Councilman Eric Gioia, Candidate for Public Advocate, today released a white paper outlining his ideas to improve student performance.
“For too long, education reform has been hampered by an excessive focus on issues that don’t move our schools forward,” said Councilman Gioia. “With mayoral control rightfully restored, now is the time to return the focus to children and reframe the debate.”
Substantial progress has been made in New York City schools, but with a dropout rate of 13.5%, and with only 56.4% of students graduating high school in four years – including 51.4% of African American and 48.7% of Latino students (versus 71.5% of Whites) – it’s clear that much more needs to be done. Gioia outlined a five point plan to make schools work better for all students:
I. Extracurricular Opportunities for All Students: Ensuring that there are solid extracurricular activities available to all children after school – whether tutoring, academic instruction, supplemental arts and music programs, or sports – will both help parents and keep kids active and learning throughout the day. Every child should have a safe place to go after school, where they’re not just being given something to do but are provided with the tools to learn and grow.
II. Summer Learning Programs: A legacy of farming days, when every able body was needed for the harvest, today’s short school year results in a loss of educational gains every summer, particularly among lower-income students who do not have access to the same resources and enrichment opportunities as their higher-income peers. Providing free summer programming to New York City students will help make sure that the gains of the school year are not lost during the summer months.
III. Every Child Should Begin School at Age 3: Students’ skill level when they begin kindergarten is a good predictor of their later educational performance. Preschool and pre-kindergarten should be accessible to every child, not just those whose families can afford it.
IV. Adopt a Holistic Approach: Because what happens outside of the classroom can have such a dramatic impact on what happens inside it, every school should be a “community school,” where support services, provided through government and/or nonprofit partnerships, keep families healthy, intact and stable.
V. Learn from Our Successes: Many charter schools and public schools around the city are using innovative educational practices and models to increase students’ academic success. It’s time the school system learned from these successes and took these innovations to scale.
“The truth is we know what to do to measurably improve our schools,” Gioia said. “While many of these initiatives require dramatic changes to the school system, and a sizable financial investment, these challenges cannot stop discussion about the steps we should take to give our kids a better education. As a city, we need to have a frank conversation about priorities, and deciding what our children – and our city’s future – are worth. These ideas are not new; in fact they’ve been successful on a smaller scale in schools across the country. Now is the time to consider bold action to move our schools forward.”