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Mayor Michael Bloomberg: September 2010 Archives

September 2010 Archives

When I was growing up, a high school diploma was often all you needed to get a good job and start a good career. But in today's increasingly competitive global economy, a high school degree just doesn't cut it anymore. What employers are increasingly looking for is a college degree -- and in some cases, more than that. That's why the most important thing we can do for our children is making sure they're graduating from high school and ready to go to college or enter the working world.

The PSAT also uses grid-ins to score student-p...

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Over the past eight years, we've worked very hard to put our children on that path. As part of that commitment, we've expanded the number of academically selective secondary schools and vastly increased Advanced Placement offerings throughout the city -- especially in high schools where such courses haven't traditionally been offered. We've also developed a number of programs to help our students prepare for the SAT, including a free online SAT preparation course for all juniors and an intensive SAT prep course in 20 high schools across the city. 

To encourage even more students to start preparing for college, we've been paying the fee for all 10th- and 11th-graders to take the PSAT, which has allowed us to substantially increase the number of students who take the practice test. And that's especially important because students who take the PSAT perform significantly better on the SAT than those who did not take the PSAT.

Now it looks like all of these efforts are paying off: last week, we released the results of the SATs that public high school students took in June. In all three areas of the test -- reading, math, and writing -- our students improved their average scores over the previous year. In fact, those gains outpaced the progress made by students in the rest of the country. And even though our average scores still lag behind the national average, we remain encouraged; Latino students were responsible for some of our biggest gains, and the number of black and Latino students who took the test has also increased.

Last week we also released the results of the Advanced Placement exams. Like this year's SAT results, they were also full of positive signs. For example, more than 15,000 students scored a passing grade on the tests -- a 12 percent increase over the previous year. And since 2002, the number of New York City students who took at least one AP exam jumped more than 60 percent.

We're determined to ensure that every student is prepared for college -- even those who might not be thinking about college right now. And we're determined to give all of our students the resources and support they need to reach the high standards necessary to thrive in today's world. It's what our children need -- and what they deserve.

Their new school year has just started, but New York City public school students have already received an early back-to-school boost. Last month, along with nine other states and the District of Columbia, New York won the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" initiative to reward and support innovation and excellence in the nation's schools. That will mean $700 million in new federal education aid for the state. And New York City -- which has already pioneered many of the school reforms these funds are intended to encourage -- can expect to gain an extra $250 to $300 million. In the process, we've also earned a federal 'seal of approval' for all the progress our schools have made, and the money will help us take our reforms to the next level. 

The Race to the Top is designed to improve America's schools by promoting greater competition, instituting stronger accountability, and raising the standards that we expect everyone -- teachers and administrators as well as students -- to meet. Those all happen to be key elements of the game plan we've followed in turning around New York City's public schools during these past eight years. They're the reasons why, for example, we've enthusiastically supported opening dozens of new, academically challenging charter schools, particularly in low-income communities. They're why we've created a "leadership academy" that has successfully recruited and trained an outstanding corps of new school principals. They're also why we've ended the discredited practice of social promotion.

New York City hasn't just set the agenda for school reform statewide; we've also set the pace in producing better results in the classroom. Take, for example, the scores on the highly respected "National Assessment of Education Progress" tests in math and English Language Arts. Since 2002, our 4th- and 8th-graders have improved their scores far more than their peers across the state and throughout the nation have. And in their application for Race to the Top funds, state education leaders noted that progress, and pledged to build on it by instituting many of the reforms that New York City has.

In fact, perhaps just as important as the education aid we're getting from the federal government is the spirit of innovation and cooperation that competing for those funds created among state leaders. In recent months, for example, they passed a law raising the legal cap on charter schools -- a move that both improved the odds of our securing Race to the Top funds and will also give thousands more students new and better school choices. They also passed a commonsense law that will, for the first time, make student progress a major factor in evaluating teachers and principals. Our teachers signed on. In fact, the president of the United Federation of Teachers also went to Washington to speak up vigorously on behalf of the state's Race to the Top bid. 

New York State's Race to the Top was a team effort, and investing these new federal funds to improve our schools will be one, too. And in that new leg of the race to the top, the winners are going to be the students heading back to school this month.

Starting a New School Year with New Schools

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When the new school year starts today, we'll open the doors of new school buildings that really stand out, both in quantity and quality. We're adding more than 17,000 new classroom seats to the school system -- the most the city has brought on line in one year in more than 20 years. In fact, we're on course to create a net of nearly 100,000 new classroom seats citywide in the 10-year period that ends in 2013; that's roughly equivalent to the entire public school enrollment in the city of Baltimore.

What's more, we're raising the curtain on some of the most innovative and exciting new schools New Yorkers have ever seen. Last week, I paid a visit to Exhibit A: The striking new Mott Haven Education Campus. Covering nearly nine acres of a former South Bronx rail yard, it's the largest public school construction project in recent memory. It will be home to five separate schools with more than 2,300 students, including schools with already-established track records of academic excellence. With new labs, libraries, a 600-seat performing arts center, and its own regulation-sized football field, it's a dream that community groups and leaders have worked for years to make come true. And it really symbolizes the revival of the South Bronx.

The Mott Haven campus is the biggest project completed under a $13.1 billion school capital plan, funded 50/50 by the city and state. It's been the largest school construction and renovation program in the city's history, and has financed nearly all the 26 new school facilities we're opening this week. They also include, for example, the new Gateway to the Health Sciences Secondary School on the grounds of Queens Hospital Center. Students there will have 20 dazzling new labs, as well as the chance to work as volunteers with the hospital's health care professionals. The doors will also open for more than 1,900 students in two schools at the long-awaited Metropolitan Avenue campus in Queens. The new PS/IS 276 in Battery Park City will be our greenest school yet in its use of solar power and other environmentally advanced features. We're also christening the new Harbor School on Governors Island. Until now, Harbor School students learning about marine science have had to trek miles to the waterfront from the school's current home in landlocked Bushwick. But starting today, they'll attend classes right in the heart of New York Harbor.

The School Construction Authority deserves tremendous credit for making these projects happen, and for improving our school construction and renovation process. The result: Our kids are getting the modern schools they need now, built at an average per-square-foot cost that's down 28 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2002. Student progress in learning has matched these advances in classroom construction. Proof: The roughly $300 million in new funds the city's public schools stand to receive, thanks to a federal Race to the Top award for education innovation last month. That puts a seal of approval on how New York City has set the agenda, and set the pace, in turning schools around statewide. The next leg of the educational race to the top starts today: The first day of class in an exciting new school year. And it's a race we're going to help all our students win.

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