Printer Friendly Format
  January 9, 2005

A Discussion About Our Public Schools

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

There is no greater task before us than reforming New York’s public school system and guaranteeing the finest educational opportunities for our children – the future of our great city. With more than thirteen hundred schools, 100,000 teachers, and 1.1 million students, it’s a colossal challenge, but one we’re determined to meet. Sweeping changes to the system will need time to take root, but every day we are moving closer to our goal of a more accountable, more effective school system.

One clear indication that we are making progress came this week, when the number of schools at risk of being closed because of consistently poor academic performance fell to an all-time low. This happened after sixteen schools improved their test scores enough to be taken off the State’s list of schools under “Registration Review.” Being placed on this list is really a warning to schools that their test scores must improve within three years, or they could be forced to shut down. Since 2002, we’ve cut the number of city schools on this list by more than half… to today’s record low of 35. It just goes to show that we can raise the bar of achievement if we provide the right resources, and if everyone – principals, teachers, parents, and students – work together.

Because we’re working together, we’re also improving safety in our schools in all five boroughs. This week, we began to remove five of the sixteen “Impact” schools in our year-old school safety initiative because they had made such dramatic strides in stamping out violence and disorder. Altogether, major crime in all sixteen “Impact” schools has fallen 43% during the first four months of this school year, compared to the same period of the previous school year. In those five schools that achieved the greatest success, major crime is down 69%. Removing these five from the program allows us to shift our attention to six other schools where crime and disorder are unacceptably high. Although all of the schools involved in our safety initiative have teachers committed to their jobs – and students dedicated to learning – there’s a culture of disorder and disregard for the rules that is threatening the educational opportunities of everyone. That just has to end.

We’re also putting an end to the notoriously expensive, inefficient, and unpredictable process of building and repairing our school facilities. Over the past two years, we’ve reformed the school construction process and launched initiatives that have dramatically reduced costs and spurred greater competition in bidding for jobs – all while increasing efficiency and maintaining quality. This week, we reached two historic agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council that streamline the standards and requirements involved in building and renovating our schools over the next five years. These agreements increase our control over the quality and timeliness of construction projects while generating $500 million in savings for the City, which will be used to build and repair more schools in the future. That’s a winning formula for students and taxpayers. And like every element of our education reform plan, it shows that we’ve turned the corner and are on course to creating the best public school system in the country.