News and Speeches

Chancellor Klein Launches "Million" Motivation Campaign

02/27/2008


2,500 Middle School Students Will Receive Free Cell Phones and Earn Minutes and Text Messages through Achievement in School

Initiative Will Include a Messaging and Mentoring Program to Support Students and Reinforce Connections Between Education and Success

    Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today launched the “Million” Motivation Campaign, an unprecedented initiative designed to help students internalize connections between education and success. The campaign will operate as a pilot program in seven middle schools, serving approximately 2,500 students. Participating students will receive a free cell phone, known as the “Million,” with opportunities to earn minutes and other rewards if the students achieve academic goals established by school principals. At the same time, the phones will be used as a platform to communicate directly with students by teachers and administrators and to “re-brand” achievement through a messaging campaign and mentoring program. The messaging campaign will spotlight successful professionals in a range of occupations who can serve as role models to students who may never have considered a viable profession or way of life. Students will get workplace experience, life coaching, and academic help through a mentoring program that cements the core messages of the campaign.

    “Over the past five years, New York City public school students have benefited from safer schools, more and better school options, high quality instruction, and greater accountability among school leaders. We’ve seen the results in improved student performance and a narrowing of the achievement gap, but too many low-income and minority children continue to underperform,” Chancellor Klein said. “The Million Campaign offers an innovative approach to a longstanding educational challenge that many people write off as intractable. We are committed to testing new strategies that hold the possibility of further reducing the gap, with the goal of eliminating it entirely.

    “We’ve laid the groundwork for achieving true educational equality, but our improvements can only take us so far if students aren’t ‘buying in’ to the value of an education. With this initiative, we’re expanding our focus to increase the ‘demand’ side of the educational equation—getting students engaged and motivated to succeed.”

    Students participating in the Million program will receive a free Samsung U740 handheld mobile device, a cutting-edge cell phone that supports mp3 and video capability, as well as offering texting and instant messaging functionality. Students will earn text messages, talk time, and other rewards, such as free ring tones, music downloads, or event tickets, through their performance in school. Students will be evaluated on the basis of attendance and behavior, along with three other indicators—such as homework completion, class participation, or course grades—chosen by educators and customized to address academic priorities in their specific schools. Administrators will have access to significant new data on student performance, allowing them to track the short-term indicators that contribute to larger goals of boosting student achievement and graduation rates. In accordance with the City’s cell phone policy, Million cell phones will not be permitted in schools.

    Million mobile devices also offer a platform to communicate directly with students. In time, teachers and administrators will have the capacity to send mass text messages to students, supporting them with study tips and reminders about homework assignments and other upcoming deadlines. The phones also will be utilized for a DOE-based messaging campaign promoting the idea that a middle-class lifestyle is desirable and accessible with a good education. The messaging campaign will showcase real-life success stories of individuals in an array of occupations, such as accounting and dentistry. These stories will highlight routes to success available to students, shifting their focus away from glorified celebrity lifestyles and broadening their outlook on future opportunities.

    The DOE will build on the messaging campaign with a mentoring program that provides students with access to workforce experiences and cements the core messages of our motivation initiative. Successful professionals will serve as role models and life coaches, supporting the specific needs of their mentees and reinforcing the link between learning and earning. The mentoring program will also leverage the Million mobile devices as a means to facilitate direct and frequent communications between mentors and their mentees.

    “Every day, students in high-need communities are exposed to negative pressures pointing them away from the belief that education is the best pathway to achieve success," said Dr. Roland Fryer, Chief Equality Officer for the Department of Education. “We must find innovative ways to combat this crisis in African-American and Latino communities. We must make ambition and achievement color-blind.”

    “The Million is a bold idea that aims to re-brand achievement to students, showing them that their dreams don’t need boundaries and providing a clear pathway to achieve those ambitions. The Million may well be the most important innovation for urban education since the slide rule.”

    The pilot program launches this week in seven schools, including four KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools and three high-need Brooklyn middle schools. Those schools are:

· I.S. Math, Science & Technology (K349)

· Ebbets Field Middle School (K352)

· J.H.S. 234 - Arthur W. Cunningham (K234)

· KIPP Academy Charter School (X704)

· KIPP S.T.A.R. College Preparatory Charter School (M726)

· KIPP A.M.P Charter School (K357)

· KIPP Infinity Charter School (M336)

    Two of those schools – I.S. 349 Math, Science & Technology in Bushwick and Ebbets Field Middle School in Crown Heights – are part of the City’s Middle School Initiative.

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Contact: David Cantor / Debra Wexler (212) 374-5141