The Rochester school district has become a “remedial district,” Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said today at an early morning meeting with parents and students. The term is used by educators to describe a teaching atmosphere that emphasizes helping students catch up to as close to grade level as possible.
The way to change the district, he said, was to stop putting so much emphasis on intervention in the later grades, and redirect the district’s and the community’s resources to early childhood development.
“We need to be putting our emphasis on Pre-K to 3rd grade because we know that intervention costs so much more,” Vargas said. And many students become so disengaged and alienated that intervention doesn’t always help them.
There’s so much emphasis on intervention that even those students who are doing well aren’t receiving the support they need, Vargas said. This is one of the reasons middle class parents decide to pull their children out of the district and enroll them in suburban schools.
“Accelerated learning is lacking in this district,” Vargas said, citing a school where 8th grade math was being taught to 9th graders, and those students capable of working above grade level were being ignored.
Vargas said the district is too reliant on phasing out a failing school and phasing in a new school. Giving the new school a brand identity, such as global finance, for example, can’t succeed if the students haven’t been prepared in earlier grades for what that school offers.
“We’re not going to use the [state recommended] phase-in, phase-out model anymore,” Vargas said. “It doesn’t work. We are redefining education reform in Rochester.”