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Some advice for NYC’s new schools chancellor

As NYC schoolchildren start spring break later this month, Richard Carranza’s work will begin.

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza, left,

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza, left, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, attend a press conference at City Hall, Manhattan, Thursday, March 1, 2018. Mayor de Blasio announced that Carranza will be the new New York City Schools Chancellor less than a week after his first pick for the job announced live on television that he would no longer accept the offer. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As NYC schoolchildren start spring break later this month, Richard Carranza’s work will begin.

And Carranza, the city’s next schools chancellor, will have a lot to learn as he takes over a school system of 1.1 million children and more than 1,800 schools.

There are some positive signs in NYC, including small increases in test scores and graduation rates, but troubles remain. There are still pockets of segregation in schools, limited access to top schools, a vast achievement gap and insufficient funds for the arts and technology. Parent engagement is inadequate. Too many students fail to achieve.

But Carranza brings new energy. He’s the grandson of Mexican immigrants and has led Houston and San Francisco schools. He’s a mariachi singer who often talks of the importance of the arts. And he says he enjoys spending time in the classrooms, and hopes to meet with students and parents as he learns about NYC’s school system.

We’re counting on it. Carranza should make classroom visits, parent roundtables, and meetings with teachers, advocates and others an integral part of his tenure.

It’ll be important for Carranza to address issues that have cropped up more recently, like school safety, and others that have been more long-standing, like the future of so-called Renewal Schools that continue to fail students. He should work to expand the city’s gifted education programs, and to make sure students with special needs get services schools are required to provide, but too often don’t. His success has been limited on those issues in the past, so he’ll need to step up his efforts here.

Carranza sidestepped questions on charter schools, and his past record is mixed. He should work to build partnerships with charters, and learn from their best practices to build up underperforming traditional public schools.

Mayor Bill de Blasio chose a chancellor whose priorities and views on equity are similar to the mayor’s — and to those of outgoing Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Still, Carranza should bring new ideas to the table, and de Blasio must loosen the reigns so Carranza has a chance to lead, and give all NYC children the education they deserve.

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