They say that personnel is policy when it comes to a new chief executive assembling his team. Incoming Mayor Eric Adams has a chance to break with the policies of his predecessor across the board, and we hope he will do so in a major way in key areas including crime-fighting, business regulation, transportation and, at least as vital as any of those, education. Wednesday’s announcement that Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter will be stepping down at the end of the year, as inevitable as it was, highlights Adams’ opportunity to reverse the most damaging approaches Mayor de Blasio took toward education while building on the positive ones.
The main thing that has to be done is to end the war on excellence. In fact, just about everything stems from that. De Blasio, determined to bring more equity to education, particularly along racial lines, did what he could to equalize student outcomes. But other than pre-K and 3-K, he pursued that theoretically noble goal not by trying to improve the education of the most challenged students but by trying to reduce the opportunities available to the most successful ones. And his schools chiefs put those plans into practice.
Throughout his tenure, de Blasio and his chancellors did whatever they could to thwart charter schools, especially Success Academy, where excellence is the rule and the students are primarily members of the minority groups de Blasio insists he wants to raise up. His Department of Education keeps failing to provide space for Success schools as required by law, even today. See this week’s letter to the editor from four Queens students for more on the latest. Adams says he supports charter schools and we trust he will keep his word.
Last year, citing the pandemic, de Blasio’s DOE eliminated screening for middle schools, effectively reducing the quality of the best ones. This year it has kept families waiting until the absolute last minute for information on applying to traditionally screened middle and high schools. We expect Adams to be more competent.
De Blasio, and his former Chancellor Richard Carranza in particular, also tried all they could to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test for the so-called “elite eight,” such as the legendary Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Only state law stopped them. And any effort they put into making sure more Black and Latino students get to take the SHSAT and enroll failed to produce results. Adams wants to expand opportunities for all students to get into a specialized school, possibly even by establishing more of them.
De Blasio recently announced the end of the city’s Gifted and Talented programs, to be replaced by weaker accelerated curricula. Adams has said he supports G&T and can reverse that decision.
There’s much we want Adams to reverse when it comes to education, and we hope his choice as chancellor will reflect plans to do so.