“All I need is for the legislature to get out of the way, repeal that law and then hold me accountable for the quality of those schools,” New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza boldly proclaimed on Tuesday, November 19 during a Town Hall meeting in the Bronx.
Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio have spent two fruitless years going to Albany, trying to get the law repealed, so that they could get rid of the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), and replace it with a system where the top 7% of students from every public middle school, based on grades and test scores, are offered seats instead.
After two very public failures (despite a closed-door caucus this year), de Blasio admitted defeat in September, saying, “The attempt we made to address it was just not effective and we have to come to grips with that…. Some would argue there’s a way to do it while keeping the test and you have to have that dialogue too.”
Carranza clearly didn’t get the memo, or is going rogue. He is still pushing to get rid of the SHSAT, and to those who worry that using subjective measures like grades — in a system where multiple students pass their classes but are still deemed not at grade level in either English or math on the state tests — will water down the quality of schools specifically created for students who test above grade level, Carranza says not to worry (and if you’re worried, you’re racist), he’ll take responsibility for any consequences.
“Hold me accountable for the quality of those schools,” Carranza said, “which I thought I had since I am the chancellor.”
OK, two questions.
One: Is the Chancellor then also accountable for the state of all the other New York City public schools? We’ve got over 50% of our kids not performing at grade level, and over 30% graduating high school not ready to do college work. How is he holding himself accountable for those? Not morally. I mean, what does he plan to do about it?
Two: Let’s talk timelines:
If 2020 will be anything like 2019 and 2018, Carranza won’t make it up to the state legislature until the very last week of the session, the better to avoid months of parent protests. Let’s say that this year he gets his way. Hecht-Calandra is repealed! The city can now set its own admissions requirements for all eight SHSAT schools. (It currently already can for five of them but, shhhh, Carranza doesn’t like it when you point that out. Makes it seem almost like he’s not doing everything he can, and it might not all be the racists’ fault.)
Sure, he could eliminate the SHSAT for 2021 admissions. But announcing such a sweeping change in June for a test that’s given in October and after the state exams have already passed would lead to riots — and he knows it. Even Carranza has conceded his openness to a slow roll out and a more gradual transition.
So, let’s say the changes will go into effect in Fall 2021, for September 2022 admissions.
You know what else happens in the fall of 2021?
NYC mayoral elections.
You know who won’t be mayor in September of 2022?
You know what the new mayor is likely to do sometime between those two dates?
Fire Carranza and bring in his own candidate for School Chancellor. (It might happen even sooner, if Carranza rabbits out of NYC the same way he did from Houson after only eighteen months of service, as soon as a more high-profile offer came along.)
So here comes my final question: HOW WILL CARRANZA BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTIONS IF HE IS NO LONGER THE CHANCELLOR?
The same question applies to de Blasio, only in lower-case letters.
De Blasio won’t even have to face the consequences with his own children, since Chiara and Dante have already graduated from a Screened and an SHSAT high school, respectively. (And gone on to private colleges, which is strange, with Dad being such a staunch public school advocate.)
So… Carranza is promising to accept accountability for schools that won’t even be under his jurisdiction when the first – not to mention long term – effects are felt?
To quote one of his favorite expressions, “How does this make sense?”