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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
"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
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
scores-to assign letter grades
"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
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
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
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
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 | www.edweek.org
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
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.
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
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