Wednesday, September 7, 2016


WINS: We are joined live now on 1010 WINS by Mayor Bill de Blasio who’s going to be talking education. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, so, school starts tomorrow – big day – but the City, today, is rolling out several new education initiatives. So, let’s run them down, bullet point style. One is aimed at increasing economic diversity. Tell us about that.
Mayor: Well, you know, in all that we’re doing in the schools, we want to increase the quality-level of all our schools – the program is called Equity and Excellence. And the idea is that there should be no such thing as a “bad school” in any neighborhood, that we have to bring the level up across the board. But it’s also important to ensure that our kids get to learn together from all backgrounds. So, one of the things we’ve seen some very good success on in schools is admissions models that recognize kids of different economic backgrounds making sure that they get well represented across the board in our schools. So, that’s been one new initiative.
 But the overall frame system is Equity and Excellence. And basically it says we’re going to make sure that across the board we’re raising the quality-level of schools, we’re raising the demand-level too because our young people are going to be confronted by a much tougher world than when you and I were growing up. They have to get a better education. They have to be prepared for a demanding economy. We need that to happen across the school system, not just in some of the best schools but across the school system.
WINS: And so what specifically can the City do to expand diversity at some of the specialized high schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant?
Mayor: First, we need the State government to go along with changing the admissions. I don’t think anything should be decided by a single test. College admissions are not decided by a single test – even to the finest colleges in the country. I don’t think our very best high schools should base their admissions on a single test. I think there should be multiple measures. But that’s something we can only achieve through the State Legislature.
 What we will do in the meantime is add a number of measures to help prepare kids for the test from all backgrounds so there really can be representation. Right now, a school like Stuyvesant just does not represent the population of New York City in any way [inaudible] and reflects the reality of this city.
 We have to do a lot more to prepare kids to succeed on the test so long as that is the State sanctioned way to get into a school like that.
WINS:  Alright, there’s also a literacy initiative. Tell us about that –
Mayor: Yes, well, let me tell you the most important thing – I hear this from educators all the time – is to get kids to reading level by 3rd grade. And when you do that, when a kid reaches reading level by 3rd grade a lot of other things become possible. If they don’t, it really holds them back. So, we started with Pre-K for All which has been a great success. And I want to remind all your listeners if they have a four-year-old still not signed up for pre-K all they have to do is call 3-1-1 or go online to– plenty of seats still available.
 But on top of pre-K we’re going to emphasize reading and literacy in 2nd grade into 3rd grade – we’re adding a number of reading coaches and specialists on a level we’ve never had before so that we can really help teachers to improve what they’re doing with kids but also help the individual children who need extra attention.
 Our goal over the next ten years is to go from where we were when this administration started – about 30 percent of kids in this system reading at grade level by 3rd grade – absolutely unacceptable number. We want to get that to 100 percent over the course of the next ten years.
WINS: Another initiative that is a bit controversial has to do with altering the disciplinary code. Some of the teacher’s union is saying there’s not enough training in personnel or funding. There’s also concern that this may disproportionately affect minority students. What is going to be done with that?
Mayor: Well, what we’re seeing already is amazing progress on reducing crime in our schools and reducing violent incidents. I give a lot of credit to our school safety officers and, obviously, our teachers and parents as well. Over the last five years – 35 percent decrease in crime in our schools. And that started – I want to give credit – it started in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. We’ve been able to add to that quite a bit.
 So, the fact is the schools are getting safer consistently. At the same time, we found that we can change the approach to discipline – reduce the number of suspensions. Suspensions, in my view, sometimes they are warranted but a lot of times they were overused, and basically did not help kids in terms of their education, and didn’t improve safety in the schools – and in some cases would exacerbate a problem a young person was having.
 We found that with reduced use of suspensions, we’re simultaneously getting better numbers on reducing crime in the school. So, those two things are actually going together.
 Also, I have a different – I have a lot of respect for the teachers and their union, but we have a difference – we don’t think there should be suspensions of kids in kindergarten, for example. It’s just something where I part company with the teacher’s union because I think it’s inappropriate even if a kid has a problem. I don’t think they should be suspended at that kind of early age.
WINS: What about the 85 struggling schools that may be approaching a three-year deadline for getting their act together. What is going on with that?
Mayor: Well, I’m very clear about the fact that we gave them time – about three years – and a lot of support to be able to turn around. And we’re seeing some very big improvements in a lot of these Renewal Schools. These are the schools that have had historic trouble and needed a lot more support. We’ve seen improved test scores in many cases. We’ve seen improved amounts of attendance, etcetera. But I’ve said, starting from two years ago, that we would go into this next year and any school that had not made sufficient progress, we’re either going to merge it into another school or shut it down. But I’m very hopeful based on what I’ve seen so far that most of the schools are moving in the right direction. And we’ll continue to support them.
WINS: And when do you think announcements about those schools will be made?
Mayor: We’re going to give them this school year, and in the case – by the way, some we can see already are succeeding and we know will do well in the long term. Others have already – small number – but several have been already in the process of shutting down or being merged. By the end of the school year, we’ll have a clear picture of what we want to do with the remainder.

It seems that ten years of mayoral control has done very little if any to advance the goals outlined above by Mayor De Blasio. I would hope that the entire state legislature (not just those Republicans in Albany) have noticed how mayoral control has failed in New York City public schools. 

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