News and Speeches

Remarks of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at NBC News' "Education Nation" Summit

09/27/2010

Plans to Champion Innovation, Reward Excellence in Teaching, Raise Standards in the Classroom and Implement a Rating System for Tenure  

Partnerships with IBM and Gates Foundation Support City’s Goal of Doubling College Completion Rates for Graduates

Below are Mayor Bloomberg’s Remarks as Delivered Today at 30 Rockefeller Center

“Tom, thank you, and good morning to everyone. Sorry about the weather, but it’s all part of the Mayor’s program to eliminate the drought. Nevertheless, rain or shine, I want to welcome everyone to New York City – birthplace of four Supreme Court Justices, and one on American Idol. And I especially want to welcome the 50 teachers and principals who have been named ‘Education Champions.’

“It really is important to listen and learn from our best educators when we talk about reform – and there are so many of them around this country. But the reality is, all of us are here because the American education system – once the best in the world – is now far from it.

“Let me give you some statistics, today our students ranked 20th in the world in high school graduation rates, 21st in science, 24th in problem-solving, and 25th in math. And while other nations were racing ahead – expecting more of their students and teachers – America was standing still, I’m sorry to say, even though we’ve been spending far more than anyone else, and cutting class size far below what it used to be.

“By losing ground in our schools, we’ve also lost ground in our economy. In fact, the economic challenges facing the middle class in this country – especially stagnating wages and the growing income gap – are directly related to the educational challenges facing our students.

“Unemployment in America today is too high today and part of the reason, unfortunately, is that many companies cannot fill the high-skill jobs, which are increasingly at risk of going overseas. The only way that we can reverse this course and remain the world’s economic superpower is to modernize our education system – and do it right now. We owe that to our kids, and we owe it to our country.

“President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, I think, understand how important this challenge is – and their leadership has helped drive changes in statehouses across the country, including here in New York.

“I’m optimistic that we can succeed – partly because we’ve seen here in New York what a difference reform can make, and partly because I believe the country is reaching a tipping point in terms of recognizing the severity of this problem and demanding action.

“The new film Waiting for Superman has sparked a national controversy on education reform that is badly needed and long overdue. I think it’s touched a nerve because it shows – through the heart-wrenching stories of children and their parents – exactly what is at stake.

“We should never forget that every morning in this city – and all across our country – moms and dads wake up at 5:30 to prepare breakfast for their children. They dress them and get them ready for school. They grab their little hands as they cross the street, they take them to our doorstep, and then they leave them in our trust.

“Their children are our future – and I work for them. And I make this promise to them and to their parents: We will work just as hard as you do to provide a better future for your children.

“Here in New York City, we’ve spent the last eight years transforming a broken and dysfunctional school system and reversing decades of educational neglect. As a result, our 1.1 million students – no matter how you measure it, or who you compare them to – have taken big steps forward.

“Since winning control of the school system when I came into office in the year 2002, our graduation rates have gone up 16 percentage points, while in the rest of the state, with the same requirements and the same test, graduation rates have gone up only 3 points. Our African-American and Hispanic students have closed the ethnic achievement gap on state tests by 37 percent in reading, and 18 percent in math. And we’ve made significant progress compared to the rest of the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“Progress really is possible – no matter how much the naysayers try to diminish the gains our children are making for political or ideological reasons. For us, the criteria for every decision is simple: Is it good for our children? Not politicians or unions, but children.

“By putting children first, we’ve made huge strides, but we know how much work still remains. The challenge we face is nothing less than transforming our schools from assembly line factories into centers of innovation, and preparing our students to lead the 21st century economy.

“Our goal here in New York is to ensure that every child who graduates high school is ready to start a career or start college, and to dramatically increase the number of students who graduate from college.

“To achieve that goal, we’ll build on the progress we’ve made by expanding our efforts in four key areas: first, we’ll form new partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and universities to more directly connect our kids to college and careers. We’ve created very successful public-private partnerships to support innovative initiatives like our principal training academy, but we’ll now ask the private sector to do more than give money; we’ll ask them to see our students as their future workforce – and invest directly in them.

“Second, we’ll do more to support teachers and reward great teaching – and that includes ending tenure as we know it so that tenure is awarded for performance, not taken for granted.

“I honor our teachers – and I think we have the best teachers in the country: they’re smart, they’re tough passionate men and women who give their all, with all their heart. They deserve our support and they deserve our respect. They deserve to be paid, and they deserve to be paid well. They deserve high quality professional development. They deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their success, but the truth is, not every single one of them deserves a lifetime job.

“There is no business in America that would be prevented from taking results into account when making personnel decisions, and that’s exactly what happens in our school system across the country. It is wrong. It must stop. And in New York City, I promise you it will stop.

“Our third strategy for making our kids college and career ready involves fundamentally redesigning classroom learning. By empowering teachers to use cutting edge technology, we’ll help them tailor lesson plans around the individual learning needs of students – and give every student more personal attention.

“And fourth, we’ll continue giving parents more top-quality college and career prep school options by creating 200 new schools over the next three years – including 100 new charter schools.

“These four strategies will help us completely recast the relationship between public schools, higher education, and the workplace. That is critical because other countries do a much better job of preparing and connecting students to colleges and careers long before they leave secondary schools.

“In America, the situation is more sink-or-swim – and too many students sink. We can change that with these strategies, and the first one – partnering with the private sector – is already, you’ll be happy to know, bearing fruit.

“Today, I’m excited to announce a new partnership we’ve entered into with IBM and the City University of New York, and it’s the first of the kind in the country. Together, we’ll create a school that runs from grades nine to grade 14 – yes, grade 14. All students will learn the traditional core subjects, but they’ll also receive an education in computer science and complete two years of college work.

“When they graduate from grade 14 with an Associate’s Degree and a qualified record, they will be guaranteed a job with IBM and a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond.

“We’ll also join with the City University of New York to match academic standards in high schools with those in college, and to hold our high schools accountable for their graduates’ performance in college.

“That work is being made possible by a generous grant from the Gates Foundation, which is also funding similar efforts in three other cities: San Francisco and Riverside, California; and Mesa, Arizona.

“Our goal is to replace the number of students who need remedial help in college and to double the number of students receiving associate degrees from the City University of New York by the end of the decade.

“Of course, ensuring our students are college-and career-ready doesn’t start in high school; it starts in kindergarten, and it starts with supporting and rewarding great teaching, which is our second strategy.

“Last week, we received a $36 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of ‘master teachers,’ who mentor and support their colleagues, including our newest teachers, and to increase the number of ‘turnaround teachers,’ highly effective teachers who agree to serve in our lowest-performing schools. Master teachers will receive a 30 percent salary increase, and turnaround teachers will receive a 15 percent salary increase, which can mean a raise of tens of thousands of dollars for each.

“Teachers and principals are professionals. They deserve to be paid like professionals, treated like professionals, and evaluated like professionals. But for too long, the tenure evaluation process for both principals and teachers has been a formality – a rubber stamp. It used to be that 99.1 percent of teachers received tenure. That’s right, 99.1 percent. But last year, we started using data to make tenure decisions, and the tenure number dropped to 89 percent. For the other 11 percent, they were just not ready to receive a lifetime job protection.

“Beginning this year, our policy will be very simple. Only teachers who help students and schools move ahead significantly for at least two consecutive years will earn tenure. And just as we are raising the bar for our students through higher standards, we must also raise the bar for our teachers and principals – and we are.

“It’s time for us to end the ‘last-in, first out’ layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York – and across our wonderful country. With more budget cuts looming, principals across the country will have no choice but to make layoffs based only on seniority – so their newest teachers would be the first ones to go, even if they happen to be the best teachers. That makes no sense. Remember our one and only question: is it good for children?

“How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we’re going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids.

“Our work to connect students to college and careers, our third strategy, is nothing short of revolutionary. Imagine, for a minute, looking into a classroom, and instead of seeing some kids raising their hands to every question, and others just daydreaming, you see a small group working with a teacher in one corner, other kids working individually on their portable computers, and other kids working together on the same project, online.

“Everywhere you go in this school, rather than lecturing at students as a class, teachers will be working with students as individuals or small teams on projects and lessons specifically tailored to their own learning styles and needs.

“Well, those scenes are playing out more and more every single school day here in New York City I’m happy to say. We’ve created 80 Innovation Schools that have started down the ground-breaking path of using technology to design individual learning plans for each child. In an iPad world, our students shouldn’t be stuck looking at overhead projectors.

“With funding help from our State, we can make every single school in New York City ready for this high-tech program, and we can work with teachers to transform 400 of our schools into Innovation Schools over the next three years. But to make them fully functional, we’ll also need the State to take two other steps.

“First, an old State law requires schools to buy printed textbooks rather than the digital content. That may be good business for the textbook industry, but it really is a bad deal for our students in this day and age. Second, we’ll work with the State to end what is called ‘seat time,’ which requires that all students spend a certain number of hours in their seats on every subject – even if they’ve already learned what’s expected of them.

“What if Maria has mastered 10th grade biology by April, instead of June? Why not let her jump-start on chemistry? Technology can empower our teachers and students – and we must take advantage of it.

“The 400 Innovation schools we are planning reflect our determination to give parents more top-quality school choices – and that’s our fourth and final strategy for connecting students to college and careers.

“We’ve already created 500 new schools over the past eight years, including 127 new charter schools. They’re a big reason why student achievement levels have gone up so significantly – and to keep them going up further, we’ll create another 100 new small schools, on top of another 100 charter schools. At the same time, we’ll continue replacing the lowest-performing 10 percent of schools with schools of excellence, as the Obama Administration has urged.

“For too long, families moved out of New York in search of better schools and safer streets. Today, families are coming here for exactly those reasons. And some families in the suburbs are even lying about where they live so they can send their kids to City schools.

“And just as the safety of New York’s schools is known world-wide, we’re going to do the same for the quality of our schools and we’re not going to let up until it is done. We are going to work to convince legislators to pass our agenda, and we’ll mobilize the public to join us – with their votes and their checkbooks. We’ve got to elect candidates who put children first – and throw out those who don’t. That’s the revolution we need – it’s a revolution all of us must lead.

“And together, we can give every single child a first-rate education, and keep America the strongest, most prosperous country in the world. Thank you, and God bless.”