October 14, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Bill Rudin, for all you do for the city. Thank you, ABNY. Thank you to everyone who is here today from so many important parts of our City – elected officials and labor leaders, business leaders, community leaders. A special thank you to all the members of my administration who do so much so well to serve this city. And a special thank you – we have a couple of students here from the Math, Engineering, and Science Academy and from the Broome Street Academy. Let’s give them a round of applause.
And I want to thank everyone for being here. I want to talk to you about what is my true passion, which is our vision for our schools. We call it Equity and Excellence For All. And I’m going to talk to you for a few minutes about it, but first I want you to see a video that I think summarizes it powerfully and gives you a feeling of what we’re trying to achieve here.
That says it so powerfully. And I want everyone to understand this is what we came here to do in this administration. We came here to fundamentally change our schools. We came here to uplift every one of our children. This for us is the most fundamental mission. My children are products of the New York City public schools. My wife is a product of public education. I’m a product of public education. So many people in this room who have succeeded and do so much for this city are products of our extraordinary school system. And we have so much more to do to make it what it should be.
And on the opening day of school, I had one of the moments that summarized it all. I got to walk along with Chirlane. We got to walk a young seventh grader named Chyna to school. Chyna’s parents are immigrants from Panama. They came here looking for a better life. Chyna is an energetic, bright young girl – seventh grader at IS 392 in Brownsville, a neighborhood that has had more than its share of troubles. Chyna believes in herself, and we are going to do all that it takes to help her achieve. And I’m walking her to school – very first day of school, walking along with her – and I turn to Chyna and said, what’s your dream? And she said, I’m going to be the valedictorian. And it was so powerful to me. She said it – she was beaming. She said it with confidence. And it gave me right there, this moment of – a perfect moment of clarity about all we’re here to do because Chyna goes to school in Brownsville, and Brownsville needs so much more help. And we don’t accept the idea that a school in Brownsville should be any worse than a school on the Upper East Side. And Chyna needs to know that she will get the very finest education at the highest standards, so that she can thrive in today’s world. She has the confidence. She has the belief in herself. She has the hope. It’s up to all of us to provide the rest.
And in that moment, I saw all the possibilities, and that’s why this concept for us – this is our north star – we don’t accept as you heard in the video – we do not accept the notion of the “good school” and the “bad school.” And this is like a folk tale in every neighborhood of this city to this day and has been for not only decades, for generations – that idea passed from person to person that a school is good for their children or not good for their children. How on earth was that ever an acceptable reality in the greatest city in the world? We don’t accept it. And it may sound on first blush utopian, but I assure you it’s both morally and practically necessary to end once and for all that some schools are built for success and others are not. And we also don’t accept any notion of dumbing down the standards because we need high standards for our children. Everyone in this room understands the demands of the 21st-century workplace. We need our kids to make it through school to graduate, to graduate with a degree that means something – to be on the pathway to higher education or a career in the way that actually works for them, to be challenged to the highest standards. If we’re not challenging them to the highest standards, we’re not doing our job, and they simply will not succeed later on, and that will be a burden later on, on the entire society, let alone them and their families.
So, this is why this phrase captures something. It’s just words, of course, it’s a slogan, but it captures something much bigger. The goal is to literally end the division that we have known throughout all our lives – that concept of the school you go to and the quality of school are so often linked to the zip code that you live in. That a school arbitrarily may be one of the blessed ones or one of the damned ones – we don’t accept that. We know that’s not consistent with the values of this city or this country. We believe all schools need to be lifted up. We think it’s an incredibly difficult task. I want to be very clear – incredibly difficult. It has not been done before, but it has to be done, and this is the right moment to do it. And, excellence, because, again, we can’t mince words about the needs of today’s life, today’s economy, today’s reality. We’ve got to be clear about it. I like to say because I believe it’s fundamentally true that education determines economic outcome today more than at any other point in human history. I remind so many people in the room who were, give or take, my age, that when we were growing up we knew plenty of people got a high school degree and went into a good paying job – that was the nature of our society and our economy. That’s not true anymore. There are people who will only have a high school degree and will still succeed – don’t get me wrong – but, by and large, if you want to truly succeed in today’s economy you need to go onto some form of further training and high education. And the only way that works is if we hold a standard of excellence throughout our school system and make our high school diplomas truly count. That is the audacity of the vision.
But it’s not utopian because it’s so necessary. It’s literally an acknowledgement of the lives we’re leading today and what we owe our children and then working from that acknowledgement backwards to figure out all the things we should have to do to get this right. Now, I want to be very blunt about the reality that we’ve lived with – and this is a wonderfully bipartisan statement, because we’ve had Democratic administrations, Republican administrations, Independent administrations in this city, and, obviously, different federal administrations, but we still haven’t gotten it right. When I came into office – we came into office just about 30 percent of our kids in New York City public schools were reading on grade level by third grade – 30 percent – less than a third. And that had been the norm for a long time, in fact even lower. And it meant that we hadn’t achieved the first measure of success, and we hadn’t achieved it for a long, long time, and we were putting kids into a hole that they then had to dig out of. Now, the important point here is to understand that so many educators will tell you if you’re reading on grade level by third grade, the pathway is open for continued success. If you’re not, you’re already working against the deficit. Let me give you a simple quote from Arne Duncan our formal federal Education Secretary. He said, “If we can have our babies in kindergarten ready to learn, and ready to read, and be at grade level by third grade, then we can really, truly start to talk about every child going onto college or some form of higher education.”
This is the standard we have to hold. Some have said it is a very audacious, possibly impossible goal to get all our kids to reading level by third grade. I say it is a necessary goal. I say we have to move heaven and earth. We have to try things we’ve never tried before. We have to go much farther. We have given ourselves 10 years.
And since we started this initiative, we have seen progress already, which I’ll delineate. But we said – and this was a long and challenging series of conversations within our administration, within the department of education – what’s it going to take? If that is the standard that will determine a truly great school system and success for the maximum number of our children – and it has to be in every school and every neighborhood – what will it take? And we found quickly that there were three building blocks to achieving this very audacious goal. The first was something that had eluded us for decades and decades – a consistent universal commitment to early childhood education. And that is something that was a necessary foundation without which we couldn’t really make progress. We had to get to pre-K for all, but we were kidding ourselves. If we didn’t create that universal strong foundation with high academic standards nothing else would be possible when it came to their future goals.
Then we had to ensure that our teachers were improving all the time. And I want to emphasize this – improving all the time. Teaching is a profession, an extraordinarily noble profession – a profession that requires constant, constant work. And teachers want that challenge, they want that support, they want that chance to develop. So, one of the things we added into the last teacher contract was a consistent regular commitment to professional development – 80 minutes of professional development a week for every teacher in every school city-wide. In other words, we took away any notion of some making themselves better and better all the time and others not. We said, this is a city-wide standard. It’s a mandate for all. If we’re going to achieve equity, every teacher had to be working on their skills all the time, and we have to support them in that.
Third, we’re serious about literacy, we’re serious about all our kids reading on grade level by third grade. We had to provide a whole new generation of specialists who would go into our schools, focus on reading and literacy, work with the teachers to make sure all of their approaches were the best they could be, work with individual students. So, we developed a generation of reading coaches that would be available kindergarten, first grade, second grade to set up our success in third grade, and those coaches are starting now to do their work in schools across the city. And by the 2018-19 school year, there will be reading coaches available to every school in this city on our quest to get all our kids to reading level by third grade. Those three key approaches, those three strategies – none of which have been done before in this comprehensive manner. We know we never had pre-K for all before. We know we never had professional development in this kind of systematic way before. And we certainly know we’ve never put reading specialists into all the schools that needed them.
We believe this will turn the tide – very difficult mission, but we believe we now have the tools to achieve it systematically over the next decade. Now, you should ask the question, obviously, do we have any proof of success so far? And the last round of test scores told us a lot because we saw third graders excel just from some of the initial contributions that are being made to their education. Third graders had the biggest jump of any grade on English State tests. When we came into office as I said we started below 30 percent. In the last round of tests, we had 41 percent of our kids reading on grade level for third grade – 11 percent improvement.
And I remind you, it’s not talked about a lot in our public discourse, but New York State, after lots of work, and certainly lots of debate – New York State now has some of the highest education standards of any state in the country which is right, which is as it should be.
So, these kids are performing against some of the very highest standards. That 11 percent progress says to us that all things are possible. And we’re going to have to keep the progress going at a very rapid clip.
But we know it can be done and we know it is foundational to all the other changes. Remember – the notion is get kids reading on grade level by third grade to set up all the other success ahead. So, it’s one building block after another. Think of pre-K as the first building block. Think of third grade literacy as the next as we build this larger structure for success.
Here’s another example – a lot of people – a lot of parents have pointed out that middle school is a time of particular challenge for kids, and it’s a time where we often lose kids. We lose them academically. Sometimes we lose them to dangers that surround them in their communities and they get caught up in the wrong kind of life. We’ve not only had to pull kids to the right path, we have to keep showing them they can succeed.
I guarantee you one of the things that motivates the most is a sense in each child, the personal success that generates hope and purpose. The reason Chyna – the seventh grader I mentioned earlier – the reason Chyna keeps moving forward is that she already has become convinced that she can succeed.
This is something we have to do with every child. We have to reach them with that same kind of reinforcement that gives them a belief in themselves.
So, we get to middle school, one of the things we’ve done – and we’re very proud of it – we’ve made a universal commitment to afterschool programs for every middle school child. And it doesn’t get a lot of headlines, but here’s a striking number – there are 115,000 middle school kids right now in New York City who go to an afterschool program every day, who get enrichment who get tutoring, who get arts and culture and recreation. They get three more hours, effectively, tacked onto their school day. 115,000 students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. And it’s making a huge difference in their lives.
That’s a doubling of the number of kids who are taking advantage of afterschool compared to just a few years ago.
And we’ve set the standard that we believe will change the intellectual and academic trajectory for so many of our kids.
By the way, this is one of the least popular elements of Equity and Excellence among our young people – it is our commitment to algebra.
Show of hands – I just want to test – how many people in the room really loved taking algebra? Raise your hand if you loved taking algebra. There’s a certain number of people lying in this room –
We’re going to get – can we have a polygraph booth after to test that?
Well, we know – and the research shows that the students who pass algebra by ninth grade have a much greater chance of being on a pathway to college. And those who don’t pass algebra by ninth grade – it very much mirrors what we’ve learned with reading by third grade – if you haven’t passed algebra by ninth grade, you’re being held back in one way or another in terms of your growth.
So, we’ve made very clear – our standard is that every student completes algebra no later than ninth grade. Some could do it earlier but no later than ninth grade.
And we believe it’s one of the things that will change the trajectory for a lot of our students. And it fits beautifully considering the realities of our society and our economy, and certainly considering where jobs are going in our economy.
It fits beautifully with our Computer Science For All initiative. We want more and more kids to feel comfortable with their skills around math. We want more and more kids to get exposed and feel comfortable with computer science. And that’s why Computer Science For All is so crucial.
This is an extraordinarily audacious goal, but it’s the right goal and it’s creating amazing excitement among parents and students and a lot of our employers as well. Computer Science For All is a very simple concept – and I want to thank Fred Wilson who’s been the great spark plug for so much of the progress we’ve made.
Public-private partnership that says we’re going to reach every child through elementary school, middle school, high school – computer science education will become a part of their curriculum, not just through computer science courses but it will integrated into their math courses, their English courses – everything they do.
And I was up at a school in the Bronx and I saw young people – well, officially, I was assigned to be a partner with a ninth grader in a project she was working on. She turned out to have to explain everything to me, and she was very patient, by the way.
And watching her facility in the work she was doing in computer science, watching her sense of self and her belief – her name was Amaya, and she believed that she had already mastered the fundamentals and was well on her way. And I turned to her and I said, you know we have a thriving technology sector in this city? You know that this is a sector now accounting for over 300,000 jobs? Here’s a great statistic – just from 2007 to 2014 the technology sector and the employment in the technology sector in this city grew by 57 percent and is growing even more.
So, I turned to Amaya and I said, you know, this could be a great career for you. And she smiled as if the thought had already occurred to her, and it was clear to me – this is a young girl in the South Bronx who already has the tools developing, who already has the confidence. The fact that computer science is in her school has empowered her in every sense. And I could see her as a leader of our tech sector in this city going forward.
This is what we have to develop in all of our children.
Finally, I want to talk about college because I talked about early childhood, I talked about third grade, middle school, now, let me take you to the ultimate goal.
Every school needs a college-going culture. It’s as simple as that. I don’t care where the school is, what its history is – we want to leave the past behind. In the video, we talk about shaking the foundations. That’s our way of saying we do not accept the ground rules of the past. We do not accept the notion that there are schools that are not going to turn out kids college-ready.
Again, immense task ahead but let’s make it very simple. You give kids a sense of their goals and their possibilities – if you actually expose them to the goals. So, one of the new elements of Equity and Excellence is that every child at the middle school level will go for free to a New York City institution of higher learning for a tour – very simple thing.
If you’re in middle school in a New York City public school, you’re going to be taken on a tour of a college. You’re going to be told this is the kind of place that you belong if you do the work. And this is for you. It’s not just for people who you think are other than you. It’s for you as well.
And then every high school student will have an individualized college or career plan. And we’re putting a lot more resources into the guidance counseling and other supports necessary to get them that.
Let’s face it – a kid who is privileged has a lot of voices in their lives, their parents and so many others, helping them work out their plan – where to apply for college, how to prepare, how to prepare for tests, how to write an essay. Every kid deserves that support including kids from families that don’t have a single member who has gone to college. Every kid needs maximum opportunity to succeed. That’s why in junior year of high school, we’ll now provide free SAT tests in the classroom during the school day so there’s no barrier to entry. Any child that wants to take the SAT has an automatic opportunity to take it.
And for CUNY – and I want to thank CUNY for the great partnership – for tens of thousands of kids, we’re waiving the application fee to CUNY.
And one last point – and this gets to both equity and excellence – Advanced Placement courses. This is such a trigger. It’s such a message. Advanced Placement courses. If you go to a school with Advanced Placement courses, it communicates to you that kids in that school are expecting to go to college. It communicates that the school has excellence in its DNA.
I don’t think it’ll shock you – even though it isn’t talked about a lot – I don’t think it’ll shock you to know that there’s been many high schools in this city that have not had a single AP course. And then there’s others, of course, that have thriving AP programs. So, the kids who walk in the door are the ones with the AP programs know that they’re college-bound. And the kids who walk in the door of a high school every day with no Advanced Placement are getting a really clear subliminal message – college is not for you.
We are changing that. By the 2021-22 school year, every high school in New York City will have five AP course available for every child who’s ready and wants to take it to the higher level.
That’s going to make a difference. Every child will get a message – work hard, focus, we’ll support you, and you can even be reaching college level work while in high school.
So, to wrap it together – I want to go back to the story of Chyna. Part of why I walked Chyna to school was that she is in District 23 in Brooklyn. As I mentioned, it includes Brownsville, one of the poorest communities in New York City. District 23 and District 7, in the Bronx – and much of the South Bronx – also one of the poorest areas in the city, one of the poorest areas in the country.
These two districts are the beginning of a new initiative we call Single Shepherd. And when Chyna was walking to school, she was walking with Chirlane and I, she was walking with her mom, but she was also walking with a young woman named Rashida Sealy. And Rashida is one of the first generation of these Single Shepherds there.
Super guidance counselors – they’re life coaches. They’re there not only to support the student but to support the family in the efforts to support the student. A Single Shepherd will spend time with the family in their own home, in their own apartment working with them on what their child needs to succeed.
And here’s the amazing part – the Singe Shepherd program will take the same individual, in this case Rashida will work with Chyna and her family, now, starting in seventh grade. The program starts in sixth grade. Chyna’s going to seventh grade. And Rashida will be working with Chyna and her family in eighth grade, ninth grade, tenth grade, eleventh grade, twelfth grade, and she’ll be there on the day Chyna graduates high school.
A single support throughout that extraordinary sweep of a child’s life through middle school and high school – the same person will support that child and that family in an intensive manner throughout. We’re talking about two of the school districts that have been most left behind but we won’t leave them behind. We’re going to do things that haven’t been done before to reach those kids and to support their families in ways that we think will foundationally change their trajectory.
And by the way, it’s offense and defense. It’s defense because we all know, again, some kids go astray, some kids are tempted by the wrong things, some kids let so many challenges they face overwhelm them. We have to support the child and we have to give them that shield.
But it’s offense too because it sends a message. We’re investing in you. We believe in you. We believe you can make it all the way so we’re going to be with you every step of the way.
Single Shepherd program, although only now in two school districts, we believe could be one of the difference makers.
This is a different approach and it’s an epitome of what we’re trying to do with Equity and Excellence – recast the whole equation in favor of fairness and in favor of higher standards.
And I’ll end with the point that although public education over the years has taken its lumps, we should be proud. We should be proud and so many people in this room have contributed in so many ways. We should be proud of the journey that we have taken and how far we’ve come.
Not so long ago in this city, our graduation rate hovered around 50 percent. And for years and years this was one of the most damning realities about New York City public schools. In the last year, for the first time in our history, our graduation rate surpassed 70 percent – an amazing indicator of progress.
We have set a goal of 80 percent over the next 10 years, which is currently the national average. We believe our schools can do what schools anywhere can do, and we believe ultimately our schools can do it even better because we have the talent of this whole city. We have all the resources you bring to bear.
We have an entire civic community deeply, deeply committed to education. So, the sky is the limit. We’ve shown we can take the graduation rate up to places we’ve never been before.
We’ve shown we can take test scores up to places we’ve never been before.
We’ve shown that we can make schools safe.
And I want to credit my predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, for the great efforts of his administration in this vein. And we have added to it as well.
There’s been a 35 percent drop in major crimes in schools in the last five years – extraordinary effort by School Safety and the NYPD working with the DOE.
These are big and fast changes, and we intend many more.
I’ll finish with the note that I had the honor of being here before ABNY four years ago. I offered an audacious idea. Many good people said they liked the goal but they did not believe it was possible. At that moment, the day I spoke to you – October 4th, 2012 – we had about 20,000 kids in full-day pre-K in New York City. And I stood before you and said we were going to change that. It was going to become truly universal.
This morning, in New York City, 71,000 kids went to full-day pre-k.
More kids went pre-K classrooms this morning in New York City than all public school students went to school in Boston or went to school in San Francisco. That is what we can do in a place like New York. That’s how audacious we are. That’s how able this city is when we set our minds to something.
So, I ask that we all set our minds on Equity and Excellence For All because it’s a goal that is as good as New York. It represents all that we truly value.
Bill Rudin: First of all, Mr. Mayor, thank you for the incredible report card. And it was four years ago, almost to the day, that you did come here and talked about the pre-K. So, we thank you for coming back.
I’ll open the floor for questions for the Mayor – in the back there.
Question: Good morning.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about how Equity and Excellence For All intersects with standardized testing? And what is your feeling regarding the opt-out?
Mayor: I appreciate that question a lot. There is a place in this world for standardized testing but it is not the Holy Grail – and that’s what we believe fundamentally. Chancellor Fariña, who’s now in her 51st year in education, she is the most extraordinary – right there, you can clap for that.
She speaks very powerfully about the fact that we need standardized testing as a measurement of how we’re doing. We do not need to game the system and focus on test prep to create testing outcomes that then we’ll use to make all sorts of other decisions. I think this was a real mistake in the past.
Testing is one piece of the puzzle. There’s multiple measures that have to be looked at to understand how a child is actually doing.
There’s all the work product they put out. There’s their grades, there’s tests, there’s observations. There are so many things that we have to put into the equation to really understand where a child is at. And we don’t want to incessantly test prep our kids to then get an artificial measure of how they’re doing.
We actually want to see how kids are doing straight up and then make the adjustments we need. So, the balance we try and strike is to de-emphasize high-stakes testing and the prep that goes with it, to stop using it as the overwhelming measure of how we make decisions – part of why we stopped offering letter grades for schools because we thought it was creating a very negative metrical culture.
But on the other hand, we must use standardized testing as one version of assessment, one element of assessment – and it certainly does create some universality which helps us.
The final point I’ll make – the excellence measure – and this is where Computer Science For All really connects to your question. When I started talking to Fred Wilson about Computer Science For All, one of the things that we had an instant meeting of the minds on is that today’s economy, today’s life certainly does not depend on memorizing facts or being able to regurgitate quotes or historical dates. It’s about critical thinking. It is about problem solving. It takes agility intellectually to be all you can be in today’s economy.
The over emphasis on high stakes testing was actually pulling in the wrong direction. We want to focus education on those more essential skills. Computer Science For All is particularly valuable in this light. It teaches a way of thinking. It teaches a problem solving attitude.
So, that’s the balance that we feel regarding testing. We think we need to even go higher in focusing on the qualitative and not just a series of metrics that becomes the dominant reality.
Rudin: In relation to Computer Science For All, the Mayor and the City have committed $40 million. Fred Wilson and the private sector have committed $40 million. ABNY Foundation has committed money. And we encourage all of you in this room to support this important program. I think we’ve talked about it before, and I think it’s a critical endeavor.
Mayor: Why not?
Question: Could you – could you respond to recent reports about the relatively dramatic growth in public employment in New York City during your administration – and planned and concerns that this might pose for the long term fiscal stability of the budget.
Mayor: In fact, I’m going to pull your question to the topic at hand. We have absolutely increased the amount of public employment. Why? Because we added pre-K teachers, and we’re adding Single Shepherds, and other elements – reading specialists – a lot of the things you heard here that we believe are foundational to fixing our schools.
And I want to dwell here. I fundamentally appreciate your mission in terms of making sure we are fiscally healthy. And any of us who lived through or watched the 70’s and the 80’s in this city should have a constant sensibility running through us of protecting our long term fiscal health. That is prerequisite to all things.
But there’s also a mission and we have to be clear about that too. If our schools simply weren’t doing good enough – and it’s not even close – if our schools weren’t reaching the kinds of standards we needed for today’s reality, certainly not what we needed for our work force. I mean, I’ll play it back in another way – part of my job is to make sure we not only have the work force of today but the work force of tomorrow and that we are competitive in the world for the long term – our school system wasn’t even close to achieving that goal.
So, these investments in the schools are necessary. We don’t know another way to achieve it that doesn’t involved adding a headcount and spending money. We believe it will be some of the best money we spend.
2,000 more police officers – we believe has opened the door to some of the most fundamental things we have to do. Creating the neighborhood policing program that Jimmy O’Neill spoke to you about a few days ago – which I credit him for an extraordinary vision and the ability to achieve it, but he needed more officers to achieve that vision. And I think it’s going to make us a safer city and a more harmonious city, and also be money well spent.
Obviously, in addition, it allowed to create the Critical Response Command and the specialized units to prevent and address terrorism.
And then for example, we’re dealing with a homeless challenge that’s profound. We needed to create the HOME-STAT program to get people out into communities to address street homelessness and get street homeless off the street.
So, we’re making strategic decisions. We’re constantly watching the bottom line. We believe there’s a lot of other areas that we can find savings in. We believe if we came upon hard times, there are other things that are less essential that we would cut back on – I think that’s the essence of the answer.
More police was mission critical. The investments in education – mission critical. If we get to a fork in the road where we think there are dangers to our long term fiscal health, we know other areas that we would make less of a strategic priority.
And finally, the reserves – three years running, we’ve added to City reserves. We have the highest level of reserves we’ve ever had. That’s to constantly allow us a bulwark against any shocks to the system, so, that we’re ready to deal with them.
Rudin: Young lady in the back.
Question: Thank you. First, I just want to say – to see the kind of performance metrics improvements in a very short number of years in such a complex system is pretty remarkable. So, congratulations.
Mayor: Thank you.
Question: I know that’s hard work, but if we really want to create equity and we really want to change the trajectory I think there’s a critical factor that’s not part of this strategy and was wondering if you think about it. We have to go earlier than pre-K. I mean the biggest correlating factor for performance in third grade is a child’s vocabulary at age three. And we have 70,000 in pre-K and much less than 10 percent of them are getting early-childhood development support. And the gap that exists at age three never disappears. We can move it up – we can move performance up, but we can’t change, sort of structurally, what hasn’t happened in those first three years of life. And as this evolves, it seems to me like it might be critical to go back even earlier to early childhood development.
Mayor: I don’t have my glasses on, so you’re going to have to tell me your first name.
Question: My name is Lisa.
Mayor: Lisa. Lisa, I want to say when you’re right, you’re right. And I think this is the next wave and we have not yet constructed it. There’s no question that it’s on our minds. There’s no question you’re right. You know, small things we’re doing – and something that my wife, Chirlane’s been deeply involved in – is trying to really get a message across to parents in all communities about talking to their babies, singing to their baby, all the things that help to start building vocabulary, etcetera.
But your point is well taken. If we really want to go much farther, we’ll have to do it in a systematic way, and the City will have to play a very direct role. We don’t have the model yet. On the resource question – it raises real questions, obviously, because part of what we tried to balance here was changing the trajectory, obviously, particularly through pre-K and helping this current generation of kids who needed a lot of changes in the approach to uplift them. But for the long term that’s definitely a direction we need to find a vision for because you’re absolutely right. That’s another X-factor. If we can reach kids even earlier it will have even more impact.
So, I would say – stay tuned.
Question: Mayor, thank you. We talked a lot about technology growth and job growth in that sector – how do we make sure these investments – a lot of that talent is still imported from outside of the city – how do we monitor and make sure the investments pay off for the city’s economy and jobs?
Mayor: Excellent question. First of all, in terms of monitoring, we obviously are able to determine through – certainly through the tech sector as they’re picking up more and more of our kids out of our public school system – that’s knowable. We’re able to determine if more and more of our kids are graduating with that training and pointing themselves in that direction. We’re able to know for example if a lot of our kids go into the two-year STEM programs at CUNY that the City’s put a huge amount of investment in – the two-year STEM programs in the community colleges that literally are a gateway to employment immediately, let alone a platform for even higher education. Folks in that technology sector said this to me. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I had on the 2013 campaign – and campaigns are really wonderful because you get to talk to a lot of people are hear things you didn’t hear – so a number of people said, hey, we love Cornell-Technion. We think that’s great. We commend Mayor Bloomberg for that, but there’s something else we could be doing because a lot of what we need is the folks who do the work every day in the technology sector, and they don’t necessarily need to go to Cornel-Technion to be able to work for us right now. A two year degree would do it for a lot of people, and the said, why aren’t using CUNY more? It’s sitting there right in front of you and they’re ready, willing, and able – why don’t we do this? So, we put tens of millions of dollars into two-year STEM programs. Obviously we’ll be able to track how the kids who go into those come out, and if they go into our technology sector.
So I think the notion here is I believe that the technology community in this city wants to hire kids out of our public school system. I think they’re very committed to working with the schools system. We’re going to have a lot of partnerships with individual schools, etc. We have to watch carefully to see if these initiatives are working. We’re still going to have to import talent, obviously, but I think it’s fair to say – I predict a lot of growth for this sector and a lot of opportunity – and we literally before didn’t try systemically to retool the school system towards the needs of what was going to be one of the most important parts of our economy. Computer Science For All will allow us to do that. The two-year STEM programs will allow us to do that, and we haven’t sent a message to our kids that this is where they need to go for great opportunity and good paying jobs they can make a life of. And bluntly – and this has been talked about very openly in the tech sector, which I appreciate the honesty and the social consciousness of people in the sector – the sector didn’t look like New York City, and it was true all over the country. We need to create that kind of dynamic that says to every young person coming up – Maya, who I mentioned to you, whose parents are from Puerto Rico; Chyna whose parents are from Panama – that this sector is for you too, and we’re going to be communicating that constantly through the public school system.
Rudin: Final question? We’ll do two questions at that table since there are two ladies who have their hands up.
Question: Mr. Mayor thank you very much for the report. It’s exciting I think for everybody in the room to know the emphasis that is [inaudible]. I am interested in knowing to the extent that we’re going to be rolling out this concept of Equity and Excellence For All in all of those schools – how will that effect your view of either the expansion of the lesser focus on what are now some of the special schools in New York, and will we need more of them? Will we need to expand them or will we have lesser need for those few schools that had typically attracted people who are highly talented, proven through the testing process primarily?
Mayor: A fantastic question. Can I give you a gold star for the question? If we were in the classroom, I’d be giving you a gold star right now. This is the kind of thing I think we need to talk a lot about – much more about in this city. Specialized schools are extraordinary. They have turned out a generation of leaders in all fields. You know, we just – an easy example in the national dynamics in just the last few years – Eric Holder one of the most prominent leaders of the Obama administrations, David Axelrod who helped bring you the Obama administration both from Stuyvesant. So, pretty amazing people, congratulations to Stuyvesant. I would make a speech about Brooklyn Tech – great graduates like Len Riggeo and Dante de Blasio.
The – so they play a very, very crucial role, and they will certainly continue to. And I think there’s absolutely an open door – there’s certainly the potential of more specialized schools, but even more clearly there’s the potential to take models that work and expand them out. For example, where my daughter went – Beacon High School – tremendously successful, was used to create another great high school. That model and that approach was literally transported to another site on the Upper West Side and the new Frank McCord high school has started. So you can take a model and kind of replicate it in many ways, so yes we will continue to take great models and build them out and add new versions of them.
But at the same time – because your question is wonderfully precise about is there a contradiction with this theme – no, I don’t believe there is. The goal is to say, you can take any school and give it the kinds of things it never had, and the world will start to change. That is not a lack of acknowledgement of other realities as to the previous question. Things that happen in the household early we have to get at this head on. Kids from privileged backgrounds again get tremendous vocabulary early, early in their life at home. We have to work to rebalance that with a lot of tools we have. We have to find ways to take that point of contact, our first point of contact which right now is essentially pre-K and maximize the impact. We’re seeing stunning things I would tell you from pre-K. We’re seeing the catch up rate if you will for kids who didn’t necessarily get the same grounding as some others but are able to really cover immense ground and pre-K is very, very encouraging. The equalization potential here is extraordinary. But the notion is to say okay – if you actually gave the schools what they needed. If you actually said we’re going to create this urgent, urgent sense of we got to reach each level – kids have to get pre-K, they have to succeed there, they have to get to third grade reading, they have to get to algebra, they have to get Computer Science For All, they have to be exposed to college culture – if you do this incessantly enough many schools start to come up. And so there’s not a dichotomy between doing that and also having some schools that are particularly able in their areas or particularly able to take kids who had special capacity and special abilities. I don’t see a contradiction. I think what we’re trying to find out here – and I would argue for the first time in New York City history – is if you put in all the proper inputs how far can we go.
And one last point on this – we’ve had a problem and this is another thing I’ll be talking about a lot because it maybe the glue in the equation, but it doesn’t get talked about anywhere near the way it should which is the quality of teaching, the quality of teachers. Until now we haven’t been coherent enough about recruiting and retaining the very best teachers and then training them incessantly over their career – we’ve lost many, many good teachers over the years. We’re still losing too many good teachers. We need to focus on the creation of an extraordinary teaching corps. We believe that the change in environment for teachers has helped. They’re getting a lot more message of their importance. There’s a lot more advancement opportunities than there were a few years ago. There’s a lot more training which they truly appreciate. There’s a lot more opportunities to go and be part of these extraordinary new initiatives like pre-K or like the renewal schools and other things that are exciting for them. Those things are going to help us bring in the very best and keep the very best. If we do that incessantly, we think you have an entirely different teaching corps available to help make schools better. We’re also focusing on things – it’s part of the contract as well – master teachers, model teachers. If the teachers really great, we’re going to reward them more and help make them a role model and trainer for others – that’s already begun. Add those pieces together, we think you can lift all boats.
Rudin: The Mayor has agreed to one more question – the young lady at the same table.
Question: Good morning, I’m a relatively new parent who’s living in Brooklyn, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the school system, and I’m wondering if you can talk about the role of charter schools and any work that your administration has done with charter schools.
Mayor: Look, our view – and this is epitomized by the pre-K program and the afterschool program, and, again, I announced that vision on this stage four years ago. The pre-K program worked – and this is to answer your question very directly – the pre-K program worked because everyone was involved. Traditional public schools, charter schools, religious schools, community organizations that had nonprofits that ran educational programs – everyone was mobilized in common cause. That’s the reason we were able to do it on such an intensive timeline. We changed the paradigm. We brought it a lot of other allies and partners – the same with after school, which has been open to all those same parts of our city. And we found that worked, so you know the culture wars continue, but meanwhile on the ground we’re able to find lots and lots of charter schools that wanted to be a part of things like pre-K and after school, and lots of abilities to work with charter schools on sharing ideas and best practices, and we have partnerships that Carmen Fariña has created between individual charter schools and individual traditional public schools in the same district to work as partners to figure out each one offering ideas to the other, each one helping each other to get better. That’s where I think we succeed. I’ve said very, very clearly under any scenario, the vast, vast majority of our kids are going to traditional public schools. So, in a room full of smart, successful, purposeful people let’s get real about this fact. The future of the city will be determined by traditional public education. It’s just a given. It’s a numerical given. It’s overwhelmingly true by any measure. Let’s get that part of the equation right, but charters can be real partners in that. And many charters are doing great work, and we support them in that work. My view is we have a school system now where all of the synergy all of the sharing of ideas, all of the good comparison has helped schools get better. I’m never ever worried about the charter school that shows us a model that works better than something we’re doing now. We want to take that model and run with it. And equally I say with pride in our traditional public schools, our great traditional public schools – and there are more and more of them – have things to teach charter schools, too, and a lot of people in the charter movement understand that and appreciate it. So I think there’s a common front here that can help uplift all our kids.
Thank you, everyone.