The city identified 94 failing schools that will become "community schools," where officials will focus not just on academics but also on improving children's mental, physical, social and emotional well-being, de Blasio said at East Harlem's Coalition School for Social Change.
If the schools do not improve under the initiative, they may be closed "as a last resort," de Blasio said.
The programs targeted under the initiative include 43 in The Bronx, 27 in Brooklyn, 12 in Manhattan and 12 in Queens.
Those on this list had three years of low academic achievement, ranking in the bottom 25 percent of city schools on math and English state exam scores or graduation rates. They showed limited capacity for improvement, according to their most recent "quality review" reports, which are conducted by expert educators, and many were identified by the state as "priority" schools, putting their performance in the bottom 5 percent of schools across New York State.
De Blasio's hourlong speech Monday came on the heels of criticism from many educators — including the principal who resigned at Bedford-Stuyvesant's Boys and Girls High School, which is one of the schools on the list — claiming that the administration had no clear and concrete plan for helping struggling schools.
"We reject the notion of giving up on any of our schools — and any of our children," de Blasio said, noting that for too long the city divided the school system into “good schools” and “bad schools," and "we wrote off the ones we called 'bad.'"
The schools that were "written off" were not given much-needed resources, he said.
"The best teachers generally did not want to work in these schools. And parents were shut out," he said. "These schools — their teachers, parents, students — felt put down. Because they were put down."
Instead, de Blasio is hoping additional resources, through the community school model, will be able to turn programs around.
Community schools, for instance, might have food pantries for students' families or they might offer English language classes for parents who don't understand English. They might have doctors, nurses and psychologists, who can handle issues like a student who needs glasses or a student who has been diagnosed with ADHD. At one newly designated community school on the Lower East Side, the staff installed a washer and dryer to help ensure that parents could send their kids to school with clean clothes.
"It’s officially called 'The School Renewal Program,'" de Blasio said. "But I like to think of it by a simpler name: 'No Bad Schools' because that is what it is about — ensuring no child in the city goes to a school that does not provide a high-quality education."
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew acknowledged that the program would be a "huge challenge" for schools in terms of finding time and space for the extra services, but he said he supported the mayor's plan.
"Schools know they're struggling and for the first time in a long time you heard a mayor say, 'I'm here to help you,'" Mulgrew said. "That helps a lot in trying to change the culture of a building."