By Tom Momberg
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been working to improve the city’s education system, delivered an “equity and excellence” speech at a Bronx school Wednesday, in which he announced at least two major efforts.
First, de Blasio is setting an initiative to give every public school student access to computer science education within the next 10 years.
The program, Computer Science for All: Fundamentals for Our Future, is intended to aid in reaching a goal the mayor set forth in 2014’s State of the City address—moving public school graduates into the city’s growing technology jobs sector.
Tech jobs grew by 57 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to the city Office of Strategic Partnerships, and de Blasio said graduates of city schools should be prepared to work in the tech sector or seek higher education in the field.
Fewer than 5 percent of city students currently have computer science classes, the mayor said.
De Blasio is investing in an $81 million public and private partnership between the city Foundation for Computer Science, the Robin Hood Foundation and the AOL Charitable Foundation, along with the Fund for Public Schools.
Even if students choose not to enter the technology field, de Blasio said that by learning computer code, robotics, web design and other tools, students can be better prepared to use technology in many fields, which would help foster creative and critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork.
Additionally, de Blasio announced in his speech he would be piloting a new guidance program in two of the DOE’s most needy districts starting next school year—District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Central Brooklyn to hire, promote and train what he called “single shepherds.”
The “single shepherd” would be a person who could serve as a life coach, guidance counselor and career and higher education adviser, to stick with each student starting in those two school districts, from sixth grade through senior year.
“The same individual, who year after year can help set goals and overcome obstacles; the same person that can offer moral support when you are down; someone that can help you choose the right high school and remind you when your financial aid forms are due; the person who knows you and cares about you,” is how de Blasio described the “single shepherd.” He also said that far too many public school children do not have someone, such as a parent, serving that role for them.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb