From The Mayor's Desk ...
June 21 may be the official beginning of summer, but for most New York City children, summer really started this past Wednesday - the end of the academic year for our public schools. As our students receive their final report cards, I'd like to congratulate them on another year of hard work and tremendous growth. We're not where we want to be quite yet, but looking back over this year - and over the past five years since our school reforms began - we really have come a long way in improving the quality of public education. There is a simple formula for the progress that has guided our efforts: Accountability plus Empower-ment plus Competition equals Results.
Let's start with accountability. Win-ning control of the schools 5 years ago gave us the opportunity to establish accountability at every level. Principals, for example, are now held accountable for school performance. They understand the consequences of low performance and have seen us shut down schools that continually failed our students. At the same time, principals can now reap the benefits of success - earning pay-for-performance bonuses of up to $25,000 a year for improving their schools.
Teachers are being held accountable, too, and implementing a citywide curriculum in reading and math has given us a better way to gauge their performance. And those teachers who perform exceptionally well are also rewarded, through opportunities like the Lead Teacher program - which pays our best teachers more for working in struggling schools. Accountability also extends to our students.
We began ending the practice of social promotion and provided extra help for students who fell behind. Finally, by issuing school report cards that give parents and families all the facts - we're letting the real bosses - the taxpayers - hold all of us accountable for the job we're doing.
The second part of our formula for progress is empowerment. That means transferring more decision-making power and resources to the school level. A year ago, about a quarter of our principals took on the challenge of leading "Empowerment Schools" - which gave them greater resources in exchange for greater responsibility. This fall, we're going to take the next step and give all of our principals the power to make more of the important decisions affecting their schools. They'll also have the resources they need to effect real change. Over the past five years we have greatly reduced the central bureaucracy - generating $350 million in savings. That money has been redirected to schools to help them buy more books, hire new teachers, and do what is necessary to raise student achievement.
The third element of our reform equation is competition. In the private sector, competition encourages innovation, weeds out failure, and ensures that quality rises to the top. For too long, this concept eluded our school system. That's why we've dramatically expanded school choice - injecting some healthy competition into our schools. Today, students and parents can choose among 200 small secondary schools and more than 40 charter schools. And this year, we persuaded the State to let us expand choice even further by more than doubling the number of charter schools.
Accountability. Empowerment. Com-petition. When you add them together you get real results for New York City's 1.1 million public school children A steady upward trend in graduation rates, the narrowing of the ethnic and racial performance gap in the classroom, strong advances in reading and writing, and math scores that are on par with students in many suburban districts.
We still have a long road ahead, but the progress in the schools is very encouraging. I think that this year our students have really earned their summer vacations