Improving New York City’s Middle Schools
Our Administration’s public school reforms are producing
real results for our students; we’re clearly moving in
the right direction. The four-year high school graduation rate,
while still too low, is the highest it’s been in 20 years.
We’ve cut the number of schools at risk of being closed
as irreversible failures to the lowest number ever. And in
the last school year, students in the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th
grades posted the highest scores and biggest one-year gains
ever on the Citywide reading and math tests.
Now, building on those successes, we’re tackling what
everyone recognizes has long been the biggest challenge in
the school system: improving classroom performance in the middle
school grades. The problems are hard to miss. Despite last
year’s gains in reading and math scores, more than half
of 6th and 7th graders were still working below grade level.
In the 8th grade, scores were even lower. As a group, middle
schools aren’t doing their job of preparing students
to do Regents-level work in high school, and earn Regents diplomas.
We’re going to change that in the same way that we’ve
raised student performance in the 3rd and 5th grades in recent
years. We’re going to ask the City’s Panel for
Educational Policy to end social promotion in the 7th grade.
Next spring, moving up to the 8th grade will depend on scoring
at Level 2 or higher on the 7th grade English Language Arts
test, or on the results of a mandatory appeals process evaluating
student work using standard citywide criteria. The following
school year, those standards will apply in math, too.
Year after year, thousands and thousands of 7th graders who
are utterly unprepared for 8th grade have been promoted anyway.
When you track those students through high school, you find
that they typically fail to ever graduate. That’s going
to stop. Improving students’ performance in the 7th grade
will give them a foundation in the fundamentals of reading,
writing and math that will help them succeed in 8th grade,
in high school, and most importantly, in life.
We’re not trying to punish 7th graders who are struggling;
instead, we’re identifying those who need extra help
and getting it to them. That’s why we’re committing
$40 million in this year’s budget to the kinds of strategies
that have worked with so many of our 3rd and 5th graders: Extra
classes on Saturdays and during the summer; intensive professional
development for middle school teachers, principals and staff;
and a variety of programs designed to help students, both in
the classrooms and during after-school hours. We’re going
to go the extra mile for 7th graders who need more academic
support, and we’ll also hold them to the standards that
they must meet.
I would like to address the extra security measures that the
NYPD is now taking to protect subway riders, including random
searches of backpacks and bags. It’s a policy designed
to strike a balance that protects our civil liberties, one
that isn’t too intrusive, and that keeps anybody who
might think of threatening us off balance and off guard. The
times demand stepped up vigilance — and we’re going
to provide it in a fair and sensible way. It may take you a
little longer to get where you’re going, but we’re
going to make sure that you get there safely.#