New Yorkers Say Mayor Has Not Improved Schools

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Yorkers are broadly dissatisfied with the quality of their public schools, and most say the city?s school system has stagnated or declined since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of it nine years ago, according to a New York Times poll.

Mr. Bloomberg has made improving the schools a focus of his mayoralty, seizing authority over the bureaucracy, doubling the budget and opening hundreds of additional, small schools. Still, even as his overall approval rating, 45 percent, is at a six-year low, considerably fewer residents ? 34 percent ? approve of how the mayor is handling education.

?What had been a signature issue for Bloomberg may not be the legacy issue he hoped it would be,? said Bruce M. Gyory, a political consultant and adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Albany.

In follow-up interviews, poll respondents expressed various reasons for their dissatisfaction, including frustration over the system of school choice, services for disabled children and the emphasis on standardized tests.

?Bloomberg treats the schools and the education system like a business,? said Liette Pedraza-Tucker, 41, a film editor from Brooklyn. ?But schools aren?t a business. Kids need nurturing, not to be treated like adults.?

Robert Kemp, 74, a retired bank officer from Queens, said: ?What they?re teaching is too narrowly focused. It?s all ?Let?s pass tests?; it?s not about turning out educated kids.?

City Hall played down the results. ?The numbers we are focused on are the gains our students are making in the classroom, and by those measures, we have made historic progress,? said Julie Wood, a mayoral spokeswoman. ?Graduation rates are at an all-time high and we are outpacing the rest of the state on test scores. But we have to keep raising the bar.?

The poll was conducted Aug. 9 to 15, with telephone interviews of 1,027 adults throughout New York City. Of the respondents, 287 identified themselves as parents, and 167 said they were parents of a child in public school. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all adults, plus or minus six percentage points for all parents and plus or minus eight percentage points for public school parents.

Dissatisfaction with public schools in New York is longstanding. Through much of the 1990s, as well as in Mr. Bloomberg?s first years in office, few residents were satisfied, past Times polls found.

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