week - January 8, 2014