ALBANY — An unprecedented number of public schools in New York are now considered in need of improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind program in the latest warning about the state's education system, state officials said Thursday.
In all, 1,325 of the state's 4,685 public schools are on the list.
School that fail to improve may ultimately be closed, but almost all succeed to improve test scores and other measures over a two-year period, which can get them off the list.
"Our students are not graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers," said state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., who is in his first year on the job. "That has to change, and change now."
Earlier this month, New York was the only state to see a decline in its math score for fourth graders in a national assessment of public schools. Overall, the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed mostly stagnant academic progress in the state over the last two years.
"This is just further evidence — if we need any — that we must move forward to reform our schools and change what is happening in our classrooms," said state schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who leads the Board of Regents. "Schools must be held accountable. We are watching."
But a watchdog group, the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, says improvement is too slow.
"In New York there remain hundreds of thousands of students trapped in failing schools despite well-meaning and ongoing attempts to change the public education system a little bit at a time," said B. Jason Brooks of the foundation. "But the dramatic increase in failing schools statewide calls for an equally-dramatic response."
He said greater school choice is needed to force competition, including more publicly funded charter schools and vouchers for private schools.
"More tinkering around the edges won't deliver the improvement students in failing schools want, need, and deserve," Brooks said.
More than 1,100 of the schools receive additional aid to provide extra help for low-income students and students in 416 will be allowed to choose other public schools. The amount will be determined by analyzing each school's needs.
This year's list added 847 schools, 350 of them in New York City. A year ago, just 99 schools were new to the list.
The state says 23 schools improved enough over the past year to get off the list. They made "adequate yearly progress" over the last two school years.
In addition, 16 schools on last year's list were closed, or are in the process of closing, after failing to show adequate improvement.
Several programs that aim to improve instruction and student performance are under way. A core curriculum will replace decades of greater latitude in setting curricula by school districts and local teachers and performance reviews for administrators, and teachers are beginning to include student performance on standardized tests as a factor in retaining, promoting and rewarding teachers.