Nearly six months after the city saw students’ failure rates spike thanks to new, tougher state tests, Mayor Bloomberg is directing extra funding to ready those students for another round of exams.
The mayor announced today that the Department of Education will distribute $10 million to 532 schools where more than two-thirds of students failed the state’s math and English tests last year. The funding will target nearly half of the more than 100,000 students who did not meet the state’s newly heightened proficiency bar. Bloomberg said he expected 48,000 students to receive extra tutoring and in-school help as a result of the new funding.
DOE officials said schools should receive the money by February 8. Principals will be able to spend it on weekend classes, lessons after school, tutoring during the school day, and online programs that will help students cram for the upcoming exams. They will have to race to spend it in time for it to have an effect, as the English and math exams will be administered in early May.
Chancellor Cathie Black cautioned that the new funding does not mean that the department’s budget woes are over. The city is waiting to find out how large the state’s budget cut will be and Bloomberg said he still expects to have to lay off teachers this year. But the $10 million was a modest enough figure that he said the city would be able to cover it.
“This should not be taken as a signal that more money is the answer to all of our problems,” Black said.
“Our best schools are already doing more with less and leveraging resources in a way that benefits our children. But we also recognize that some of those schools need extra help right now.”
When asked why the funding was coming mid-year, the mayor was vague.
“New chancellor!” he said, smiling, then abruptly changed tack. “We’re constantly trying to come up with new things,” he said. “And we’re always sitting there worrying about what’s going to happen to the budget.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she’d met with former Chancellor Joel Klein in October to press the issue, after the Coalition for Educational Justice had brought it to her attention. But criticism of the DOE’s minimal response to the high failure rate began to build much earlier. In a statement sent to reporters today, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said that he’d been asking the DOE to give extra help to these students for the last six months.
In July, when the scores were released, the city’s passing rate on the reading exam fell from 68.8 percent 42.4 percent. On the math test, the passing rate fell from 81.8 percent to 54 percent.
At the time, Klein said that schools would give struggling students “extra attention,” but didn’t say how. In September he announced that schools would be allowed to convert one period of tutoring time into teacher planning sessions aimed at boosting scores.
“It was so obvious that we had a problem,” said teachers union president Michael Mulgrew today. “Something had to be done; this is a start.”
Schools will receive a portion of the funding based on how many more of their students failed the exams last year than the year before. The largest amount any one school can get will be $65,000 and the smallest will be $6,000.
Eight schools will receive the largest amount: P.S. 144 (Bronx), MS 113 (Brooklyn), JHS 88 (Brooklyn), MS 61 (Brooklyn), East New York Middle School of Excellence (Brooklyn), JHS 78 (Brooklyn), IS 61 (Queens), and IS 61 (Staten Island).
More than half of the schools that are eligible for the extra funding are in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Manhattan is home to 102 of them, Queens to 54 and Staten Island to 13.