2009-06-25 / From The Mayor...

FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK ...

Safer Schools Leads To Better Learning

New York City's 1.1 million public school children will close their textbooks, clean out their desks and lockers, and officially welcome summer. Based on the gains our students made this year, we have every reason to feel proud of them. And I expect that pride to be on display in the days ahead as schools across the city hold their graduation ceremonies.

Over the past few years, our public school system has become a model of progress for the nation — and it's easy to see why. Math and reading test scores continue to rise; the achievement gap between students of different races is narrowing and, our graduation rates are the highest they've been in more than 20 years.

Our gains in student achievement have also been matched by gains in school safety. That's because in 2004, we launched the Impact School initiative, a new program that focused more resources and new management strategies on the handful of schools where disorder was threatening to get out of hand. The strategy worked. We cut disruptive behavior — and crime declined dramatically, while classroom learning improved.

New crime statistics released last week show just how successful our school safety program has been. Since 2001, major crime in schools is down by nearly 45 percent, while violent crime has decreased by nearly a third. And just this past year alone, we drove major crime in our schools down nearly 10 percent, with some of the biggest reductions coming within 'Impact Schools.' For instance, at Beach Channel High School in Queens, which entered the Impact program in the last school year, we've driven major crime down by 50 percent. Similar drops occurred at schools throughout the city — from Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn to John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx.

If there's one idea that's been key to the success we're seeing today, it's accountability. When the State passed a law in 2002 giving the City control over its own schools, that meant that for the first time, the schools and the police answered to the same person: the mayor. That's the foundation on which we've built our safety gains - and today accountability flows throughout the entire system. There's accountability in the classroom, and at the school level, and also accountability to parents through school progress reports.

The decision to give the City control of its schools ushered in a new era of progress, and I'd like to thank our leaders in Albany for voting to keep the progress going. The Assembly has already passed a bill to renew the school governance law - and we feel confident that the Senate will soon follow.

Of course, the great strides we're making in our schools are also the result of great teamwork among principals, teachers, and school safety officers. So I'd also like to thank all the hard-working City employees who have made this school year one of the best on record.

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