Earlier this year, Pedro Noguera, director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, moderated a panel featuring New York City’s mayoral candidates called, “The State of Education: A Conversation with NYC’s Next Mayor.”

As the Bloomberg administration comes to an end, Noguera talked with NYU Research Digest about some of the challenges that the city’s new mayor will face, especially with public education.

What are the main issues plaguing public education in New York City?

The Department of Education’s support system was dismantled and replaced with school support networks. Given how many schools are underperforming, the next mayor and chancellor will need to devise a new system. Struggling schools are in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Issues of racial segregation and concentrated poverty impact schools and student achievement. Certain sub-groups—English-language learners, students with learning disabilities, and African-American and Latino males, have not been well-served by schools in New York City for the last several years.

How did we get here?

There have been several important areas where progress has been achieved under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership.  Many of the new schools, both public and charter, are quite good and there are now better school choices available to a number of children in the city than there were before. However, some schools have been overpopulated with very high-need students. Many efforts have been focused on holding schools and teachers accountable, but very little has been done to build capacity within these schools to meet student needs.

Is policy the real solution to these challenges?

Policy is very important. If you look at the countries that are making the most progress in education (Canada, Singapore, and South Korea), they are pursuing very different policies. The province of Ontario has seen a drastic decline in the number of struggling schools and made significant increases on all measures of student achievement. This can be attributed to their willingness to address the effects of poverty on children and schools, and their focus on providing targeted support.  My hope is that the Obama administration will adopt these types of policies in its second term.

Can higher education play a role here?

Universities and colleges must play a more active role in supporting public education, but it must go far beyond teacher education. We must utilize the intellectual resources of our universities to enrich school curricula, to provide supplemental educational opportunities to educators, and to expand academic and social services available to children. We can do this through the development of mutually beneficial partnerships that promote high quality research, training, and service.

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