A Clue to Carranza’s Approach to Struggling Schools?

A rally held some months ago in support of Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Christina Veiga via Chalkbeat)

People are looking for clues as to how Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who came on board in April, will deal with troubled schools in the city. Now they’re looking at the case of Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts in Harlem, spared from closure by Carranza as one of his first acts that month. Now, he’s shaking up the leadership of the school as part of an effort to shore up its academic results, reports Alex Zimmerman in Chalkbeat.

Starting Monday, Kyleema Norman — a former principal who now works with low-performing schools in Brooklyn through the city’s Renewal turnaround program — will take the helm of Wadleigh on an interim basis, replacing Daisy Fontanez.

Norman’s task is a steep one. The middle school has long been considered low-performing and has had difficulty attracting students — enrolling fewer than a hundred students in recent years. Since 2014, not a single one of its middle schoolers was considered proficient in math on state tests, and Carranza has said the school’s performance is “not acceptable.”

But despite the school’s performance, Wadleigh has survived at least two attempts to shutter it, owing partly to strong political backing from the NAACP, the Harlem Chamber of Commerce, alumni, and elected officials.

Chalkbeat says that Carranza’s approach to Wadleigh may “offer a hint that Carranza is more apt to give long-struggling schools a second chance instead of closing them.” Another 49 schools remain on the city’s Renewal program roster, which consists of long-struggling schools which may be candidates for closure. Still, Chalkbeat cautions that perhaps not too much should be read into this individual case.

Wadleigh will join a network of schools getting help from a nonprofit that provides support and supervision, and the high school will get some additional funding for its art programs. But it’s not clear what benchmarks will have to be met by Wadleigh in the future, and what the consequences will be if it falls short. Go to Chalkbeat to read why one education expert says some schools may be “Teflon-coated.”

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