This year, New York City's public schools received some very good news. Fifteen city schools were removed from the list -- more than ever before. The State Commissioner of Education, Richard Mills, called this major progress, and Chancellor Rudy Crew said that it symbolizes a real turning point for our schools.
We have been able to turn these schools around because, over the last few years, we have changed the culture of our public schools from one of unaccountability to one of performance.
Chancellor Crew and I share the belief that students deserve higher standards. In the past, our public education system failed to hold students accountable for their performance. Schools made too many excuses and allowed their students to make too many excuses for themselves.
But we now understand that the only way to raise performance is to raise our expectations of what each and every student and school can achieve. As we ask more of our students, we're also expecting more of city government. With school-based budgeting, the city can finally ensure that every last dollar of funding goes to the classroom, where it belongs. Now we know that when we institute new and innovative programs that challenge our students to meet higher standards -- such as Project Read, Project Smart Schools, and Project Arts -- they will make a real difference.
The schools under "registration review" have made remarkable progress. Last year, their reading and math performance on state tests increased for all grades. In third grade, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards for reading jumped 10.4 percentage points. One of Chancellor Crew's first priorities was to set a goal that every student in the system would read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. Every year, we're moving closer to this goal.
And this year, schools under registration review showed significant improvement in sixth grade reading as well, and in eighth grade reading. They also continued to make major gains in third grade math and sixth grade math. A total of 84.6 percent of third graders and 77.7 percent of sixth graders attending schools under registration review in New York City met or exceeded state standards for math in 1997. Since we've made the message clear to these schools that we expect progress, they have responded and continue to respond.
And the schools that were once considered the lowest-performing schools are not the only ones that are enhancing student achievement. Last year, across the city, we registered the largest gain in reading scores in a decade, and math scores continued to rise.
In fact, because of those gains, the standards for what makes a school a low-performing school are higher than they have ever been since the start of the state's accountability program.
Not all children, and not all schools, are meeting the standards yet. But it is impossible to reverse the effects of decades of mismanagement overnight.
Today, it is clear that we are moving in the right direction together. We will continue to demand performance, a higher level of performance than we asked for in the past. New York City's public schools are critical to our future success as a city. Let's make them the best schools in the country once again.