In today’s New York Times, Kate Taylor reports on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City speech and his curiously scant discussion of his Renewal Schools Program. As I’ve reported before (see here, here, and here), the program’s outcomes are lackluster at best, yet the Mayor has trumpeted his plan as a panacea for all that ails the city’s worst 86 schools.
In a speech that ran to over 8,000 words, a mere 214 of them were devoted to education. Mr. de Blasio promoted the city’s high school graduation rate, which reached a record high of 69.6 percent last year. He boasted about his successful expansion of prekindergarten and cited progress toward his goal of bringing Advanced Placement courses to all high schools. And he alluded to his effort to build new schools in overcrowded neighborhoods.
He did not mention that black and Hispanic students still graduate from high school at far lower rates than their white and Asian counterparts — 64.6 percent and 63.5 percent, compared with 80 percent and 83.3 percent. Or that only half of the students who do graduate are prepared for college-level work, according to the standards of the City University of New York. Nor did he argue for the importance of renewing mayoral control of schools, which is set to lapse on July 1 if Albany does not extend it, or of the state providing the city the additional $1.6 billion in annual school funding that it is owed under a 2006 court ruling.
There was not a word about his $760 million school turnaround program, known as Renewal.
When de Blasio entered office — he called himself, ironically, the “education mayor” — he renounced former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s emphasis on closing failing schools and expanding school choice and, instead, claimed that his Renewal Program, based on infusions of academic intervention, social services, and cash, would turn schools around.
It hasn’t worked.
Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, told Taylor that de Blasio’s reticence on school improvement, a heightened concern among residents, could “reflect that the mayor doesn’t have a distinct vision for the schools heading into a possible second term.”
And Dr. Pallas told Chalkbeat that while “I don’t want to read too much into it in terms of what it means for policy — we’re probably seeing the winding down of Carmen Fariña at the helm.” He added that the speech “was curiously flat in terms of education.”
Also from Chalkbeat:
[I]n addition to leaving out the Renewal program, de Blasio didn’t touch on major pillars of his “Equity and Excellence” agenda, including computer science instruction for every student. Nor did he address school segregation, despite a larger plan education officials have said is in the works.
It’s worth noting that the Mayor’s minimizing of his signature school improvement plan, one that costs a third of annual city spending, leaves an opening for challengers in the 2017 mayoral election. Education mayor? Not so much.