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UFT hails mayor’s education plan

New York Teacher
Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveils his 10-year education plan at the Bronx Latin School on Sept. 16.

Answering critics who claim he hasn’t projected his vision for public education, Mayor Bill de Blasio set out the following new education policies and a timeline for implementing each:

  • Provide reading teachers to every 2nd-grade classroom so that within six years at least two-thirds of students will be fluent readers by 3rd grade. Education research has shown that struggling readers in 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out in high school, the mayor noted;
  • Ensure that within 10 years every student will receive computer science courses in coding, robotics and Web design in elementary, middle and high schools. New classes, funded in large part by corporate and foundation partners, will start in fall 2016;
  • Accelerate math education so that by 2022 every student completes algebra no later than 9th grade, with supports to reach algebra readiness by 8th grade;
  • Offer Advanced Placement classes in every high school. By fall 2018, 75 percent of students will be offered at least five AP classes; and
  • Give every student tailored supports through middle and high school to pursue a path to college.

In all, the mayor pledged $186 million a year in city and public-private partnership funding when the plan is fully implemented.

“Mayor de Blasio is investing time and energy in what teachers know works best for children,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “He is building on pre-K and making sure our kids are strong readers by 3rd grade. He is expanding excellence and making sure all of our high school students have access to AP and advanced courses. He is making sure computer science is included as part of a liberal arts education for the 21st century. This is all good, smart work.”

Mulgrew concluded: “Our work now is making it happen.”

The mayor presented his vision to an audience of dignitaries at Bronx Latin, a successful school serving low-income 6th- to 12th-grade students in the South Bronx. The speech’s theme was “equity and excellence,” and DeBlasio emphasized that both accelerated classes and additional supports would be available to every student, ending the “tale of two cities” he decried during his election.

One initiative to get students to college will start next year in Districts 7 and 23. It will provide a “single shepherd” — an adult mentor who will offer ongoing advice and family outreach to 6th- through 12th-grade students to encourage them to reach for college.

He surprised many critics by announcing that the city would launch up to 50 partnerships between charter schools and district schools over the next three years. Based on the Department of Education’s current Learning Partners Program, it will pair charters and district schools to share best practices, starting with instruction for English language learners and math teaching.

The agenda would take the mayor through a second term and in some cases beyond. He took the occasion to lobby hard for a longer extension of mayoral control beyond the single year that the state Legislature agreed to in April. “None of the changes we’ve made or are going to make would be possible without mayoral control,” he warned.

The new agenda builds on policy initiatives spearheaded by the mayor that are already underway: full-day prekindergarten, more middle school after-school programs, the 130 community schools and help for 94 struggling schools in the School Renewal Program.

The mayor vowed that by 2026, the new initiatives with the old will result in 80 percent of city students graduating on time and 67 percent leaving fully prepared for the academic challenges of college.