OneNYC 2050 : Volume 6 of 9 : Equity and Excellence in Education

Advance equity in K–12 opportunity and achievement

We know the question of whether a school is high quality misses a critical point. All students deserve great schools with excellent facilities, challenging curricula, and trained teachers and staff ready to support them through whatever challenges they face on their journey to graduating from high school. Gaps persist in graduation rates among black and Hispanic students compared with their white peers; far too many schools lack accommodations for students with disabilities; and lack of access to advanced classes threatens students’ preparedness for college. To advance quality and equity in education in all schools, we must focus on improving facilities — adding more seats to relieve overcrowding and improving special facilities for disabled students — and better preparing high schools students for college by expanding algebra, AP, and computer science classes, while providing wraparound services for our most vulnerable students.

Equity and Excellence Initiatives

If we believe the future of our city must be filled with the same opportunity and promise as our past, then we must act today. We must act by committing ourselves to equity and excellence. We must act by dismantling systems and structures that perpetuate unequal outcomes and unequal opportunity. We must act by building new systems that level the playing field and ensure all the children of New York City have promising futures.

The story of New York City is one of ever-expanding promise. We know that as we continue to make New York fairer, safer, more welcoming, and more just. As the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Photograph of students meeting in NYC.

So how do we get there?

The vision of Equity and Excellence for All directly addresses the system-wide goals of ensuring students graduate high school ready for college and their career by developing foundational academic skills and creating social-emotional support systems.

We can no longer accept pockets of excellence and pockets of failure. We can no longer blame children or their parents for poor performance. We can no longer use demographic identifiers — such as race, income, and housing — as excuses for low expectations. We call it “Equity and Excellence for All” because we do not believe you can truly have equity without excellence, nor can you have excellence without equity.

Over 1,800 schools have at least one Equity and Excellence program in their building this year. Together, the Equity and Excellence for All initiatives are building a pathway to success in college and careers for all students. Our schools are starting earlier, with free, full-day, high-quality education for three-year-olds and four-year-olds through 3-K for All and Pre-K for All. They are strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier — such as through universal literacy — so every student reads at grade level by the end of second grade; and they are providing Algebra for All to improve elementary and middle school math instruction and ensure all students complete algebra by the end of ninth grade. They are offering students more challenging, hands-on, college- and career-aligned coursework. For example, Computer Science for All brings 21st century computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All will give high school students access to at least five AP courses.

Along the way, our schools are giving students and families additional support through College Access for All, Single Shepherd, and investment in Community Schools.

These initiatives are just the beginning. This administration has partnered with schools on a multitude of programs and initiatives to ensure academic excellence; support every student, family, and school community; and drive innovation. It’s up to schools to do the work, while the role of DOE centrally is to ensure schools have the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to sustain improvement.

Improve School Facilities, Particularly In High-Need Districts

The City’s proposed Capital Plan includes investments to improve educational performance, maintain existing facilities in good repair, create nearly 57,000 seats in 89 new facilities, reduce class size, and support removal of transportable classroom units.

One-third of funding targets school facilities, including safety enhancements along with technology and other general improvements to the learning environments. The proposed plan allocates $750 million to make schools more accessible, which is by far the most ever spent by the City to achieve this goal. The improvements, developed with families and advocates for people with disabilities, will add accessible bathrooms, classrooms, and auditoriums, and offer more opportunities for students with accessibility needs to learn in an equitable environment. We are committed to making one-third of the buildings in every district fully accessible by 2024, and at least 50 percent of our buildings housing elementary school grades fully or partially accessible by 2024.

students Taking a test at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn.
Source: Kristen Luce for the New York City Mayor’s Office

Improve College Readiness By Expanding Algebra, Advanced Placement (Ap), And Computer Science Programs

To prepare students for the rigors of higher education and the competitive demands of an ever-changing economy, we must provide access to algebra and AP classes as well as computer science. Algebra is widely recognized as the “gatekeeper” to higher-level math and science courses, and students who pass Algebra I by no later than the end of ninth grade are more likely to graduate from high school as well as college. Classes in computer science are critical to success in nearly all fields, from medicine and technology to the humanities. Providing access to these classes along with AP is especially important for low-income students and students of color who would not otherwise be exposed to college-level coursework. Along with greater preparedness for college-level work, the potential to earn credit toward college courses through qualifying AP test scores gives students a head start in their postsecondary education.

Algebra for All launched in 2016 to improve elementary- and middle-school math instruction and ensure that all students complete Algebra by the end of the ninth grade. The program partners with districts to build teacher capacity in the subject.

AP for All, also launched in 2016, enables every high school student to access a range of AP courses. More than 55,000 students — a record — have already taken at least one AP exam, with increases in every borough and across ethnic groups. AP for All has driven citywide gains in participation and performance, particularly among black and Hispanic students. By fall 2021, students at all high schools will have access to at least five AP classes.

The Computer Science for All initiative, launched in fall 2015, is a public-private partnership to provide every student with a computer science education — including coding, robotics, and web design — in elementary, middle, and high school. Too many students in New York City public schools either lack access to computer science or gain it too late, after biases and stereotypes have formed. Approximately 134,000 students participated in computer science at more than 500 schools in 2017–2018 school year. Seven hundred schools had at least one teacher trained in computer science. More than 5,000 students took an AP computer science exam that year, and some 1,600 teachers have received training over the course of the program. By 2025, all New York City public school students at each school level will receive high-quality computer science education.

We are investing citywide to improve school facilities.

Source: SCA, 2017-2018

Map of NYC investments to improve school facilities.

Eliminating CUNY college application fees

In 2016, the City eliminated the CUNY application fee for low-income students as part of the College Access for All initiative. A record-high 41,095 New York City public school students applied to CUNY for free last school year, nearly 5,000 more than in the 2016–17 school year and six times more than in the 2015–16 school year.

Eliminating CUNY application fees helped New York City achieve its highest-ever postsecondary enrollment rate when 59 percent of the city’s Class of 2017 enrolled in a two- or four-year college, vocational program, or public service program after graduation — up 2 percent from the previous year and 8 percent from the Class of 2013. A record-high 45,115 students in the Class of 2017 enrolled in college, up from 43,466 in the Class of 2016 and 40,641 in the Class of 2013.

Breaking down barriers to college is at the forefront of New York City’s Equity and Excellence agenda.

Image of CUNY graduation in NYC.

Strengthen College Access For All

Logo for NYC's College Access For All

With more and more jobs requiring at least some form of postsecondary education, it is important that all students have the option to attend college. While New York City students are graduating from high school and enrolling in college in record numbers, many still face a gap when it comes to gaining the language skills and knowledge needed to navigate the college application process successfully. Too often, access to this knowledge depends on family members and friends who are themselves college students, which means students with these experiences have earlier exposure to college compared with those who only learn about it late into high school.

Launched in 2016, the College Access for All initiative is aimed at ensuring every student has the resources and support to apply to and enter college. The program helps students prepare to engage with the college process, starting in middle school with seventh- grade visits to college campuses and going through high school, with support for 12th graders taking SAT exams and filling out college and financial aid applications. In the 2017–2018 school year, 350 middle schools in 22 districts participated in college access programming. In 2018–2019, we provided college access programming to middle schools in every district.

Additionally, starting this school year, every high school will provide resources and support for students to graduate with a college and career plan. The initiative has also eliminated the CUNY college application fee for low-income students, and made the SAT exam available free of charge during the school day for all high school juniors — increasing the number of juniors who took the SAT by 51 percent in 2016–2017.

Supporting Multilingual Families

To reach every New York City student, we must engage every family.  Students and their families communicate in more than 180 different languages in New York City. To ensure families are full partners in their child’s education, DOE now provides:

  • Native Language Conferences: Students and families participate in a day of workshops and activities presented in ten different languages. Thousands of parents and families in every borough have attended the conferences. Each conference includes an immigration-themed Know Your Rights panel, presented by the Mayor’s Office.
  • The Family English Initiative: The Family English Initiative is a pilot engagement program that is based on a two-generation approach to strengthening language development for K–2 multilingual learners and their families. The Initiative focuses on effective strategies to support language acquisition in and out of school, and includes activities that promote multilingualism and a shared learning experience. Participating parents will build the skills and confidence needed to become active partners in their child’s education.
  • IEP Translation Pilot Program: Launched in the 2018–2019 school year, NYCDOE is conducting a pilot program to provide families in Districts 9, 24, and 75 free translation services for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
  • Family and School Translation Services: Since 2015, DOE has been providing schools and families with direct access to over-the-phone interpreters on demand.  Interpreters are available in more than 200 languages, and serve thousands of families each month.  In 2016, DOE created nine new positions to provide leadership and coordination for translation services in each borough and citywide office. Language access coordinators ensure schools are providing parents with full access to translation and interpretation services.
Ensure Students In Temporary Housing Receive The Support And Services They Need To Succeed

Students living in a temporary housing (STH) situation, including shelters or “doubled up” accommodations (i.e., sharing the housing with others due to loss of housing or economic hardship), face extraordinary barriers to go to school. In the 2017–18 school year, there were approximately 105,000 students in temporary housing, including 15,000 in shelters on any given night.

For the students in shelter, DHS has worked to ensure families are placed in shelters that keep children as close as possible to their current school through initial placements and by offering transfers for any family whose shelter unit is more than five miles from the youngest child’s school. Currently, 75% of all homeless families without ongoing domestic violence concerns are being sheltered in the borough of their youngest child’s school. Each year DHS and DOE coordinate to offer all students in shelter in grades K-6 buses to and from school. For families with older children or who decline buses, DHS and DOE coordinate to distribute MetroCards to help families get their kids to and from school.

For all students in temporary housing, DOE announced an additional $12 million investment in 2018 to hire approximately 100 school-based STH community coordinators, and expanded professional development opportunities for staff in cooperation with nonprofits and social service agencies.

Oversight of STH was also moved to the Office of Community Schools (OCS), which has a proven track record of supporting vulnerable students and families. Since 2014, OCS has reduced chronic absenteeism in their schools by 8.3 percent, compared with a citywide decrease of 0.1 percent, and has increased high school graduation rates by 16 percent, versus a citywide increase of 7.5 percent.

The additional 100 community coordinators will supplement the 117 family assistants currently staffed in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters to provide enrollment and transportation support.

Additional supports for STH include:

  • Expanding professional development opportunities for DOE staff in collaboration with nonprofits and social services agencies.
  • Strengthening the leadership and organization overseeing STH resources at the school, shelter, and citywide level.
  • With these efforts, we will create a stronger support system across agencies and communities to ensure our STH population can break through the barriers that interfere with their education.