tv Eyewitness News Upclose ABC April 3, 2016 11:00am-11:30am EDT
>> this is... >> students in the biggest public school system in the country start taking standardized tests this coming week. parents oppose the testing and the common core curriculum. some of them are opting out. in fact, last year in new york state, one out of every five students refused to take that test. so how are new york city schools dealing with the test this year? we ask schools chancellor
a whole lot more this morning on "upclose." 1.1 million students, 1,800 schools, scores of languages spoken, and an annual budget of nearly $25 billion -- bigger than the budgets of half the states in the country. the new york city schools, a huge and complicated enterprise, its product arguably the most important that there is -- the education of our young people. chancellor carmen faria, now ending her second full year in the job, joins us. chancellor, welcome. >> thank you. >> i said it was complicated, but you basically say this is simple at its core, right? >> it is. i think the most important thing that educators know about education and that everything that really needs to happen happens in the classroom. so the most important thing that we do as educators is make sure that we have the best teachers, the best curriculum possible, and also the best principals who will supervise those teachers. so, to me, if you look at those three elements and you make sure that that's done properly, the rest is just something that has to be put into a structure that makes that happen.
and yet it's so unattainable sometimes. it's so difficult to get exactly where you want. it's never gotten there, right? the biggest school system in the country. >> well, look -- 1,600 schools, you're never gonna get 100% perfection, but it's not for lack of trying. and i think also one of the things that we're doing particularly well in this administration is having great expectations for all schools. there was for a very long time, and i'm going back 50 years in education, when it was okay for certain schools to fail. there was an expectation that if you lived in a certain neighborhood, it was okay not to have the best teachers or best principals. we're not working under that premise. i'm working under the premise every school deserves the best principal. every district deserves the best superintendents. we have about 20 new superintendents in new york city and they are among the best in the country. and also i want to make sure that every teacher in every classroom has high expectations for every student. so i see that as a challenge, but i also see that my job is to get those people in place, and therefore, my job is easy. it's just to make sure those people are doing the right work,
tools they need to do the work, which is why i think the monday 80 minutes for teachers is wonderful. we've also made a big emphasis in the last two years and been very successful in getting our parents more involved. you know, we now do a lot of messaging in other languages. we actually have increased our parent engagement almost 58% from other school years. >> and what does that mean? when parents are -- volunteer? they don-- they give money to the school? what do they do? >> a variety of reasons, but more that their physical bodies are going to school to learn how to work with their children. this year, we did an initiative called student-led conferences when we asked parents to bring their children with them for parent-teacher conferences so the students could partake about what the teacher was saying and the demands teachers are putting on kids. and we had a major increase in parents coming to parent-teacher -- the highest ever. so i do think parents need to come to school to find out what they can do to help their children, but they also need to come in to find out what they can do to help themselves. we've started community schools with an increase in mental-health services
but the other thing, as i go around the city, we also find that a lot of grandparents are raising their children. so we now started a grandparents' advisory group to tell us what kind of services they need so they can be helpful. >> so, why wasn't that done before? you're taking more of a whole-child approach and involving the family. why wasn't that done in all these years before? >> i think it does make a difference to have a chancellor that was an educator and that had been a teacher, that had been a principal, that was a parent of public school children, so you look at everything from the lens of "what did i do in each of these steps to ensure that all my kids succeeded?" you know, i was a teacher for 22 years, and my goal was, no matter what student i had in my class, they were gonna succeed. and i know what i did as a teacher. as a principal, i felt the same way. you know, what was i gonna do in my school to ensure that every student who graduated was gonna graduate well? >> and in fact, your boosters say, give you a lot of credit for focusing strategies individually on each campus. why did you decide to do that? >> because i think every campus
and honestly, if you look at the city, what staten island needs is not the same thing, perhaps, that the upper east side needs or what, you know, the bronx needs. what they all need are strong leaders, and i think that's where we started with the strong superintendents. and then we made superintendents much more accountable for the principals they hired and the principals they didn't keep. so having people who are doing the job that you think is the best to get the kids to a certain point is really important. we have received very little pushback on common core in new york city in the last two years because we put in 80 minutes of professional development for teachers, but we also gave them the materials. we have spent an inordinate amount of time in the last two years developing materials that teachers can use. next week, for example, there's gonna be a curriculum fair for principals to come and choose materials that teachers can take back to teach social studies, my very favorite topic. we've already done them on stem, computer science for all. we certainly did a big push on high school writing. we have a scope and sequence for high school writing.
all tools teachers didn't have. >> just for those who don't know, stem stands for science, technology -- >> technology, engineering, and mathematics. >> right. and that's a curriculum kind of focus, right? you want to get those kids -- >> yeah. it's all about, you know, hands-on approach to science teaching but also to computers -- it's coding. it's about robotics. it's about legos. it's about the kinds of structure that starts in kindergarten for students, and i think also the pre-k -- 68,000 students starting pre-k in september. we've had many already starting this year, going -- on a day i get depressed, if i walk into a pre-k classroom, i'm happy. and i think also turning the culture of teaching to one of interactive learning. you know, there are schools in the past where a lot of the teaching was skill and drill or memorizing. and we've kind of turned that around by affording teachers the right materials to say, "a quiet classroom is not a classroom where a lot of learning happens." there's got to be talk. there's got to be kids asking each other questions. independence.
skills that i want to see in our schools. >> i said that 20% last year of state students opted out of the common core testing. a much smaller percentage of new york city schools opted out. >> correct. >> it was lower, single digits, right? >> much, much. right. >> this year, there have been some changes, and i know that it's a big hot topic -- the presidential candidates, some of them are blasting, saying, "we gotta get rid of the common core," but in fact all of this has been part of a process, and it has been massaged and changed to some degree, right? >> yeah, and it will continue to be. i certainly meet with parents who have concerns about the testing. but the changes that we've made have been very crucial. "a," there are less questions. there's more sitting time. there's no timed testing, which means that if students want to take longer, they can. also, we sent teachers to albany and -- not only from the city, from around the state -- to help write the test and review the test. we also do not have any more mandatory holdover based on kids' results. but more importantly, i think, we have to keep some accountability in place.
this is what we stand for." and by accountability, i mean things like -- we're now looking to help our struggling schools. well, how do i know they're struggling if i don't have some kind of numerical data? >> there's got to be some metric involved, right? >> absolutely, and the metric says to me, "these schools are progressing." i am not looking to go from a level 1 to a level 4. that is totally unrealistic. but i'm looking if you're level 1, and you're working hard and you're using the right process, you'll get to level 2 and 3 over time. i think the other thing, though -- i want to be clear -- the parents certainly have the right to opt out, but as i've said to many parents, i would caution, who are the kids who i think most might need it -- you might have a student, like an english-language learner who is just new to this country, and although the rules seem to be going in the direction of within two years the laws may change, right now, students have to take a test after one year, and that's probably not realistic. i mean, if you're learning a language, how do you take the test? and that seems unfair. so i'm also meeting with parents, and one of the things after meeting with several
together a group of parents and educators to say, "what else do we need to do?" but not just about testing, but as a whole package. >> so common core continues to evolve. one of the big changes, as i understand it, is that teachers' performances are not gonna be tied... >> not at all. >> ...to the results of common core curriculum, and -- common core -- and that has been a big bugaboo for the teachers. that's one reason they were against it. >> yeah. i think common core, again, is not a curriculum. it's a set of strategies. and the strategies are things like "can students compare and contrast? can students make inferences based on data?" common core has also encouraged schools to do a lot more nonfiction reading -- 'cause in many of our elementary schools in particular, most of the work was fiction, and yet i believe strongly that science and social studies should be taught from the earliest grades. so it also says, "do students know how to present before an audience? can you present evidence and an argument?" these are all skills that the citizens of tomorrow need. >> the citizens of today need that, too, right? >> well, yes, and i think -- yes. >> but you start -- for your
age you can, and that's what your goal is. can i ask you to stick around? we got a lot more to talk to you about. we have to take a quick break, though, all right? when we come back, more of our conversation with the new york city schools chancellor, carmen faria. stay with us. all across america families are coming back to time warner cable for a whole new experience. that's because we've been working hard to give you better service, and it shows. we came back for internet speeds so fast even the kids are impressed. oh she's impressed. we're catching up on movies and shows on demand just as fast as we can watch them. for $89.99 a month you'll get 100 meg ultra-fast internet, popular hd channels and unlimited calling.
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>> welcome back to "upclose." we continue our conversation with new york city schools chancellor carmen faria. and, chancellor, i just want to continue a little bit with the common core. it's a buzzword now in politics, right? especially the republican candidates for president have all said, to a man -- and a woman when there was one --
>> well, i think the reporters should ask them, "what exactly do you mean by common core?" and see how many of them actually know what it is. and then, if they really can explain it, then try to take it down and say, "well, why would you be against children being able to speak to a topic, give evidence to a topic, be able to compare and contrast, be able to function in the 21st century and be competitive in the global economy?" that's what all the skills that are there are meant to be. >> because your basic worry is that kids in the united states and you're worried specifically in new york city have -- are not -- are falling behind a lot of parts of the world, other industrialized countries, right? >> i'm not sure that i would agree with that. we are getting a tremendous amount of visitors from other countries. i hosted five different education ministers in the last two months. and they want to know how we're doing certain things, and one of the things they're particularly interested in is how we're using stem, how we're moving from silent classrooms to interactive classrooms and what kind of improvements we see as a result of that -- because in a lot of
drill, including, you know, in our own country. so i do think that we're moving forward. one of the things that i think we're doing particularly well is our increase in dual-language programs, where many more of our schools are now teaching two languages starting in kindergarten. so i think there's a lot of great things that are happening around the world but a lot of great things that people around the world are coming here to watch what we're doing. >> my daughter is in first grade, and this is her second year of spanish, so it's happening. one more common core issue. the new chancellor of the state school system, betty rosa, said offhandedly recently, you know, if it were up to her, her kids would not take the common core. how was that received? >> i know betty a long time, and i think one of her concerns has always been english-language learners. and i think if you read her statements that followed that statement, she does believe in high standards. she was a superintendent in the bronx. she wanted her kids to be able to compete with other kids. but i think her objection, like many people's, is "how do we
transparent and more with teacher input and involvement?" so i think betty and i would be very much in agreement going forward. >> i mentioned that politicians were using the common core as sort of an issue, and you said it's sort of knee-jerk -- you implied that. i read somewhere where you are not encouraging -- in fact, you're discouraging many schools from having what we all had when we were growing up in a presidential election year, so the mock elections. "who are you for? who are you against?" why are you discouraging it this year? >> it's not that i would discourage it. i would say that it has to be based on a lot of pre-training. for example, i think the discussion has to start with "what makes a good leader?" and have that as a general discussion with students. "what are the qualities of a good leader? should there be someone who brings people together? should be someone who can articulate policy?" it has to be a criteria, so that children are not just bringing to schools what they hear at home or what they hear on tv. it's got to be an intelligent thing because i also do not want to see kids pointing fingers at each other -- "oh, your parents are voting for this versus that." so i'm not against having those
needs to be -- and we've had lesson plans on how to have these discussion in schools -- a lot of discussion on "what is leadership? what is a good citizen? who are the people who should be leading our country?" so that kids, if they're gonna make decisions, are gonna make not just on what they hear, but on certain kind of criteria that's in classrooms. >> with social media so prevalent in this election cycle, it's hard -- i know my 6-year-old knows all the candidates. >> right. >> because you hear about it all the time. and they don't have to watch television to do that. are you worried about sort of blowback? are you worried about bullying? are you worried about the vitriol that we've seen in this campaign so far? these campaigns? >> i think some of this is handled at home. i know i have discussions with my grandchildren at home around this topic. and i think it is a family discussion. i think, again, it's almost like talking about religion or sex. you've got to be very careful what it is that kids really want to know, versus how -- at what age they can handle it. but i have to tell you that i believe that one of the goals of
informed citizens who will go vote. we just had a major initiative this year, and as a matter of fact, last week, to register high school students for voting. over 8,000 students were registered to vote. and we're gonna be coming out in september with a very vigorous campaign to make sure they go out and vote. but again, it has to be based on knowledge. it has to be based on discussions. but as a country, i mean, it's embarrassing how few people go out and vote. so i do think that has to be something that gets discussed in schools, and one of the things i know in one of the schools they're debating "should election day be on a sunday? or it should be a national holiday?" many parts of the world... >> it's a national holiday. >> ...vote on sundays, and also in one part of the world, you get docked a day's pay if you don't vote. that becomes your protest. >> that's interesting. >> so i do think we have to be -- we can't complain about government if we're not part of the solution. >> i have a couple of questions left. we only have two minutes, so i want to get to it in a lightning-round kind of way. you've gone high tech with the school calendars. you want people to upload them on their smartphones and their
yes, because a lot of parents are asking us -- they're planning trips like two years ahead of time, and they're going to a wedding and where -- so i think giving parents as much information as possible and being transparent about everything is really crucial. >> you also want people to complete an annual survey, the 10th annual public school survey. what information does that give you? what do you get out of that? >> well, it gives me parents' satisfaction. you know, are parents happy with the -- their teachers, their principals? and it's not about specific teachers or specific principals, but as a whole, are you getting enough information about your child's school? are you welcomed when you go to your child's school? do people respond -- you know, one of the things that this administration has used as a template for successful schools is "are we building trust? do parents trust us? when we say something, do people say, 'oh, okay. it's coming from a good place'?" so the surveys are part of our way to guarantee trust and to say to parents -- and we do look at the surveys, and if there are issues that seem to be prevalent in certain areas, i make sure that the superintendents know that.
incidents of guns on campus. it's frightening to us as reporters. it's frightening to parents. it's frightening to kids. it's got to be frightening to the chancellor. >> absolutely -- safety is my first concern. if a school isn't safe, everything else that happens there is not worth doing. but i think the way it's been handled up until now, we immediately call nypd. there hasn't been an issue that we haven't pretty much handled within 24 hours, including punitive measures for the children who did this. i would say a word of caution here, that this has to be a lot more education for parents as well. in every one of these cases, these guns came from home. so, if you have a gun, where are you keeping it? how are you educating your kids about it? >> how are the kids getting it? >> so this has to be -- you know, this is not -- it's the schools' problem, but it starts way before it gets to school. >> it is always great to talk to you, and we appreciate you coming on and talking to parents directly. >> my pleasure. >> new york city schools chancellor carmen faria. thank you, chancellor. and have a great weekend. coming up next, we dive into the weeds of new york city
>> welcome back to "upclose." we talk a lot about politics on this program. many of the issues are national or statewide or local issues, which in the case of new york city is by definition larger than many states, as we saw in our interview with the schools chancellor just now. this morning we get really local. the retail politics of being a new york city councilwoman -- or the politically correct and gender-neutral term, city council member. city council member helen rosenthal, who represents the 6th district of the council -- that's our abc studios on the upper west side of manhattan. i asked her about embracing the job of a council member and those retail politics.
street?" >> for me, it's the details -- it's the local -- that really means something. you know, we get calls -- heat and hot water complaint calls -- all the time. somebody -- you know, you're supposed to have your heat at a certain level every night. we get calls saying that their heat was not at that level. and what can we do to help make their landlords make the heat the appropriate temperature? >> i should say, full disclosure, i've known you for many years. our daughters went to the same school. and as a mother of a daughter at that school, you were always uber-organized, you know, having that to-do list, and you got things done, and i can so see you doing this, and that's why you've been pretty successful so far. >> thank you. i think it's a good fit for who i am. i do like diving into the details. but you also have to understand how things work in order to get them to work effectively, you know? so i've worked really hard to have good relationships with the commissioners and different agencies, to have good
when things that are really important to my district or things that i think are really important citywide, that we can get some movement on them. >> we've had many of the commissioners on. in fact, this administration has been very open at bringing in the commissioners. and so we understand that. i mean, the -- changing the crosswalks, putting longer stop -- "walk" and "do not walk" signs -- vision zero is having a difference. >> i think so. you know, we had several pedestrian fatalities... >> in your district. >> ...in my district right when i started, and the department of transportation was incredibly responsive. i mean, i had known the borough commissioner for a very long time, and so i was on the phone with her regularly, but they came in with a new street redesign package. they changed the lighting signal timing. they changed the way the street is articulated so there are more -- it's more difficult to speed, for example. it's more difficult to make a left-hand turn.
programs that you are involved in 'cause i know you're passionate about this. end of march you're finishing -- march 25th was the deadline for you guys finishing voter registration. >> yes. >> a lot of elections. you are interested in getting as many people registered to vote as possible. how are you doing that? >> well, what i learned was that in our public schools, kids learn about registering to vote when they get their diploma. so every year, 80,000 diplomas get sent out, and there's a voter-registration card with it. and yet about 11% of them register to vote. >> that's it? >> so my joke has always been "i hope they at least recycle those cards." but we've started a new program, and last year we just did it out of our office, but this year, we're citywide and coalition partners with the new york immigration coalition and the board of elections, nyc votes, and all my colleagues in the city council -- we are now in over 65 schools.
those schools, and we will be getting the word out to roughly 20,000 kids. >> the election that elected mayor de blasio and you was not a great turnout. >> no. >> and i assume you want that to change next time. >> absolutely. i mean, in many of the city council races -- so as local as you can be -- people won or lost on fewer than 100 votes. so, where the total vote turnout was something in the thousands. >> it's a big difference. >> it's a huge difference. and so we're trying to educate young people that their votes -- their vote really matters. and if they want their voice to be heard, they need to register and then vote. and there are four elections this year, so even if you haven't registered in time for the presidential primary... >> in april. >> ...there's likely a state election that you can vote on in september, a primary in
there are congressional elections that you can vote on in june. and of course the general, november 4th. >> of course. that includes the president of the united states, in which there may be two new yorkers running for president. you also deal with -- you offer free mammograms to your constituents. how do you do that? >> well, i'll tell you how we do it. in the city council as members, you know, the budget is really big. it's a $77 billion, $80 billion budget. but a small amount of money is allocated for each council member to distribute in services to their local district. and every year, i've given some funding for a program that provides a mobile van that gives mammograms. and so we get the word out, and people sign up, and if you haven't had a mammogram before, you know, drop by my office. >> or look on your website. >> yes. >> talk to me about participatory budgeting. how does this work? it's citywide, right? all the council members involve their district constituents, right? >> could do it. all council members could do it,
over half of them, do do it. but here's where, again, with the discretionary funds that each council member is allotted to allocated for programs in their district. people -- council members who do participatory budgeting turn over about a million dollars -- some do two million dollars -- to all of the residents in their district. it has nothing to do with electoral politics. so all you have to do is show that you live there and are 14 years or older, and you can vote to choose what gets funded in your district. >> right. so this is for programs and services, not for going on vacation for some people who live on broadway. this is not personal. this is budgetary. >> no, no. last year, the projects that were chosen -- we had 15 that you could vote among -- and the projects that were chosen, one was a mobile food pantry. we have a great food pantry in our district, but now we've
say, homebound seniors, who -- you know, 14% of seniors go to bed hungry every night. now we have a van that can find where they are and bring them fresh food. that was chosen by the people who live in this district. not even my choice, although i think i would have funded that. but they made a great choice. >> no, it's fantastic. >> and keeping a local area that's not safe for pedestrians and bicyclists -- we funded a project that will make it safer for both. they chose that. they chose countdown clocks for the crosstown buses. that was all them. >> new york city councilwoman helen rosenthal. and that'll do it for this edition of eyewitness news "upclose." if you missed any of today's programs, no worries -- you can catch it again on our website, abc7ny. thank you all for watching. i'm bill ritter, and for all of
rest of your day. >> buenos d^as y bienvenidos. good morning and welcome once again to "tiempo." i'm joe torres. new york city is stepping up its efforts to help undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes -- help in the form of special visas. we'll talk to the commissioners behind this push and the specific requirements needed to qualify for those visas. that's coming up a little bit later in the show.