Parents Grill Schools Chancellor On Struggling Schools, Testing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City public schools will be back in session officially Wednesday morning, and CBS2 was demanding answers the day before classes about struggling schools, test score fairness, and more.

CBS2’s Dave Carlin asked the tough questions in a one-on-one interview with schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Parents also weighed in.

“Everything in New York City, when it comes to schools, I take personally,” Fariña said.

Since Fariña took the top job with the New York City schools in January 2014, there have been clashes over Common Core testing, a grade fixing scandal involving the principal and staffers at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, and parents still struggling about whether to send their kids to public schools or private.

Carlin: “You came in to fix problems. Do you feel you have?”

Fariña: “I think I’ve brought dignity back to the profession.”

Carlin: “You’ve got the struggling schools… and you’ve got these accountability issues with at least some of your principals.”

Fariña: “The fact that we have a plan to improve what’s not working… parents have to come to step up, and also take more responsibility.”

Parents are taking responsibility, according to Mary Ortegon of TriBeCa, who has a son entering the first grade. She almost put him in private school.

Ortegon: “Is there a big disconnect between people going to a private school versus a public school? These public schools should be the best in the country.”

Fariña: “Don’t judge a school unless you’ve walked in the building and seen what happens in the classroom…. I continue to see what we can learn from them, but also they have a lot to learn a lot from us.”

Ninety-four of New York City’s 1,800 schools are classified as failing or struggling. This year, fixing those 94 includes “an extra hour of school and every one of those schools,” Fariña swaid.

Meanwhile, the systemwide Common Core testing establishes one high standard for all, but it is under fire for putting too much stress on kids and teachers. Naomi Daniels of TriBeCa expressed concerns about the testing program to Fariña.

Daniels: “Our children suffer because of it and… (I’m) wondering what the plan is for how to make that that more fair.”

Fariña: “I think that might’ve been a fair criticism, but we’re working to make that more even now.”

Carlin: “We’ve seen principals get in trouble; deserve to be fired… where is the accountability for those bad apples?”

Fariña: “The superintendents now have the tools to hold every principal accountable, and that’s where I’m going to be spending a lot of my time.”

Fariña said she still supports Common Core and that teachers are getting better test prep.

Meanwhile, new this year, all middle school parent-teacher conferences will include the students, so as to get everyone on the same page.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Fariña said.

The chancellor said 1.1 million students means there are that many reasons to keep going.