Retired UFT Teacher Fact Checks Chancellor Fariña’s Letter to NY Post

Chancellor Fariña responded to a NY Post Editorial, about schools failing, with the letter below. 

While UFT Solidarity doesn’t categorizes our schools as failure factories, we do work hard to try and address the existing issues that are obstacles in educating our students. Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio and his pick for chancellor, have continued many of the Bloomberg tactics that have plagued our school system. From fighting to keep parents and the public out of School Leadership Team meetings, to credit recovery and ezpass programs. 

Retired teacher and UFT Solidarity member James Calantjis fact checks Chancellor Fariña’s letter here:

Chancellor Farina in her letter to the NY Post entitled, “Progress in the City Schools” (1/16/2017) claims, ” NYC’s schools are the most successful they have ever been.” She then cites certain “facts” to support her claims.

However, when we delve more deeply into these assertions, we find them mostly hollow.She cites a graduation rate of 70.5% (2015-2016) but leaves out that only about 34.6% of these students are “college ready.” “Many High Schools had 70% average graduation rates but college readiness rates lower than 20%.”(Daily News, June 29,2016). She cites a college enrollment rate of 55%, as if that low number were anything to brag about,even though many of these students will never graduate due to inadequate academic preparation.A reason for this is that the High School graduation rate is inflated due to social promotion practices such as “credit recovery” and pressuring teachers to pass students regardless of merit.

Chancellor Farina says the dropout rate “is the lowest on record”, but at 9%, is still way too high for a school system of over 1.1 million students.

While she cites that crime “is down 35% over 5 years”, the problem of lack of discipline and disregarding of school rules is an issue that also needs to be addressed. Students are setting the tone in many of our middle and high schools while teachers feel helpless as administrators play the “blame game” and the DOE waters down discipline codes because of outside political pressure. Absenteeism and cutting of classes is rampant.

The Chancellor mentions “record numbers of parents involved in their children’s education”, yet, School Leadership Teams, which are made up of 50% parents are a scam. Principals have usurped the lawful responsibilities of School Leadership Teams to develop Comprehensive Educational Plans and participate in the development of school budgets. The DOE consistently undermines SLTs as legal school governance bodies. They have tried to keep SLT meetings closed so that there is no transparency until the recent court decision on the Open Meetings Law.

She states “working with dedicated teachers and principals”,yet continues to maintain an ATR pool of teachers, guidance counselors, social workers,etc., who are dedicated educators. With nearly 1000 of these educators doing substitute duties in school rotation, the DOE wastes about 100 million taxpayer dollars a year. The ATR pool should be disbanned and these educators permanently placed.

The Chancellor ends with the statement that everyone is entitled “to their own opinion, but not their own facts”, criticizing a Post Editorial citing ” the city’s failures to educate kids in its public schools”. However, the facts the Chancellor states do not support the conclusion that the NYC schools are ” the most successful they have ever been” and “moving in the right direction.”

The Chancellor is an experienced educator with many years in the NYC public school system. She knows what the real problems are and that they will only be fixed when we hold students to high academic standards and discipline expectations, respect our teachers, and truly invite parents to participate.

James Calantjis
NYC Educator
Middle Village, NY

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One Comment

  1. Every teacher should stand up to the lies of the Chancellors. NYC schools need to set the culture and tone for all students to follow and if they did that, teachers could teach more effectively and could demonstrate student engagement as a direct outcome of their teaching. If students are disrespectful and disengaged then realistically they’ are not learning. But it’s not entirely their fault. The school leadership sets the tone, and If leadership is weak, the kids will not listen to the teachers. And if the teachers are degraded by the leadership the kids will do the same.

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