Citywide Education Progress Report


Key Takeaways: June 2018

New York City has been considered a leader on choice and portfolio strategies since around 2005 under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg. Under Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration, the city has backed away from many of the more choice- and autonomy-oriented strategies that set NYC on its current path. Looking forward, city education leaders must ensure that sustained pathways exist for recruiting and developing quality teachers and school leaders in both the district and charter sectors, and continue efforts to improve student integration and equitable access to the highest-performing schools. As the district guides these efforts led by new chancellor Richard Carranza, appointed in 2018, it must develop its vision for how various initiatives add up to a strong school improvement strategy, improve school quality citywide by replicating strong district and charter school models, and ensure that all families have opportunities to offer input on future strategies.


System Reforms

Is the education strategy
rooted in the community?

City engages families Good
Variety of groups Good
Broad support Developing
System is responsive Developing

Do students have access
a high-quality education?

Transportation is working Exemplar
Enrollment is working Good
Families have information Developing
Strategic school supply Developing
Array of school models No score

Is the education system
continuously improving?

Equitable funding Good  
Right teachers Developing  
Right leaders Developing

Each indicator is scored with a rubric on a 4-point scale. We added the scores for the indicators to get an overall goal score. An arrow shows increase or decrease from the 2017 score.

Looking Deeper

Challenges Ahead

Building a new vision for systemwide improvement

New York City has made significant improvements over the past decade, but what is the vision to continue this trajectory? Mayor De Blasio and former chancellor Fariña instituted several major initiatives, such as the push for Universal Pre-K, Community Schools, and Renewal Schools (the mayor’s approach to school improvement), but there are questions as to how effective these have been. Some Renewal Schools are improving, but at a very high cost, and the jury is out on whether this is the most cost-effective approach for growing high-quality school options across the city. Similarly, Pre–K programs are widely supported but there is concern that the rollout is replicating some of the same diversity challenges seen in the rest of the system. New chancellor Richard Carranza has signaled support for these efforts, but some community advocates worry that they are only piecemeal, may not be effectively tapping the strengths and resources in the city, and don’t paint a clear vision for public education improvement and how the city will get there. Carranza has an opportunity to refresh or rethink these strategies to respond to these community concerns, or articulate a clear vision of the district that they are working to create.

► Improving school diversity and access to quality options

New York City has been criticized for several years as being one of the most segregated school systems in the nation. The De Blasio administration has taken steps to integrate several schools by reassigning some enrollment zones. The district also created a pilot program that provides weighted admissions to set aside seats in some high-demand NYCDOE schools and Pre–K programs for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, English language learner (ELL), or other criteria. But some community leaders expressed concerns that so far, these schools are the exception within a large system, and that the proportion of set-aside seats are not moving the needle on diversity. The city’s selective schools that base admissions on one test remain highly segregated. Chancellor Carranza, an immigrant to the U.S., has waded directly into the school segregation challenge early in his tenure, giving encouragement to many who felt the city’s recent approach was too tepid. Along with the current push to better integrate schools, the DOE must collect strong data to know if new initiatives are working and determine other avenues to adjust enrollment zones in more schools. Interviewees also reported that there are gaps in access to charter schools by specific groups, such as students requiring ELL services. More analysis can uncover barriers underserved students encounter accessing quality schools, and identify effective partnerships between the charter and district sectors to address the needs of specific students, such as those experiencing homelessness.

Addressing gaps in talent and shared pipeline issues

Given the size of NYC’s school system, maintaining a strong pipeline of high-quality teachers and school leaders is critical. Both the DOE and the charter sector use a number of strategies to maintain this pipeline, yet there was a perception from both district and charter leaders that the quality of recent applicants is not strong enough. The DOE and the charter sector could develop a shared regional strategy for developing more teachers with skills in high-need areas, such as special education and math. To do so, however, better data should be collected to clarify needs in the charter sector. In addition, the public is concerned about the DOE policy to place teachers from the “Absent Teacher Reserve” back in schools, a policy that conflicts with the autonomy of principals to hire teachers who are the right fit for their schools.


Districts and Charters Collaborate to Strengthen Special Education

Since 2011, the NYC Special Education Collaborative (Collaborative), a citywide membership organization, has been empowering NYC’s charter schools to develop quality education programs for students with disabilities by providing on-site training, professional development, resources, support, and expert guidance.

More recently, the Collaborative and the NYCDOE have been working together to inform system leaders about how to provide better support to schools that use inclusive settings. The two teams meet regularly to discuss trending issues and brainstorm solutions, in addition to touring schools together to better understand programming and seek out best practices. The Collaborative hosts regular professional development series for charter and district educators about instructional practices, culturally responsive education, and behavior supports.

Challenges remain. Region-based IEP meetings, which include charter school and district staff, are still focused more on compliance than knowledge sharing, and the city as a whole lacks data to drive strategy. But this emerging collaboration bodes well for students and sets the groundwork for continued work ahead.

NYCDOE’s Alliance with Strong CMOs Helps Teachers and Students Thrive

New York city is home to tense politics between the charter and district sectors on issues like charter school access to facilities. However, several cross-sector efforts that started a decade ago have continued to expand over the last few years.

The NYCDOE’s Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships supports school-to-school work on problems of practice—restorative justice, instructional practice for ELLs, math instruction—between sets of neighborhood district and charter schools, and for charter and district schools colocated in the same building. Several district superintendents have received small grants to initiate local districtwide projects to help educators and leaders meet, share, and break down misconceptions.

NYCDOE has two growing partnerships with high-performing CMOs: Uncommon Schools and KIPP. Uncommon Schools holds weekend workshops to share their “Teach Like a Champion” curriculum with DOE teachers, and KIPP has partnered with the DOE to extend their Summer Bridge program to DOE students from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

In such a large city, these efforts are just the first steps toward systemwide coordination. But education leaders express hope that, below the surface of the political battles that dominate the news cycle, educators are growing their practice in recognition that all types of schools have something to contribute to support students.

Student and School Outcomes

Low-income students in New York City perform slightly better than their peers nationally on standardized assessments, and school proficiency rates in math and reading improved relative to the state. Graduation rates kept pace with the state between 2011-12 and 2014-15. We used publicly available state and federal data so our results would be reproducible and transparent, but because of the time it takes for states to release data, the results may not reflect the most recent developments in the city.

► Between 2012-13 and 2014-15, the reading proficiency rate gap between the city and state was closing. In 2014-15 the city’s proficiency rate was 3 percentage points below the state’s.

► Graduation rates in the city remained flat relative to the state. In 2014-15, the city’s graduation rate was behind the state’s.

Data are for all charter and district schools within the municipal boundary. Performance data from the New York State Education Department, graduation data from EDFacts. See Methodology & Resources for more detail.


About New York City

As the largest public school system in the country, New York City is a leader in managing quality and choice within a complex system. Under former schools chancellor Joel Klein, New York City embarked on a portfolio management strategy that opened it to improved choice and increased school-level autonomy. While choice and autonomy remained under Chancellor Carmen Fariña, new priorities focus on universal Pre–K, investing  in struggling schools, and building community schools. The first charter school in NYC opened in 1999. Charters have grown to 10 percent of total enrollment but are limited by caps on authorizing.

School Choice in the City

New York City offers a citywide Pre–K and kindergarten choice process for all families, and 3–K for income-eligible families. Students are assigned to a neighborhood elementary school, but there are several citywide selective-enrollment choice schools in the lower grades, as well as three unzoned or partially unzoned districts (1, 7, 23). Students have limited choices for middle school, and all district high schools are available for choice. Charter schools are typically open enrollment, but some have neighborhood preferences.

Governance Model

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) operates  under the control of Mayor Bill De Blasio, who appoints the Chancellor of Education, currently Richard Carranza. Mayoral control has been in effect for 15 years, and the current contract runs through June 2019. There are 32 community school districts within the city that oversee schools in each region. There are three authorizers for charter schools in the city: NYCDOE (which can no longer authorize new schools), State University of New York, and the New York State Education Department. 

2015 District and Charter Student Body

Enrollment: 1,308,212 students
Race and ethnicity: 42% Hispanic, 31% black, 15% white, 12% other
Low-income: 72% free and reduced-price lunch

2017 School Composition 

Source: Enrollment data from the Education Equality Index, 2014-15.
School data from researcher analysis of public records, 2016-17.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email