Nearly 1,000 people filled the auditorium and overflow rooms at IS 5 in Elmhurst on Monday night to hear from the chancellor. Just outside the school, a small group of protesters, many of whom follow the chancellor at public events, chanted “fire Carranza” and “fire the racist.”
Carranza kicked off the town hall with an update on the novel coronavirus in New York City, where there is one confirmed case in Manhattan. He said the Department of Education (DOE) has been sending guidance to principals, school nurses and building maintenance staff.
The DOE is also organizing in-person webinars with health officials to better prepare schools for the virus. His advice to all parents and students was to frequently wash their hands.
“We are prepared to go from zero to a full-blown pandemic,” Carranza said.
The chancellor was asked by parents, who filled out questions on note cards, why District 24 schools, which are “already diverse,” needed a diversity plan. Carranza responded that “there is no such plan” to integrate District 24.
He said in school communities where diversity is not as apparent, districts can apply for a planning grant that funds a process to start a conversation about developing an integration plan.
“Unfortunately, not all schools everywhere are as diverse as has been stated here today,” he said.
In nearby District 28, however, an integration plan has been unfolding with pushback from local parents. Carranza acknowledged that these plans will lead to “tough conversations.”
“But we’re New Yorkers,” he added. “We’re used to having tough conversations.
Carranza was also asked about the status of the city’s attempt to change the admissions process for specialized high schools. He said there is currently no pathway in Albany.
The legislation to repeal the Hecht-Calandra Act, passed in 1971 to mandate a single method for admitting students to elite high schools, got out of committee last year but was never heard by the full Assembly.
The chancellor said he is inviting anyone to show him research that “the most enlightened” approach for identifying intellectually gifted children is through a single test.
“I have yet to find that research because it doesn’t exist,” he said. “It’s a false narrative.”
Carranza said he and Mayor Bill de Blasio are “all ears” when it comes to new ideas about diversifying the specialized high schools. He said they’re engaging with community education councils, community groups and others.
“That’s a worthy conversation to have,” he said.
Parents also asked about the city’s Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs, which the chancellor insisted are not being cut this year. But he said after visiting many schools with G&T programs, he learned that the “vast majority” of them only teach students more material at a faster rate.
That’s different from teaching gifted students with a differentiated curriculum and a specialized pedagogy that’s based on brain and developmental science, the chancellor said.
“That can’t be how we serve intellectually advanced students,” he said.
Instead, he pointed to international baccalaureate (IB) programs, which provide a specialized curriculum that’s rigorous and advanced. IB program teachers have special training, and schools have to apply and be certified. Carranza said he would prefer a gifted program more like that.
Other topics addressed at the town hall include school safety, 3K, funding for after-school programming and GPS-enabled tracking for school buses.
A large contingent of parents from Success Academy wearing orange t-shirts filled the auditorium on Monday night. Carranza said “it’s no secret” that those parents want a space for a middle school.
The DOE has begun an engagement process on two temporary co-location proposals for the charter school, the chancellor said.
“Things are moving,” Carranza said. “We hear you, we’re engaging with you.”