Remember when the primary qualification during the last Superintendent search was that the candidate be local? Can we please not make that mistake again?
Vargas is right to focus on third grade literacy instead of graduation rates. The latter is far too lagging of an indicator. However, it is hard to see where there is reason to celebrate progress. Only a mere 6.6% of RCSD third graders were proficient on the 2015 ELA test. If this has been an area of intense effort at improvement, the results are troubling at best.
Does anyone else find it mildly alarming that the U of R (a research institution) is asking NYS for a list of schools with 75% free and reduced lunch and 75% graduation rate? Such a combination is hardly unheard of in the state, and can be readily gleaned from the data available on NYSED's website. Something is fishy about this tale. I sure hope this partnership is not starting off with an effort to lower expectations already.
It is difficult not to agree with Gotta Say It here. If anything, the case is being understated and the "desirable" city schools, upon deeper scrutiny, fall far short of the standard being set by their suburban peers (or even charter peers with similar populations). I say this as someone with a deep concern for and interest in city schools. It is great to shine a light on the positive, but we do great harm if we insist on living in denial of the radical changes needed. The kids are not alright.
When discussing solutions to our community's poverty plague, there are really two separate problems to tackle: 1) serving the immediate life needs of the existing poor, and 2) ending the cycle that leads people to poverty in the first place. Generally, we as Rochesterians are relatively competent at addressing the former, more short-term issue. However, we have barely scratched the surface of the more long-term, sustainable approach that might dramatically reduce the poverty level in an sustained manner.
Such a solution to this latter problem requires an intensive and dramatically different strategy for serving our children in particular. As our child poverty rate increases to third-world levels, we cannot afford to continue addressing problem #1 while ignoring the long-term damage of problem #2.
Pay close attention as the anti-poverty initiative congeals. We need real innovation for a change! If we wind up with the same old players trying to find solutions the same old way, but under a different name, then "crisis" is indeed the right word to use.
There is nothing inherently wrong with selective school programs (SOTA and Urban-Suburban certainly qualify as such) as long as we are all forthcoming about their nature and caveats. However, this article is about charter schools, which are barred by law from being overtly selective...and one charter school in particular with a continuous history of incongruous student demographics.
A little context would serve Mr. Macaluso's piece well. First, GCCS is a distinct aberration when it comes to the populations served by charter schools in our city and state. Most charters actively recruit from the poorest and most under-served urban populations and wind up with demographics that match their host districts. When GCCS opened over a decade ago, its admission process was by lottery as required, however the school intentionally recruited a more middle class student population (advertising on NPR, and relying on word of mouth in wealthier communities). GCCS made sure to hold its lottery very early each year to ensure a distinct advantage for those who heard about the school through word of mouth. Through this and other technically legal means, the school had an incredibly low free and reduced lunch student population (poverty measure) that hovered around 10%. Then in 2010, NYS amended the charter law and required charter schools to meet specific demographic targets tied to the school's host district (NOT host county!). A handful of schools like GCCS came under intense pressure from authorizers to change their recruitment and enrollment practices, though because GCCS only enrolls at the kindergarten level and siblings of existing students are given guaranteed entry, even the changes required by law left only a narrow opening for change at the school. Since then, the poverty rate has inched upward at GCCS to 24%...still well below the RCSD and the county averages.
I happen to believe GCCS delivers an exceptional education program in a city that is short on quality options. However, the school is in clear violation of the charter law and needs to be more accessible to ALL city students. Sometimes in the course of discussions such as this, it is easy to forget that there are outstanding charter schools here in Rochester that serve poor students almost exclusively and deliver tremendous results. These are the outliers we should be writing about and learning from!
So the decades-old city school busing saga continues. This was quite possibly the only way it could have grown worse.
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