New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has served in his current position since April 2011. Before that, he was a deputy mayor under Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was focused on education. With just a few days left as the top school administrator in New York City, Walcott reflected on his accomplishments.
In an interview with GothamSchools, Walcott said he hoped his work and the Bloomberg administration would be remembered for beginning the transformation of New York City's public schools:
GothamSchools: We have a new history [now] of what was going on 12 years ago. What do you hope that people will be saying about your administration 12 years from now?
Walcott: That’s interesting.That we laid a solid foundation for the future success of our children. That we shook up the system to improve outcomes for our students. And that they were not afraid to tackle very difficult and thorny issues and not worry about polls.
[That] they were not hesitant as far as the belief in trying to provide quality choices for our students. And looking back and having a very whimsical smile on their face on the meetings that lasted until four o'clock in the morning but at the same time, it was worth it. Because looking from 12 years back, if shows that they were truly committed to withstanding a variety of different types of pressures to really focus on children.
While some adults continue to critique the Common Core, students are benefiting from higher standards in the classroom.
In Waterlivet, New York, a teachers describe students as more engaged and building upon skills learned from an approached centered around the Common Core.
The Albany Times Union reports on the noticeable changes in the classroom:
Since 2010, New York, like many states, has been entrenched in transition to the new set of national learning standards known as the Common Core. This fall marked the first school year those standards have been fully in place in New York.
In the Watervliet City School District, a 1,500 student district in a largely poor and working-class sliver of Albany County, teachers and administrators have already begun to notice a marked change in the classroom.
"The best part is how independent they are," said Webster, 32.
New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is facing pressure to select a chancellor that will place the students’ interests above the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and special interest groups.
A New York Observer editorial discusses several factors de Blasio will need to consider when selecting the next schools chancellor including mayoral control of the education system, UFT pay contracts, and charter schools:
The union and its allies were thrilled earlier this year when Mr. de Blasio expressed his skepticism of the vibrant charter school movement. He suggested that he might end the city’s policy of locating charters within traditional school buildings, a policy that has allowed charters to thrive in poorly served communities.
As mayor, Mr. de Blasio has to put aside his rhetoric on charters. This revolution in education has raised hopes and expectations in dozens of neighborhoods and is attracting highly motivated teachers who thrive in a creative, flexible atmosphere.
The editorial goes on to state that de Blasio’s selection will indicate how NYC education will move forward:
New York simply cannot afford to return the schools to the union bosses and bureaucrats who ran the system before Mr. Bloomberg took charge of it. Mr. de Blasio’s choice of chancellor and his own actions as the ultimate head of the school system will tell us a great deal about whether the city will move forward in the second decade of the 21st century or whether we will march backward.
A new report finds that education reforms under Mayor Mike Bloomberg have led to student success that will boost incomes and property values in New York City.
As reported by Capital New York, the rising high school graduation rate in particular should have a significant impact for students:
The report found that an additional 41,000 students graduated from high school under Bloomberg's tenure, which is consistent with the incremental but consistent rise in graduation rates since 2006. The current four-year graduation rate is 66 percent. The students who have graduated from high school since 2006 should earn $8.9 billion in additional income as a result of graduating, according to the study, which calculated that the net value of additional lifetime income for a student with a high school diploma as opposed to a high school drop-out is $218,000.
Teach For America, an organization that enlists recent college graduates as teachers, has released a statement supporting the Common Core standards.
According to an Education Week blog post, Teach For America discussed the importance of the Common Core while respecting the decision of the four states that have not embraced the standards:
"Teach For America also recognizes and respects those regions in states that prefer to maintain their own standards as long as they are aligned with what students need to be prepared for college," a news release from the group says.
Its co-CEOs go on to say that they believe that "the real power in these new standards is not the standards themselves but the rigorous and inspiring curriculum local educators create based on them."
A recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicated that out of twelve developed countries, American adults only performed better than two countries in mathematical and problem-solving skills. High performing countries demonstrate successful education policies that the United States should adopt to improve student performance.
A New York Times editorial examines education strategies from high performing countries including Finland, Canada, and Shanghai, stressing the importance of education reform in the United States:
The United States can either learn from its competitors abroad — and finally summon the will to make necessary policy changes — or fall further and further behind. The good news is that this country has an impressive history of school improvement, as reflected in the early-20th-century compulsory school movement and the postwar expansion, which broadened access to college. Similar levels of focus and effort will be needed to move forward again.
During his twelve-year term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a significant impact on New York City, including great improvements to the school system. Bloomberg fully supported the charter school movement and is the first mayor to obtain complete control of NYC schools.
In a New York Post article, writer Michael Goodwin supports Bloomberg’s stance on charter schools:
I believe Bloomberg’s most important educational impact will come through his strong support for charter schools. The incredible success of many of these innovative efforts offers a real-life rebuke to the monopoly of mediocrity imposed by the teachers’ union. And the charters’ popularity with parents makes them a political force critics can’t ignore.
Across the country, our students are falling further and further behind the rest of the world in educational achievement. In Washington, elected representatives have not found a way to improve our nation's schools. Local leaders across the United States have also struggled to solve this problem.
Enter Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who has an opportunity to adopt Mayor Michael Bloomberg's successes in education and apply them across New York City.
If de Blasio succeeds, according to a columnist for the New York Daily News, he will build a national legacy for himself, proving that he can go beyond President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg in their visions for improving our schools:
Big Bill, who talks about how charter schools are a sideshow, will have to account for the superior results consistently posted by the Success Network schools, in Harlem and around the city.
And he will want to study the results produced by the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, or HEAF, a program that has achieved stunning success getting high-potential inner-city public-school kids to live up to that potential. Both programs consistently run laps around most other schools.
If he’s brave enough to appoint a chancellor who would follow and expand their programs, de Blasio has an opportunity to build a truly national reputation, and to carve a new path forward for our children. His legacy would then be immense.
State Education Commissioner John King and State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch have traveled across New York state in recent weeks for forums on the new Common Core standards. After receiving feedback at these forums, the New York State Educational Conference Board issued five recommendations to help improve the transition to the Common Core curriculum.
Penning an op-ed for the Albany Times-Union, King and Tisch defend the Common Core and embrace the five recommendations to help improve implementation. Overall, they acknowledge the first year of implementing the Common Core has not gone smoothly, but they stand by the new standards and will continue their work on improving the implementation process:
There's never been any question that implementing the Common Core learning standards would cause significant growing pains. We and the members of the Board of Regents knew we'd encounter a good amount of concern in public forums. That's not discouraging. We want to hear from teachers, parents, and students about what's working and what could work better. but we also know that moving forward with Common Core is essential: study after study shows that our students are lagging behind in the areas of study and reasoning that are key to their future. The Common Core standards, designed by teachers and education experts across the country, begin to change that. Recent data show states that have adopted the new learning standards and raised standards for teaching show significant gains in student performance.
New York City is anxious to learn who mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will select as the new Chancellor of Education. Current chancellor Dennis Walcott shares his thoughts on NYC education as he prepares to leave office, making sure Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s school-reform policies are secured.
According to the Crain’s New York Business opinion blog, Walcott discusses how NYC education has improved during Bloomberg’s administration:
“We've transformed the system in the last 12 years,” he said. “It's nothing to be shy about. We've improved our graduation rates by over 40%, we've reduced our dropout rates by 50%, we've offered more choice than ever before—we have 1,814 schools. We've built an accountability system.”