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Walcott's Middle Schools Speech

Walcott's Middle Schools Speech

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Published by GothamSchools.org

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Published by: GothamSchools.org on Sep 20, 2011
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September 20, 2011N-09, 2011-12
The following is the text of Chancellor Walcott’s address as prepared for delivery at New York University Steinhart School of Culture, Education, and Human Development on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.
Good morning.I am delighted to be here today at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and HumanDevelopment. It feels like I’ve been Chancellor for quite some time. With all that’s been going on,and all the time I’ve spent visiting schools, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a few months.The start of the school year is always a good time to reflect on the work that lies ahead to ensure thatour 1.1 million students are receiving a high quality education.So, Dean Brabeck, I want to thank you for hosting us here today, and providing me with a forumwhere I can really lay out my vision for the future of our public schools in New York City.Opportunities like this are truly important, because when you are working in a school system of thissize and scale, it can be hard to share your vision with the public on a regular basis.So I want to thank all of the educators and community leaders and parents and advocates who have joined us here today and for your ongoing commitment to working on behalf of our students.As you know, I am a graduate of New York City’s public school system. My children attended NewYork City public schools, and today my grandson attends a New York City public school. So thesuccess of our schools system is very close to my heart.Back in April, when I was first tapped to be Chancellor, I gave a speech at Columbia University’sTeachers College in which I said that one of my first priorities was turn down the volume, to moveus away from the heated rhetoric, and shift the tone and subject of the debate to the one thing thatmatters most: our students.I also made clear that we were not going to take our foot off the gas with regard to reform.We have come a long way under Mayor Bloomberg—something that was abundantly clear as Imoved from graduation to graduation this past June, and listened to our students talk about their 
September 20, 2011N-09, 2011-12
accomplishments and goals for the future.For more than a decade before the Mayor took office, New York City’s four-year graduation ratewas stuck around 50 percent. But in every year since then, the graduation rate has steadily increased,to an all time high of 65 percent in 2010.And, for the first time ever, the four-year graduation rate of Latino students topped 58 percent, andthe rate for black students rose to over 60 percent—an incredible milestone.These are not just numbers on a spreadsheet.Tens of thousands more students are graduating our schools and going to college, and many are thefirst in their families to do so.More than 25,000 city graduates enrolled at CUNY in 2010—up from just 16,000 in 2002.There are also many more students doing college-level work in high school.Last week, the College Board released the latest results on the SAT and AP tests. With more andmore students taking the exams, scores nationwide declined. But here in New York City, our students held their ground. New York City saw a 10 percent increase in the number of students taking the SATs, but we did nothave the drops that most districts and states did.And, on the AP exams, thousands more City students are taking AP exams, and passing rates keepclimbing, with black students leading the way.But this is no time to rest.Our students are competing with students across the state and country—not to mention the world— and with each passing day the competition becomes more fierce.We also face outside challenges that threaten to seriously impact our work;We faced a very serious budget crisis due to state and federal cuts in funding. But fortunately wewere able to come together with the United Federation of Teachers and the City Council and reach adeal to avoid teacher layoffs.While schools still had to absorb a cut in their individual budgets and make hard choices, overall our Principals have done an outstanding job of maximizing those resources on behalf of our students.2
September 20, 2011N-09, 2011-12
We also worked with the teachers’ and principals’ unions to find common ground to help support 33struggling City schools.Those schools will now receive nearly $60 million in federal funds to help students succeed, andtheir teachers will receive new evaluations that provide them with specific feedback on their job performance– and, hold them accountable for student performance.This could not have happened without us all working together on behalf of our students, and I hopeit is a sign of more agreement to come.We also had to confront the loss of January Regents, which the Board of Regents was forced toeliminate in the budget crunch, despite their critical role in student graduation.Thankfully, six donors, including the Mayor, donated private funds to restore those January examsfor students statewide.The State still has a responsibility to find a long-term solution, but for now, this generous act meansthat thousands of students will still have an opportunity to take the January Regents.Those are just a few examples of some of the things that have happened over the last few months.While there have been a few bumps, I truly believe that the wind is at our back, and we have reasonto believe our students are headed in the right direction.When the Mayor and Joel Klein and I started this work together in 2002, we set out with oneoverarching goal:To create a system of great schools that would provide families—particularly those in historicallydisadvantaged communities—with better options.In the past 9 years we have created more than 500 new schools, including 124 charters.We also phased out 117 low-performing schools.And last year, a study by MDRC found that the graduation rate at new small schools wassignificantly higher than at traditional high schools, and that the new schools were narrowing the gap between white students and students of color across the city.I’ll give you two examples:3

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