Mayoral Election May Threaten Progress in NYC Schools

Peter Meyer,
Ashley Inman,, 707-332-1184,Education Next Communications


Mayoral Election May Threaten Progress in NYC Schools

Will academic success and public support protect charters and small high schools
under a de Blasio administration?

After Tuesday, November 5, the future of education reform in New York City (NYC) could be unclear if Bill de Blasio is elected the next mayor. In an article appearing in Education Next, now available online at, author Peter Meyer finds that the putative new mayor’s rhetoric suggests that he intends to dismantle reforms put in place by current mayor Michael Bloomberg and his former schools chancellor, Joel Klein.

Bloomberg turned nearly all the city’s high schools into schools of choice, increased the number of charter schools from 22 to 159, instituted a grading system for schools, and closed those that were failing to educate their students.

During Bloomberg’s administration, more than 120 small, non-selective high schools replaced large high schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Graduation rates for the city’s students rose by 18 percentage points, double the rate of schools in the rest of the state. In the small high schools, graduation rates were 9.5 percentage points higher than for students attending other NYC schools.

The year after Bloomberg entered office (2002), 4th-grade students in New York City trailed students elsewhere in the state by 15 points on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test; by 2011 that gap had narrowed to just 5 points. In reading, the gap was halved, from 20 points to just 10 points. New York City’s 8th-grade students also narrowed the gap, although the change was not as large.

Charter schools are a popular option in NYC. There are currently 60,000 students attending charters and 53,000 students on waiting lists. A New York Times poll published on October 4th showed that “56 percent of voters (61 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of whites) wanted more charters.”

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that NYC charter students gained an additional one month of learning per year in reading over their district school peers; in math the advantage was five months of additional learning each year.

“These are very large effects,” concludes Grover Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution in an October 2013 study.

Despite the popularity of charter schools, de Blasio has said he would “cap their numbers, stop letting them share space with traditional public schools, and start charging rent for existing colocation.”

Charging charters rent for space would be “absolutely catastrophic,” Joel Klein told Meyer, not only for the schools but also for the children attending them.

Meyer points out that de Blasio might not have as much success at repealing these reforms as he hopes, since many Bloomberg-era reforms have become the status quo in NYC. For example, as Michele Cahill of the Carnegie Foundation explains, when it comes to reversing Bloomberg’s small high schools initiative, “There are several hundred high schools now that are functioning in New York and they have students and teachers and parents who affiliate with them, and are showing tremendous results.”

Meyer’s article, “Will Mayor de Blasio Turn Back the School Reform Clock? New York City’s charters and small high schools at risk” is available now at

About the Author

Peter Meyer is program manager at the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and contributing editor at Education Next. The author is available for interviews.


About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit:

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