Public Schools: Headed in the Right Direction
For the first time in a long time, our public schools are headed in the right direction. Test scores and graduation rates are up. The drop-out rate is the lowest it has been since we started keeping track of it back in the 1980s. And our African American and Latino students are making big strides in closing the achievement gap that has existed for too long between them and their classmates.
But we’ve still got a long way to go. Despite our progress, more than 40% of students take longer than four years to graduate from high school, and only one-fourth of African American and Latino students graduate with Regents diplomas. Unless we change that, too many youngsters are going to face futures as permanent second-class citizens in today’s competitive economy. We can’t let that happen—and that’s why I believe getting better results out of our schools is the Number One civil rights issue of our time.
To get those better results, we must eliminate the funding disparities that still hobble too many schools—and then hold principals and teachers accountable for higher student achievement. So before the next school year begins, we’re going to end a decades-old system of school funding that has rewarded some schools and treated others unfairly. I’m talking about funding gaps between comparable schools that top $2,000 per student, year after year. That’s not right, and we’re going to fix it—in a flexible way that protects important programs and services for every student.
The progress we’ve made in education so far teaches us that great principals make great schools. Now we’re taking that lesson to the next level, by reducing the education bureaucracy even further, and giving principals the authority they require to be real school leaders. And because we need highly qualified teachers in every classroom, we’re also working to make the job security that comes with teacher tenure a real reward for excellence, not an automatic rubber stamp that protects mediocrity.
Equal funding, great principals, and excellent teachers: They’re all vital to improving our schools. But there’s another crucial element in this equation; our public school parents. And let me close with a few words to you parents this morning. We need you to help and inspire your children, and also to help us make sure that our schools are doing what’s right for them.
From Day One, we’ve made parent involvement in schools a top priority—which is why, for example, we’ve hired parent coordinators for every school. They’re doing a great job encouraging the flow of information between families and our schools. And last week, we also named the Department of Education’s first chief Family Engagement Officer. She’s Martine Guerrier, a Brooklyn public school mom, and someone who has long devoted herself to improving our city’s schools. She’s going to report directly to Chancellor Joel Klein. Her job will be making the parent point of view heard at the highest levels of the Department of Education, and ensuring that DOE policies really work for the people who always come first in New York’s schools: our students and their families.#