the tweet

Asked about a ‘divisive’ tweet about segregation, Carranza directs an Upper West Side parent to implicit bias training

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza hosts a town hall meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School.

After inserting himself into a contentious debate about school segregation, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza heard directly from an Upper West Side parent Monday who said his role in the debate has been “divisive.”

The mother was referring to a late-night tweet in which Carranza shared a headline accusing “wealthy white Manhattan parents” of angrily ranting against a plan to promote diversity among the Upper West Side’s middle schools. Under the proposal, each middle school in Manhattan’s District 3 would offer a quarter of its seats to students who haven’t passed state exams.

“I have to say chancellor you stunned me because what I heard loud and clear — me as a white parent in P.S. 199, I am not part of your constituency,” said the parent, who also identified herself as a “career educator.”

But during his first appearance on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, Carranza did not back down from the debate or apologize for his tweet — and even suggested the parent “avail” herself of implicit bias training.

“The video speaks for itself,” Carranza said of the now-viral New York 1 segment, which shows a group of white parents objecting to the plan. “If that’s the kind of dialogue we want to have about very difficult conversations, I will never support that kind of dialogue in a public meeting — I just won’t.

“We’ve just secured in the budget millions of dollars for culturally relevant pedagogy training. I hope you will avail yourself of that training,” Carranza added. “We’re also going to be funding and we’ve secured millions of dollars for anti- implicit bias training. Again, I hope you will avail yourself of that.”

The exchange is notable because top city officials — including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Carranza’s predecessor Carmen Fariña — have been careful to avoid alienating middle class families. In his first month in office, Carranza has been more willing than Fariña to step into the spotlight and offer critiques of the system he now oversees.

But Carranza’s posture could also complicate his efforts to generate support for integration efforts, a task the chancellor has said depends in part on community support and input.

You can read the full exchange here:

Caller: Hi Brian, huge fan. I try to call all the time; delighted to be on the program. Hi chancellor, I’m also a career educator and I’m a parent at P.S. 199. And I wanted to see your comment [on the matter]. A lot of us are very supportive of this initiative, but with limited faith in the efficacy of the DOE to carry it through. For example, no extra money is going to be allocated to the schools that will be affected.

I wanted ask you the motivation behind your late-night tweet. It was divisive, in my opinion. Again, I do support this initiative. And knowing that probably my kids will probably not get a seat at one of the very few decent middle schools, I want to know why the question wasn’t, ‘why aren’t there more stronger middle schools in District 3’ instead of blaming the parents in a very divisive way? Was it possibly that becomes a setup for when this doesn’t work out as well as people are gonna hope it is — that simply the parents can be blamed: Those Upper West Side parents are the reason that this initiative isn’t working?

Brian Lehrer: Debra when you say when it ultimately doesn’t work out as well as people hope, what are you anticipating?

Caller: I hope, I really hope there can be some changes. But I don’t see without funds for teacher development, I don’t see that space is an issue — everybody is just elbowing to get their kids into a good school. All the parents in District 3, not just the parents at P.S. 199, which is why I think such initiatives should be put forward. But to just shift the kids around without putting significant funds behind it, I’m skeptical. I’m still vocally supportive of it, but I have to say chancellor you stunned me because what I heard loud and clear: Me as a white parent in P.S. 199, I am not part of your constituency — my family, my children.

Richard Carranza: Yeah, so Debra first and foremost for the Teacher Appreciation Week, thank you for your service. It’s important — the work that you do each and every day.

Again, I’ve been really clear — the video speaks for itself. If that’s the kind of dialogue we want to have about very difficult conversations I will never support that kind of dialogue in a public meeting, I just won’t. And I think it’s important we shine the light of day when we have these kinds of conversations.

Now that being said, there’s some assumptions in what you said which are not true. So as we support our most historically underserved communities and schools, what we’re going to do is we’re going to put resources behind that. We’ve just secured in the budget millions of dollars for culturally relevant pedagogy training. I hope you will avail yourself of that training. We’re also going to be funding, and we’ve secured millions of dollars for anti- implicit bias training. Again, I hope you will avail yourself of that. In our community schools, we’ve set up opportunities for partnerships with local community-based organizations, non-profits, as well as governmental agencies that can provide the supports to students that are historically underserved in our cities and our communities.

As I’ve gone around for this first month of my tenure here, I’ve spoken in every borough and every community about an equity lens to make sure that we are prioritizing resources to students and communities that have historically not had that kind of support. The students that would take a seat in these schools if they come from those kinds of communities, those kinds of backgrounds, they have those kinds of needs — under a community schools approach we’re going to have resources there to serve them.

So again, a lot of assumptions in the question. And you know Brian, I’ve been asked a lot about, ‘well what are you doing tweeting at one in the morning?’ The honest truth is I’ve been working till 1, 2 in the morning. I spend my day out in the community. And I spend my evenings reading briefings about the DOE. So again I just want to make sure that we’re all part of the conversation and every parent, every community member that has a student in the New York City public schools is one of my constituents. You all matter.

Compare and Contrast

Comparing the Upper West Side and Harlem integration plans: Here’s how schools, admissions offers could change

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Parents gathered at a recent Community Education Council meeting in District 3 to learn about the city's plan to integrate Upper West Side and Harlem middle schools.

Following an uproar over a plan to integrate Manhattan’s District 3, the Department of Education introduced three more proposals to change the makeup of middle schools on the Upper West Side and in Harlem.

The initial plan for integrating the 16 middle schools — which drew the ire of some parents concerned their children would be elbowed out of sought-after schools — was pulled by the education department. While the new plans also set aside 25 percent for low-performing students, they differ from the original option in an important way: they don’t rely solely on student test scores to guide admissions decisions.

We’ve placed each plan side-by-side to help you get up to speed. The district hopes to put its new admissions system into place in early June, in time for the middle school admissions process.

What would the plans do?

Each plan would give needy students priority for a quarter of admissions offers at 16 middle schools. Within those seats, 10 percent of offers would go to students who struggle the most, and 15 percent would go to students with the next-highest level of need.

However, the plans look at different factors to determine who gets priority:

Plan A would consider test scores and whether a student attended an elementary school where many students are economically needy.

Plan B would take test scores and report cards into account.

Plan C, presented by city officials Tuesday, would weigh test scores, report card grades, and whether a student qualifies for free- or reduced-price lunch — a commonly used measure of poverty. The plan considers whether an individual student is considered poor — rather than the demographics of his or her entire elementary school, which would be the case with Plan A.

How would the schools change?

Supporters of the plans hope they will extend academic opportunity to more students in District 3. And since race and class are often linked to academic performance, the proposal could integrate schools in numerous ways. But despite the controversy, the city’s projections actually show the impact of the changes are likely to be small because of how families are ranking schools. Some struggling students are already applying to the district’s more sought-after schools. But higher-performing students — who tend to be middle class — are not ranking schools where many students are poor or struggling.

These projections are based on how families applied to schools last year.

Under Plan A, the schools that would change the most are:

  • West End Secondary School would offer 21 percent of seats to students who have low test scores and come from high-needs elementary schools. That’s an increase of 19 percentage points.
  • The Computer School would offer 26 percent of seats to students in the priority group, up 15 percentage points.
  • West Side Collaborative Middle School would offer 49 percent of seats to students in the priority group — a decrease of 14 percentage points.

Under Plan B, the schools that would change the most are:

  • West End Secondary School would offer 25 percent of seats to students with low report card grades and test scores, an increase of 13 percentage points.
  • Dual Language Middle School would offer 64 percent of seats to the priority group. That is a 12-point decrease.
  • Both the Computer School and Booker T. Washington would see an 11 point increase in offers to the priority group. At the Computer School, 32 percent of offers would go to those students. At Booker T. Washington, the priority group would comprise 19 percent of offers.

Under Plan C, the schools that would change the most are:

  • West Side Collaborative would offer 47 percent of seats to students who have low test scores and report card grades, and qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. That is a decrease of 16 percentage points.
  • The Computer School would offer 28 percent of seats to students in the priority group, an increase of 16 percentage points.
  • West End Secondary School would offer 17 percent of seats to the priority group — up 13 percentage points.

But under each plan, schools would still be largely divided between those that serve mostly top-performers and those who serve students who struggle.

How many families would be impacted?

Contrary to what the backlash to the plan suggests, they would actually only impact a small number of the almost 2,000 families applying to the district’s middle schools.

The city’s projections show more students benefiting from the changes because they would be offered a spot in a higher-ranked school, or get a match rather than be shut out. That is likely to be an important factor in the district’s decision making, since the city has proven uneasy about the impression that student would be forced into schools they don’t want to go to.

Under Plan A, 109 families would get a seat in a school that they ranked lower on their application. The city estimates that 96 families would not receive an offer to a school on their list — 18 more families than without the plan. But 169 students would be offered a seat at a school they ranked higher.

Under Plan B, 135 students would get a seat in a school that was lower on their application. It’s estimated that 100 families would not get accepted to any school on their list, 22 more than without the plan. On the other hand, 194 students would benefit. 

Under Plan C, 137 families would get a seat in a school that they ranked lower. The city’s projections show that 113 families wouldn’t be matched to a school they picked — 35 more families than before. That’s compared to 185 students who would be offered a seat at a school they ranked higher.

making plans

Controversial integration plan for Upper West Side middle schools changes, but it’s unclear whether more parents will get on board

PHOTO: Rachel Holliday Smith
CEC member Genisha Metcalf speaks at Wednesday’s hearing on a proposal to desegregate Manhattan’s west side middle schools.

Following controversy over a plan to desegregate  Upper West Side and Harlem middle schools, the Department of Education unveiled two alternatives it hopes sit better with parents and educators.

At a Community Education Council hearing Wednesday night, the education department gave an overview of two alternatives to the initial proposal to integrate the district’s 16 middle schools, which angered some parents who were concerned it would shut their children out of sought-after schools.

The major difference between the initial proposal and the new plans is that they factor more than just state test scores into admissions offers — but it’s unclear whether the changes will quell the uproar over the integration effort, which has gained nationwide attention.

In both new plans, the agency aims to level the playing field for middle schoolers in the diverse but highly segregated west side Manhattan district.

In the first proposal, priority for 25 percent of middle school seats in every middle school in the district would be given to students who come from elementary schools with high economic needs and have low scores on both English and mathematics fourth grade state tests.

Out of that quarter of seats, 10 percent would be given to students in a group comprised of the very highest-need schools with the lowest-performing test scores; 15 percent of seats would be set aside for the next-highest need and lowest-performing group of students.

In the second proposal, priority for 25 percent of seats would be given to students based on a combination of their report cards and state test scores.

The hearing was much calmer than one several weeks ago, when a video went viral showing mostly white parents complaining that their children wouldn’t receive coveted middle school spots after excelling on state tests. The furor grew when Chancellor Richard Carranza tweeted the footage with a headline that said: “Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools.” He has stood by  his decision to share the footage, saying it “speaks for itself.”

On Wednesday, parents repeatedly told the CEC as well as District 3 Superintendent Ilene Altschul and other education department officials that the proposals, while addressing very high- and low-performing students and schools, leave other students behind.

In education department simulations of how each proposal would work, both plans resulted in double-digit increases in the number of low-performing students offered seats in three high performing schools: J.H.S. 54 Booker T. Washington, P.S. 245 The Computer School and West End Secondary School.

“Great, we’re doing a bigger push for diversity in some of the schools that have been highly sought after that historically fewer parents or students felt like they had as an option, but what are we doing to attract level 3 and level 4 students to [P.S. 180 Hugo Newman College Preparatory School]?” asked parent and CEC member Genisha Metcalf, referring to a school that fell roughly in the middle of the education department models for how each proposal would affect the district’s schools.

“Otherwise, we’re overcrowding four schools,” she added, over loud applause from the audience.

“Here’s the problem: Maybe instead of there being four desirable middle schools, there should be fifteen,” said parent Josh Kross, 41. “This is only going to create more problems.”

About a dozen parents asked questions of the plan during Wednesday’s hearing, asking how the plan would affect students with disabilities (it will not because those students will be prioritized first, regardless of the new plan, the education department said) and students who opt out of tests (students without state test scores will not be considered for the 25 percent of set-aside seats in the diversity plan, Altschul said).

They also brought very specific concerns such as whether or not potential changes to the plan would change the economic makeup of the school enough to threaten its Title I status, a federal designation that gives more funding to high-poverty schools.

“You didn’t have the answers … You didn’t do the math,” said parent Leslie Washington, whose daughter is in fourth grade at P.S. 242.

Though most who spoke up opposed the plan in some form, the proposal did have supporters in the room, including a group of principals and teachers. Cidalia Costa, a middle school teacher at West Prep Academy, said a plan to desegregate the area is “long overdue” to fix a system that’s been flawed for years.

“This plan is not for people who already have an advantage to get more advantage. So, I’m sorry, but I have to advocate for my students because they face a lot of challenges,” she said.

The Department of Education plans to make a decision about the proposal by the end of the school year, and changes would go into effect for the District 3 middle school class of 2019. A public comment period is up through May 29. The CEC is taking feedback through email at d3feedback@gmail.com.

After the meeting, Kristen Berger, chair of the CEC’s middle school committee, said she isn’t sure which proposal would be best. But she’s happy the conversation about measures to desegregate schools in the district is ongoing.

“It is a small fix, but it is a movement in the right direction,” she said of the middle school effort, adding that the group still needs to address system-wide issues including whether “all schools at all levels, elementary, and middle, are of good enough quality.”