A somber Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said at a press conference this afternoon that the just-released results of new state tests, in which Rochester students scored the lowest of all the Big Five school districts, were predictable. The district has for years provided the least amount of instruction to students who need more time on task, he said.
The New York State Education Department released the results of tests for grades 3-8 earlier today. Only 5.4 percent of Rochester students met the English proficiency standard and just 5 percent met the math standard.
The tests were designed to measure the new, more rigorous curriculum referred to as the Common Core, which is being implemented across the state and in many states across the country.
Vargas said the district is responding aggressively to the state’s announcement. For starters, in September, 20 schools will provide students with longer school days.
“We have a new master schedule that will include 90-minute modules for math and English,” Vargas said. The usual class time is about 40 minutes.
Vargas also took the opportunity to say that the news should convince parents, teachers, and community leaders that educating the city’s students is a citywide task that requires everyone’s help to solve. Increased attention to basics like reading and attendance are critical, he said. And the entire city needs to adopt a pro-reading, pro-education culture, he said, because the standards that New York’s students will have to meet in the future have been dramatically raised.Though no school board members were present for the press conference, Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said that he and the union fully support Vargas’s efforts. And labor negotiations are under way to provide students with longer school days and more arts, music, and sports programs.
“The news is grim and we have to do better,” Urbanski said.
Urbanski was asked about a statement released today by mayoral candidate and City Council President Lovely Warren in response to the state news. Warren essentially challenged Mayor Tom Richards, her opponent, to refuse to accept the RTA’s endorsement of his re-election bid, and to return any RTA campaign donations.
“I have nothing but respect for teachers — but let’s be clear that the teachers union is fighting my plan because charter school teachers are not part of that union.That does not make me anti-union, anti-teacher, or anti-worker. It makes me anti-failure and pro-children," Warren's statement said.
Urbanski said that the RTA is not giving money to Richards, and that Warren is scapegoating the union.
He went on to say, “I will challenge her to a public debate on the role of the union in educating children.” Warren declined the offer.