Help for Struggling Students
January 18th, 2011

In a rare united front, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Cathleen Black, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and Zakiyah Ansari of the Coalition for Educational Justice crowded around a lecturn at Tweed Courthouse yesterday to announce something they all agreed on.

The press event marked the announcement of a $10 million city program to provide help to students who did not meet standards for their grade level on last year’s state standardized English and math exams. Some 532 elementary and middle schools throughout the five boroughs will get between $6,000 and $65,000 to spend on a range of services, such as tutoring, after school lessons and new materials, to help bring those students up to grade level. Individual principals will decide what services to purchase.

In his comments, Bloomberg said the program represents a response to the recalibration of state test scores last year, which resulted in an increase in students not meeting state standards.

The city “used to turn their backs on struggling students,” Bloomberg said, but he continued, “We refuse to give up on any child.”

By various accounts, the program came about at the urging of the coalition and the Save Our Schools Campaign, which took their concerns about struggling students to Quinn. The group apparently reasoned, as Ansari said in her comment today that, “if we are raising the bar [for students], we need to raise the support.” Quinn and her staff then met with former Chancellor Joel Klein and those discussions led to today’s announcement.

Quinn — who, unlike Bloomberg and Black, praised Mulgrew and the Coalition for Education Justice, a frequent critic of the administration’s education policies — said, “We wanted to be sure that children were not left behind,” particularly in middle schools.

Bloomberg was vague about where the $10 million would come from — we’re going to find the money some place,” he said. He and Black tried to couch the program as an effort to make the best use of scarce resources and, in Bloomberg’s view, as a signal that, whatever the money situation, “we are not going to walk away form out obligation to educate kids.”

The announcement, though, could very well represent a kind of calm before the almost-certain budget storm.

Bloomberg said much about the budget remains unclear. “Until we know what Albany is going to do I don’t have any idea what the education budget will be,” he said. But, he said the city would lose federal stimulus funds and would almost certainly see cuts in its money from the state.”

“We’re just going to have to have fewer teachers,” he said, something that could not have made Mulgrew happy.

By on January 18, 2011, 3:01 pm
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