A great education trumps adversity
DENNIS M. WALCOTT | 9/6/2012, 4:57 p.m.
Even before becoming the New York City schools chancellor, I had a profound and personal connection to our public schools. I graduated from public schools in Queens, my four children benefited from public school education and my grandson now attends the same elementary school I did in the 1950s and 1960s. My experiences as a public school student, and later as a kindergarten teacher, have only deepened my belief that the most important thing we can do for our children is to provide them with the quality education they need to fulfill their dreams.
As we begin the 2012-2013 school year, it is important to remind ourselves that a child's ZIP code, economic status or family situation should never determine the quality of his or her education. All of our students have a right to a high-quality education, one that builds their academic skills and behaviors and supports resilience in the face of adversity.
Schools across our city are giving our students the tools to graduate and go to college, even in the toughest of circumstances. This is one of the reasons I feel so passionately about education: It has the power to change lives. With a great teacher, a strong principal and a supportive school environment, any child has the opportunity to succeed. A great education can trump other obstacles.
And so, this school year we are raising the bar even higher and pushing all our students to meet tough new standards. The 2013 State Math and English Language Arts tests will, for the first time, reflect instruction aligned to the Common Core standards, which describe what students need to learn each year from pre-kindergarten through high school to graduate ready to succeed in college and careers. Course work in all the grades will be more challenging to meet these higher standards. Our students will be taught to read more complex texts, develop written arguments and problem-solve. Their critical thinking and creative skills will increasingly be put to the test.
This year we are also expanding our special education reform initiative, A Shared Path to Success. By providing students with disabilities with greater access to the same rigorous academic curriculum as their peers without disabilities, we will promote a classroom environment that benefits all of our students.
We are committed to providing all of our students with the high quality education they deserve. We will also rely on our highly effective teachers and school leaders to meet our goals and will continue to offer them the training and resources they need to succeed.
Finally, we will also need you, our parents. When you expect success, your children will rise to the challenge. When you show that you value learning and education, your children can achieve academically.
My parents didn't live long enough to see me graduate from college, but with supportive neighbors, teachers and mentors--what I call my Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moments--I stayed on track. I not only graduated from college, but earned master's degrees in education and social work. My experiences made me realize that you can never underestimate how important it is to remind young people what they're capable of and the character it takes to stay on task and achieve their dreams. If adults encourage them, our 1.1 million public school students will succeed.
So let's make sure the excitement of the first day of school--when everything feels possible--does not fade. Together, we can help our students achieve the high expectations we have for them so that they are prepared for college, careers and full, rewarding lives.
Dennis M. Walcott is the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.