Walcott Welcomes New School Year

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New York City begins a new school year Thursday with more than one million students and 75,000 teachers returning to their classrooms. There are 55 new schools this fall, 24 of them are charter schools.

In a WNYC interview, School Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the 2012-13 year will be marked by two major policy reforms. The city is rolling out changes to special education across the city as well as expanding the Common Core learning standards.

"Over the last two days our schools have been really working very hard around the implementation of Common Core, so that when the students start on Thursday they have the Common Core course subjects being taught right away," said Walcott in an interview with SchoolBook editor Patricia Willens about the new academic year.

Listen to the full conversation above.

"We want to make sure that the students and the subjects being taught to these students are deeper in knowledge and really making sure our students are able to focus on critical thinking, critical analysis," he said.

The chancellor said he hopes to see special education reform, which aims to include more special education students in mainstream classrooms, raise the test scores of students with disabilities and better incorporate these students with their non-disabled peers.

"When I walk into a classroom I should not be able to distinguish a special ed student from a general education student, and to me that's part of the success," Walcott said.

He also touched on the issue of a teacher evaluation plan, supporting 24 turnaround schools and preparing for standardized tests. But, he said, more details on those issues will wait for another day, after the back-to-school glow fades a bit.