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ROCHESTER COALITION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Vision and Mission 

Coalition Principles

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The Rochester Coalition for Public Education strongly believes that the achievement gap between RCSD students and students in other districts is a resource gap resulting from historical and current institutional and structural racism and classism. Those factors result, not only, in separate and unequal education opportunities for Rochester students but also, housing, employment,taxing inequities and others. Research shows that poverty and racial segregation severely undermines educational progress and success. Consequently, RCSD students and their families experience not only separate and unequal education, but also inferior housing, employment, medical treatment, tax benefits and other opportunities. (Finnigan& Holmes, 2019)

We also believe the organization and delivery of current curriculum, assessment, and teaching practices are, in many cases, not research-based and need complete transformation if we hopeto facilitate the development of socially responsible, happy, successful citizens.(Ryan & Deci: 2017) Given these beliefs, we urge that local, state, federal governments and its agencies adopt the following goals:

  1. The creation of a Monroe County Regional Policy and Governing Board to facilitate the development of socio-economic and education policies and actions to develop equitable public housing, tax sharing, medical care, employment and education for all Rochester &Monroe County students and residents. Any assumption that educational equity is achievable without this collaborative approach will result in only superficial gains for those city students and residents experiencing poverty and trauma. Rochester needs a regional approach as described in the book, Striving in Common, by  KaraFinnigan and Jennifer Holmes, to promote significant education and economic growth and development of Rochester students and their families. As Finnigan and Holmes state: “The key is to help regional playersand state actors understand that urban school problems (as well as housing and economic problems) are the result of regional dynamicsrather than the fault of those who struggle (such as urban schools or students.)” (Striving in Common, Finnigan& Holmes, 2018)

 

  1. Our Coalition believes New York State’s and the federal government’s current use of high-stakes testing for accountability and assessment purposes severely harms students, teachers, schools and society. (Koretz: 2017) Volumes of research demonstrate that current high-stakes testing policy and practice results in the following:

  • Invalid teacher evaluation scores, largely based on test scores of students who have substantial variables in their liveswhich negatively impactsstudent growth and development.

  • Holding English as Second Language students, who have little or no English language experience, accountable for passing standardized English exams, after only one year of learning English. Development of language proficiency is a multi-year process.

  • Using unreliable, invalid, non-field-tested standardized tests to hold students accountable,

  • Holding all students accountable for meeting grade-level expectations, when some students are not developmentally ready or who do not receive the resource help they need.

  • Punishing students, teachers & school communities, by labeling them as failures.

  • Teachers focusing on “teaching-to-the-test,” rather than student interests and areas not often tested, like citizenship, music and current social problems,

  • Some students and teachers “cheat,”

  • Middle & upper-class students may receive “paid” extra tutoring, and some students are taught skills for more accurate guessing. (Hursh:2016)

 

Our Coalition urges that the Board of Regents adopt the following recommendations for any continued use of standardized testing, based on the research of Dr. Daniel Koretz (The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better):

  • Test student sample populations vs. every student,

  • Set realistic, appropriate test score goals for individual students,

  • Use “performance-based” vs. memorize and regurgitate tasks,

  • Pilot for validity and reliability, before implementation,

  • Test what is essential, and

  • Use human judgment as part of the process.

  • Involve the publicin an organic,direct and meaningful way. Broad representation and input is needed if tests are to be valuable, especially to the student.

 

3.  As a viable alternative to the use of high-stakes standardized testing, our Coalition urges the Board of Regents to allow and encourage individual Rochester high schools to apply for entrance into the Regents sanctioned NYS Performance Standards Consortium, and if accepted, to use the Consortium’s Performance Based Assessments, The Consortium’s research on student performance shows significant success and growth of students when compared to similar student groups in comprehensive high schools. Our Coalition also urges the Regents to expand the grade levels of the Consortium from 9-12 to K-12. The success of Consortium schools gives thorough, hard evidence that their philosophy and use of alternative assessments and curricula is working, while the current “test and punish” system has had little, if any significant success with other NYS student populations over the past two decades. (NYS Performance Standards Consortium Research: 2012)

 

4.  Our Coalition strongly recommends that all Rochester and all New York State parents of students in grades 3-8, receive clear, concise information about their rights to “opt” their children out of any NYS high-stakes standardized tests.  Suburban, middle-class parents are much more likely to have access to this information and therefore, more likely to make a conscious choice to exercise their rights. Poverty-stricken parents need to have the information to make a meaningful choice. (NYSAPE: 2017)

 

5. That the organization and delivery of current curriculum, assessment, teacher-student relationships  and teaching & learning practices, are, in many cases, due to the obsessive use of high-stakes standardized testing, expectations, and curriculum, are not research-based and need complete transformation to those that are constructivist and learner-centered, if we hope to intrinsically motivate students to attend school, meaningfully engage, and facilitate the development of socially responsible, happy, successful citizens. The RCSD must work collaboratively with local college and university teacher preparation programs and teacher-centers to meet these needs.   (NYS Performance Standards Consortium Research Data, CTC, 2012)

 

6.  The Rochester Coalition for Public Education supports the volumes of research which concludes student performance is negatively affected by the trauma and adverse conditions that children often experience from concentrated poverty. We strongly recommend that the Rochester Board of Education & City Government, NYS Board of Regents, NY State Education Department and NYS State Legislature enact policy and statutes to support the following, some of which has been successfully developed and modeled at Rochester’s School #17:

 

  • Funding to create social worker, psychologist, restorative justice, medical personnel, job training and parent counseling positions in all schools at teacher/student ratios that far exceed the current RCSD rates; however, the Monroe County Social Services Department delivery system is terribly outdated and inefficient, and must be updated, as well.

  • Funding to reduce all class size, student-teacher ratios, to 15 to 1, and

  • Funding to support teacher professional development on teaching, learning and intervention strategies. (Ravitch: 2012)

 

7.   Although the Coalition supports all initiatives to decrease racial and socio-economic segregation through a regional approach, we believe that the creation of urban community schools as places and sets of partnerships between individual schools and community resources, with an integrated focus on academics, youth development, family support, health and social services and community development that leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. A highly successful model is Rochester’s School #17, which was developed through the efforts of former Principal, Ralph Spezio, and current Principal, Caterina Leone-Minnino, through her efforts to create a school partnership with Rochester Mayor Warren.

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8 .  Our Coalition is strongly opposed to any form of mayoral control since there is no evidence to indicate that any city that uses ithas created any significant, valid, research-based growth and development with students. Mayoral control also diminishes democracy by disenfranchising voters from electing a Board of Education.  We are, however, in favor of mayoral partnerships, such as the partnership modeled at Rochester’s school #17, and encourage the Rochester Mayor to replicate her partnership process with other schools. (Ravitch: 2012)

 

9.  Our Coalition also vigorously opposes the privatization of public schools, including charter schools, vouchers or corporate tax credit scholarships. Charter schools, as demonstrated by robustresearch, take funding away from schools (that need significant funding increases), offer little transparency, oppose unions, increase racial and class segregation, generate high student and teacher turn-over rates, often use harmful zero-tolerance policies, have approximately  only17% of their schools performing better than their public counterparts, lack publicly elected school boards, and are plagued by widespread financial malfeasance.Additionally, hundreds close annually, leaving thousands of students and families frustrated and dislocated. We urge the Board of Regents to lobby the NYS legislature to declare a moratorium on the creation of any new charter schools and begin to systematically phase out those that are currently operating or incorporating them into the public school districts in which they operate.(Ravitch: 2012) (Tell, 2015) (CREDO: 2011)

 

10.  To promote the creation and development of schools that model many of the goals advocated in this document, to encourage teacher/parent/student/administrator and citizen creative problem-solving, to compete with the growing number of charter schools recruiting RCSD students, and to re-coup lost student funding to charters, our Coalition urges the RCSD Board of Education to create a standing committee of teachers, parents, administrators, BOE members, local college professors of education and human development and organization development specialists to encourage local citizen groups to develop proposals for new schools and present them to this committee for feedback and recommendations to the BOE. (See 2017 Rochester Coalition for Public Education original proposal to the RCSD BOE.)

 

11.  Our Coalition also opposes NYS’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the recent NYSED-directed re-written “Next Generation” version. The development of the Common Core failed to involve practitioners and human development specialists from its inception and requires student performance for specific grade-level students that are developmentally inappropriate. The NYS Common Core version also strongly influences the creation of a curriculum that is “test-driven,” vs. one addressing the needs and interests of students and society. “Student choice” is a fundamental axiom for student intrinsic motivation and engagement. Without systematic adoption of this humanistic concept, many students will continue to disengage and choose non-attendance, or withdrawal. We urge the Board of Regents to allow individual schools to “opt-out” of NY’s Common Core version and be encouraged to join the NYS Performance Standards Consortium or create their own BOE and Regents approved model for standards, curriculum, and assessment that best fits the needs of their student populations. (Ravitch: 2012) (Cody:NPE , 2011) (Tyler: 1942)

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