As we come to the end of my 52nd school year as a New York City educator, it’s clear that our schools are the strongest they’ve ever been.
This year, 70,000 4-year-olds attended free, full-day, high-quality pre-K, getting the academic and social skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. We announced that our elementary and middle schoolers’ English test scores were better than the rest of New York State – for the first time. High school graduation and college enrollment rates are at record highs, and our dropout rate is at a record low. If you’d told me – or any New Yorker – earlier in my career that New York City schools would achieve these things, I wouldn’t have believed you.
First and foremost, we’ve spent this school year building on this progress. We’ve made extensive investments in our Equity and Excellence for All agenda, which is creating a path from pre-K to college and careers for every child in every neighborhood in New York City. To continue to improve our children’s literacy and reading skills, over 100 new reading coaches supported teachers in high-needs schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn. 171 middle schools took their 7th-graders to visit college campuses to build college awareness and help their students see college in their future – which, as the first in my family to go to college, is especially important to me.
At the high school level, we added new Advanced Placement courses at 63 schools – including 31 that didn’t have any AP courses previously. We made the SAT exam available to all juniors free of charge during the school day, and eliminated the CUNY application fee for low-income students, to put more students on the path to college.
But while I celebrate the progress we’ve made, this is no time to rest. They say that patience is a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. Just as it’s been in each of my 50-plus years as an educator, summer is an opportunity to keep moving forward and make sure we hit the next school year with a running start.
This summer, we’ll welcome over a hundred thousand students across all five boroughs into our Summer in the City summer school program, which offer hands-on curricula and visits to New York City cultural institutions. And we’ll be laser-focused on training teachers as part of our Equity and Excellence for All agenda, to ensure continued progress. We’ll be hiring and training 140 more reading coaches – who will reach every elementary school in the Bronx, and more schools in Brooklyn, next year. As part of our Algebra for All initiative, hundreds more math teachers will receive cutting-edge instruction to raise the bar for their students, including 5th-grade teachers who will “departmentalize” and teach only math, like we’ve always done in middle and high schools.
We’ll be putting in the work to support 193 more middle schools in bringing their 7th-graders to college campuses through the College Access for All initiative, and training teachers to add AP courses at 115 more high schools – including AP Computer Science courses that will give students the skills they need for an edge in college and careers in the 21st century.
For me, public education is year-round. We need to keep focusing on the classroom and raising the bar. We need to do what’s best for kids and ensure they have every opportunity. We don’t have time to wait or give up two months of the year; we have to be ready when our kids and families come back next school year.
I look forward to an active and fulfilling summer.
See you in September.