By Mayor Bloomberg
Over the last four years, we’ve done a lot to improve our high schools; a big part of our effort has been to increase the educational options available to high school students. It’s a strategy that has worked, and the best evidence is that after long years of stagnation, graduation rates are rising. But believe me, we’re just getting started. During my campaign for re-election, I presented a vision for offering more high-quality options than ever to all our high school students. Now, with the help of more than $24 million in private grants and gifts that I announced last week, we’re going to turn those campaign promises into realities.
We will, for example, create new pathways to graduation for students who currently—for a variety of reasons—aren’t on course to receive a diploma. Over the next four years, we’re going to set up 15 small “transfer” schools for students who haven’t been succeeding at other schools, and also create more evening education programs for students whose adult responsibilities keep them busy during the day. Then there’s our new “Learning to Work” vocational program; it gives students a combination of academic and vocational preparation. In September, we started 15 Learning to Work centers around the city; within four years, we’ll open 20 more, and in the process, more than double the Learning to Work enrollment.
We’re also going to keep creating new, small high schools throughout the city, where students are held to high academic standards and get close attention from teachers and principals. Our Administration has already established 149 such schools; we’ve got the most ambitious small school program in the nation. And 93% of the 9th graders enrolled in these small schools have been promoted on time to 10th grade, a success rate well above the average in other City high schools. We’re also going to create what are called “small learning communities” in eight of our largest public high schools; they’re another way to give students the personal attention that helps them thrive.
New York City currently also has seven specialized high schools; they’re among the best in the nation. But unfortunately, in some cases admission to them is harder than getting into an Ivy League college—and that spells frustration for a lot of students and families. They deserve more options—so, over the next four years, we’re going to create seven more new academically selective high schools throughout the city. For too long, some communities have been under-represented in our existing selective schools—so we’re also going to make a big effort to prepare students from those communities to fill spots in these new schools.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—a longtime backer of our school reform efforts—is providing nearly $19 million in grants to help us realize these changes. We’re also receiving $5.5 million in grants and gifts from the Carson Family Charitable Trust, the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Foundation, and Daily News publisher Morton Zuckerman. We’re grateful for their help in doing more for our students.
Because make no mistake about it, we’re going to keep our campaign promises to all New Yorkers. We are, for example, already moving forward with our plan to enhance the 311 Citizen Service Center. Next year, when the project is completed, 311 will link people more quickly and directly to the non-profit groups that provide much of the frontline health and human services in our city. Currently, 311 only connects callers to City services and non-profits who have contracts with the City. We’re also continuing to press for much-needed reforms in electing judges. And now we’re going to make good on our vision for improving the City’s public high schools.