NYC Public Schools’ 2023, A Year Of Innovation And Transformation In Harlem And Beyond

December 21, 2023

As the year 2023 concludes, New York City Public Schools celebrates a series of impactful initiatives and policy changes.

These efforts demonstrate the city’s unwavering dedication to enhancing educational experiences, fostering innovation, and preparing students for a dynamic future.

“Our mission is to provide a foundation so that every student has a bright start and the exposure and experiences needed to go into the world with a bold future,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “This year’s achievements are a testament to our commitment to innovation and excellence in our schools. We are setting a new standard for what public education can be in this city and country.”

Key highlights from NYC Public Schools in 2023 include:

  • ‘NYC Reads’ for Early Literacy: Grounded in the Science of Reading, ‘NYC Reads’ provides foundational curriculum materials, job-embedded ongoing professional learning, and additional supports for students with disabilities and multilingual learners.  This comprehensive approach targets students from early childhood through grade 5, emphasizing the importance of literacy skills from a young age. Additionally, supports and resources are being provided for families to guide their children’s literacy development.
  • Increases in State Test Scores: This fall New York City Public Schools unveiled the outcomes from the 2023 math and ELA assessments. The data reveals promising growth trends, and progress towards eliminating achievement gaps.  The percentage of students achieving ELA proficiency rose from 49.0% in 2022 to 51.7% in 2023. Even more encouraging is the surge in math scores, which increased substantially from 37.9% in 2022 to 49.9% in 2023, and the rate of growth in proficiency outpaced the rest of the state and New York’s other large urban districts.  
  • Growth in Student Enrollment: Announcing the first increase in student enrollment in eight years was a significant indicator of renewed trust and satisfaction in public schools. This growth reflects the effectiveness of the various programs and improvements implemented throughout the year, attracting more families to choose public education.
  • Bold Futures Through Career-Connected Learning: Partnering with Google as the first tech anchor partner for FutureReadyNYC represented a major step forward in integrating technology into education. This collaboration aims to provide students with cutting-edge learning tools and resources, preparing them for a digitally driven future. This year FutureReadyNYC expanded to 100 additional high schools serving a total of 7,000 students. The Google partnership builds on our previous work of building a foundation with Northwell Health to expose students to high growth, high wage career fields.
  • Supporting Students in Temporary Housing with Project Open Arms: Nearly 34,000 students in temporary housing benefited from this coordinated effort, which provided essential educational and emotional support and resources, such as tutoring, counseling, and extracurricular activities.  The program continues to help students bridge the gap and maintain continuity in their education.
  • Improved Equity Through Fair Student Funding (FSF) Formula: The updates to New York City’s school funding formula, FSF formula for the 2023-2024 school year, developed with community input from the diverse Fair Student funding Working Group, marked a significant step to improve equity in resource allocation across schools. With an additional roughly $100 million in FSF to support students in temporary housing and schools with high concentrations of needs, this change aimed to address focus resources where they are most needed to ensure that all students, regardless of their background or location, have access to high-quality education and resources.
  • Embracing Diversity with ‘Hidden Voices’: As part of the third phase of the initiative, schools were provided with resources on integrating the experiences and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders into U.S. history lessons, enriching the curriculum with diverse perspectives. This program aims not only to educate but also to foster a deeper understanding and respect for the rich tapestry of American history, ensuring that all students see their heritage reflected in their learning.
  • Digital Literacy Milestone with Sora Digital Library: Celebrating the 5 millionth book checkout marked a significant shift towards digital literacy and learning resources. The Sora Digital Library provides students with easy access to a vast range of digital books, encouraging reading and learning in a format that resonates with the digital generation. This milestone underscores the success of integrating technology into education.
  • Innovative Learning with NYC Minecraft Education Battle: Hosting the first in-person New York City Minecraft Education Battle of the Boroughs introduced an exciting and interactive way to engage students in learning. This competition not only promoted digital literacy, civic leadership, and creativity but also encouraged collaboration and problem-solving skills, showcasing the potential of gamification in education.
  • Promoting Mental Wellness with Mindful Breathing Exercises: The introduction of daily mindful breathing exercises in schools was a groundbreaking step towards prioritizing student mental health and wellness. This initiative provides students with tools to manage stress and anxiety, fostering a more supportive and productive learning environment.
  • Expanding the Next Generation Community Schools Pilot: By increasing the number of schools in this pilot, the initiative demonstrated a commitment to innovative and community-based learning models. These schools provide students with a holistic education that includes academic support, health services, and family engagement activities.
  • Expanding Inclusive Athletics: In partnership with Special Olympics New York, the program offered over 1,700 students with disabilities the opportunity to engage in athletic activities. An additional 400 students with and without disabilities were invited to participate in unified, integrated teams for bocce and basketball. This initiative not only promotes physical health but also fosters teamwork, confidence, and inclusivity among students. It is an example of NYCPS’ strong commitment to ensuring all students have access to enriching extracurricular experiences.
  • Enhancing Participation of M/WBEs in Procurement Process: NYCPS procurement policies were amended to increase the involvement of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises in the NYCPS procurement process. This move not only promotes diversity and inclusion in the business community but also ensures that the city’s schools can benefit from a wide range of high-quality products and services.
  • Modernized HIV Curriculum Across All Grades: The launch of a new and comprehensive HIV curriculum marked a significant advancement in health education. This curriculum age-appropriate, informative, and sensitive curriculum ensures that students across all grades receive accurate and up-to-date information about HIV.
  • Climate Education with Climate Action Days: The introduction of Climate Action Days in all schools showcased the importance of environmental education. This initiative not only educated students about climate change and sustainability practices but also engaged them in hands-on activities that brought these concepts to life in the classroom.
  • Addressing Youth Vaping with Catch My Breath NYC: In partnership with Catch Global Foundation, this initiative aims to combat the nicotine vaping epidemic among youth. The Catch My Breath NYC program provides educational resources, support systems, and awareness campaigns, highlighting the dangers of vaping and promoting healthier choices among students.
  • Addressing Staffing Shortage in Bilingual Education: In partnership with UFT, educators who have, but are not using, a Bilingual Education Extension secondary license will be granted immediate tenure if they agree to immediately pivot to work under this license. Approximately 600 teachers are eligible for this.

These initiatives collectively represent NYC public schools’ dedication to creating a nurturing, inclusive, and forward-thinking educational environment. As we look ahead to 2024, the focus remains on building upon these achievements to ensure that every student has the opportunity to thrive.


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New York City Public Schools

New York City Public Schools is a testament to the history and impact of urban education in the United States. With over 1,600 schools spread across five boroughs, the system is made up of approximately 1 million students and staff, making it the largest public school system in the nation. These schools employ more than 75,000 teachers, who deliver a rich tapestry of educational experiences to a student body that reflects the city’s vibrant and diverse cultural heritage. This network of educational institutions represents not just the scale of New York City’s commitment to public education, but also its dedication to fostering a learning environment that is as dynamic and diverse as the city itself.

Photo credit: David C. Banks.

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