New York City’s 1.1 million public school children are the real winners in the State Legislature’s decision to return control of city schools to the mayor. By voting to renew mayoral control, the Legislature acknowledged that having a single point of decision-making works. In so doing, they took a giant step toward ensuring that the substantial successes achieved by New York City public school students in the seven years of mayoral control will continue. <!–more–>
As a parent who has been deeply involved in the fight for education reform, the magnitude of this vote cannot be overstated. I consider it an accomplishment of which the governor, Senate leaders John L. Sampson and Malcolm A. Smith, and Assembly leaders Sheldon Silver and Cathy Nolan—as well as every member who supported it—can be proud. It is one for which every parent I know is immensely grateful.
The reality is that for too many years, New York City’s public school students were defined by failure and low achievement. Prior to mayoral control, children across virtually all grade levels lagged behind their counterparts across the state and country. English scores were abysmal, math scores even more so.
There was a persistent and seemingly insurmountable gap between black and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts. Graduation rates and test scores of low-income black and Hispanic students fell dramatically below those of upper-income white and Asian students.
Under mayoral control, there has been an appreciable closing of these gaps: more black and Latino students are graduating from high school, narrowing the gap substantially between Latinos and whites and between blacks and whites.
Likewise, between 2002 and 2009, the gap between the number of Latino and black students meeting 4th grade reading levels, compared to white children, fell by nearly a third, while the gap in the number of 8th grade black and Latino students passing the English reading test dropped by 22 percent.
As a member of the Latino community, it is clear to me that this accomplishment has far-reaching implications that are often under emphasized.
Studies show the long-term impact of academic success on one’s income-earning ability and overall life quality: high school graduates tend to live up to seven years longer than high school dropouts, and college graduates out-earn high school graduates by more than 70 percent throughout the course of their lifetimes.
Perhaps it is for these reasons that the school governance issue has weighed heavily on me. Too much depends on the students in my community, and all New York City students, achieving.
The narrowing of the achievement gap pays off in real-world ways, with real-world consequences. Achieving in school boosts a student’s confidence, increases the likelihood that they’ll graduate from high school and college, and in so doing ups their likelihood of life success. It puts them within closer grasp of leading productive lives.
On that measure alone, mayoral control has shown itself to be a remarkable success and worthy of renewal. I join with parents throughout the city in thanking my Legislators for making this possible.
David Rodriguez, the parent of two daughters in public school, is a supporter of Learn NY’s efforts to enhance mayoral control. He resides on the Lower East Side.</em>
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