For the past 50+ years, every mayor has pledged to fix New York City schools, and the current office-holder, Bill de Blasio, is no exception. He is, however, somewhat unique in that whenever a signature initiative has been proven ineffective, his response is to double down and announce its expansion.
He has been equally intransigent about expanding programs that don’t fit his vision of what New Yorkers should want, even when those programs are both popular with families and proven to help children succeed.
Below, we outline six educational initiatives – and the Mayor’s response to them.
What Is It: $582,000,000 dollars have been spent so far to put 28 failing high schools on the path to a “quick turnaround” via an increase in social services and staff, longer school days, and consultants to lead professional development for teachers.
How Is It Doing: Three years in, 19 schools missed their graduation goals, and 6 actually saw graduation rates fall. Thirteen schools met their targets according to some accountability standards, though a Yale study branded the entire effort an overall failure. Supporters cheer a doubled college-readiness rate. Detractors attribute that to CUNY dropping its Algebra requirement, and states watering down Regent exams.
Mayor’s Response: More Renewal schools coming to a district near you!
What Is It: Students from underserved schools were offered Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) prep the summer between 7th and 8th grades in order to increase the number of Black and Hispanic students at Specialized High Schools.
How Is It Doing: In 2017,the number of minority students receiving offers DECREASED compared to previous years.
Mayor’s Response: Pronounce it a success, refuse to reveal how their hand-picked students scored, and announce an expansion coming in 2018.
What Is It: All NYC four year-olds are eligible for a seat in a no-cost Pre-Kindergarten program, although lack of space in public schools means the majority are housed in community centers, and even religious schools.
How Is It Doing: In addition to shrinking services for low-income parents, contributing to segregation at an earlier age, and many centers remaining undersubscribed, the mayor’s promise of a teacher with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education has fallen woefully short.
Mayor’s Response: Not enough space or qualified teachers for 4 year olds? Let’s expand to classes for 3 year olds!
What Is It: Over two-thirds of children who qualify for an Accelerated Citywide school seat are shut out, as are almost half of those who qualify for a District G&T program.
How Is It Doing: Parents are clamoring for an expansion so that every child who makes the cut-off can be accommodated. Since we are talking about the same number of children in the same number of classrooms, it should not cost the city any extra funds, as demonstrated by a district in the Bronx looking to offer all students a “gifted” education.
Mayor’s Response: While a handful of G&T’s were added in the Bronx and Brooklyn, they start at the 3rd grade, not the Kindergarten level, like the majority of G&T programs citywide. Chancellor Carmen Fariña is on the record as saying that she believes children learn better in mixed ability classrooms, and so has no interest in adding seats.
What Is It: Close to 30,000 8th graders take the SHSAT.
How Is It Doing: Around 4,000 are offered a seat at one of the eight schools that use it as the sole qualifier. Nationwide, only one percent of teens have access to an accelerated high school. Even Mensa admits the top 2%, suggesting that thousands of bright, high-achieving kids are lacking a high school program to match their abilities and develop their potential.
Mayor’s Response: Unlike Mayor Bloomberg, who added five Specialized High Schools to the original Big Three (Stuyvesant, Bronx HS of Science, and Brooklyn Tech), Mayor de Blasio would like to change SHSAT admissions to a system that’s been proven to actually decrease minority acceptance rates – all in the name of diversity, of course.
What Is It: 40,000 students are on charter-schools wait-lists around the city, including for the Success Academies, three of which appeared in the Top 10 of NYC’s highest scoring schools, beating multiple gifted programs along the way.
How Is It Doing: The schools would like more room to expand.
Mayor’s Response: No.
Mayor de Blasio is pouring money and resources into programs that don’t work, and refusing to grow those that actually do because he believes he knows what’s best for all NYC families.
Parents, what’s wrong with this picture?