2003-01-23 / From The Mayor...

From The Mayor’s Desk...

A Quality Education For All

From The Mayor’s Desk...

A Quality Education For All

This week we celebrated the birthday of America’s greatest civil-rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Improving our schools is the most vital way to keep his spirit alive. Simply put, no job is more important to our city than giving all our young people the education they need to achieve their dreams and realize their full potential.

With the extraordinary opportunity provided by our Governor and State Legislature through the historic school governance law, we now have a chance to correct the failure that defines too many of New York City’s public schools. Last Wednesday, I outlined the next steps our administration is taking to chart a new course of success for all our schools. That strategy contains three basic ingredients. We must end the bureaucratic sclerosis that prevents resources and attention from going to the classroom. We must ensure that every student acquires the skills in reading, writing and math that are the foundation of all learning. And we must give parents the tools, and the charge, to become full and active partners in the education of their children.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will clear out the bureaucratic quagmire that thrived under the old Board of Ed. We’ll end the burden of the two-tier administrative structure that differentiated the governing of elementary and middle schools from that of high schools, a hopelessly convoluted arrangement that was further subdivided into more than 40 separate and wasteful bureaucracies.

A new management structure will be dedicated to instruction and instruction alone. It will merge grades K through 12 into one seamless system, supervised by 10 new Learning Support Centers spread throughout the city. Each of these centers will be led by one of our city’s 10 best educators, and will oversee no more than a dozen close-by elementary, middle and high schools.

This unified, streamlined, and focused chain of command will be the new engine of our school system; a uniform and proven new curriculum will be the fuel. In September, more than 80% of schools, excluding those that are clearly succeeding, will begin utilizing a standardized approach to reading, writing and math. Libraries filled with challenging books will be in all classrooms for students in grades 4 through 9. Every young student will receive a minimum of 135 minutes of daily literacy instruction, and an hour of math. Then, as students get older and become more proficient in reading, the emphasis on math will increase. We’ll also improve the student-teacher ratio in middle-school classes in English, commit to providing the best and most balanced teaching materials available, and make high-quality professional development part of the working culture of every school.

We’re also committed to making parents equal partners in education. From now on, the entire school system, from principals up to the Chancellor, will be held accountable for how they engage parents and respond to their concerns. To help parents shoulder their responsibilities, we’ll install parent coordinators at every school and establish parent assistance centers around the city. We’ll also advocate for the replacement of politically-driven school boards with "parent-engagement boards," on which only parents who have kids attending local schools can serve. We’ll push parents to do their part—because, when it comes to ensuring school attendance and attention to homework, the buck stops with them.

Receiving a quality education is just as much a God-given and American right as being able to vote and expecting to be treated equally. Achieving that goal, and giving future generations of New Yorkers a brighter future, will truly honor Dr. King’s memory.

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