Position Statement on Racism, Poverty & Social Justice
The Rochester Coalition for Public Education strongly believes that the poverty, trauma and injustices that many Black, Indiginous, People of Color are experiencing in the areas of education, housing, employment, transportation, health, voting and criminal justice, are directly related to our nation’s long history of institutional, structural and personal racism. We will continue to work to eliminate the impacts of racism, personal bias and discrimination in the following ways:
We will promote and use research and evidence-based, best education practices to help shape policies and practices to combat racism and poverty, and improve outcomes for all students; particularly for impoverished Black, Indigenous, Students of Color. (See “Rochester Coalition for Public Education’s RCSD Intervention Recommendations” for specific examples.)
We will conduct on-going internal reviews of our policies and practices on race, gender, and class equity and inclusion, and through this review process, identify specific goals and actions to achieve within 45-day timelines.
We will commit to being anti-racist within our organization and expanding our efforts to be an effective anti-racist partner with other groups fighting racism and other forms of discrimination; particularly within education.
We will increase the diversity and particularly the number of active BIPOC members of the coalition through recruitment and through identifying and changing ways that the group will be more welcoming and inclusive.
Rochester Coalition for Public Education Position Statement
On Rochester City School District School Choice
RCSD Intervention Recommendations to
Ensure Student Success
The Rochester Coalition for Public Education supports the rights of all parents to choose the form of education they and their children desire. The choices available to Rochester City School District parents include the following:
Public Schools - Public schools are learning institutions that are funded by local, state and federal governments. They offer general education opportunities to children in kindergarten through grade 12, as well as extracurricular activities. The main differences between a private and public school are in how they are funded, who can afford to attend them, and the selective admissions process followed by many private schools. Public school teaching and learning are strongly influenced by mandated high-stakes standardized testing. However, there is some precedent for state and local variances being granted to individual schools for generating more creativity in curriculum, pedagogy and assessments. Examples include Rochester’s School Without Walls, School of the Arts and the World of Inquiry. Public School Districts may also choose to offer parents and students limited or unlimited choice of K-12 schools within their school district; but governed by seating capacity at each school. Some Rochester neighborhoods have made efforts to create “Community Schools,” with a strong emphasis on creating a sense of the neighborhood being meaningfully involved in school decision-making and activities.
Charter schools –Charter schools are publicly funded and often aided by private corporate monies, and privately run. Charter schools are exempt from many of the state and local regulations which govern most public schools, except that of high-stakes standardized testing results. These exemptions also grant charter schools some autonomy and flexibility with decision-making, in regard to teacher union contracts, hiring, curriculum and student selection. Charter schools may also expel students who do not meet their behavioral and academic expectations, and return those students to their home school district for assignment. Because enrollment in charter schools must, by NYS law, reflect the demographics of the school districts in which they are located, they tend to be as segregated as their home district non-charter public schools. Reported student outcomes in charter schools have been mixed over the years. Charter schools are subject to stricter accountability on spending and academic performance, and as a result, subject to closure and return of their students to their home school district.
Magnet schools - Magnet schools are public schools that have historically been developed to promote racial and socio-economic integration, and that typically have specialized themes, such as science, technology, social justice, art or a particular method of education, such as experiential, outdoor or community internships. Such magnet schools are typically open to all children from the city or regional area, who desire these kinds of educational experiences.
Private Schools –Independent and religious schools are privately owned and funded without the direct assistance of local, state or federal governments. At private schools, students usually pay tuition to attend. Private schools are free from many state and local regulations.
The Urban-Suburban Transfer Program- Several Monroe County School Districts have voluntarily agreed to accept a limited number of Rochester City School District students of color into their school districts. RCSD students may apply and be considered for admission based upon test scores, grades, teacher and administrator recommendations, interviews and behavioral records. Students who do not meet school district expectations may be returned to the RCSD. Funding for participating students is through the RCSD, including transportation
Home schooling - "Home education" or "home schooling" is instruction in a child's home, or provided primarily by a parent, or under direct parental control. School district superintendents are responsible for monitoring home schooling.
Though the Coalition supports the right of all parents and students to make any of the above choices, we are opposed to the development of any additional NYS charter schools for the following reasons:
Charters drain funding from the Rochester City School District, which desperately needs additional funding to meet the needs of many impoverished, traumatized students. With more than 6,000 Rochester students attending charter schools, there is a loss of approximately 87 million dollars per year from the RCSD budget. (data.nysed.gov,RCSD, “2018-2019 School Year Financial Transparency Report.”)
Motivated parents and students will seek to experience charters that have attractive advertising campaigns, to improve their children’s educational experiences. This phenomenon has the effect of removing many highly-motivated students and parents from RCSD’s public schools. (Phys.org: “Study Asks Why Students With More to Gain from Charter Schools are Less Likely to Apply,” Maclay, 4/14/2018)
Charter schools often expel or counsel-out students who do not meet their academic or social-emotional standards; returning them back to the RCSD, thus creating an additional form of segregation. (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Murphy, “Are Suburban and Charter Schools Pushing Special Ed Students to RCSD’s Door?” 10/21/19)
Resulting from attracting motivated parents and students, expulsions and counsel-outs, as well as an over-emphasis on high-stakes standardized test results, some charters outperform public schools, due to skewed variables in student populations. But despite these advantages, a number of other charter schools have failed and ultimately closed, as a result creating more disruption in those students’ and parents’ lives. (NYSED.gov, Charter School Office, NYS Charter Schools 2020-21: Charter School Facts, 8/4/2020)
NYS law requires charter schools to reflect the demographics of the district in which they’re located. This requirement essentially guarantees racial and socio-economic segregation, rather than promoting integration. Also, charter schools tend to attract motivated parents and students who are dissatisfied with their home schools, thereby creating another form of segregation. (NYSED.gov, Charter School Regulations, 2020-2021.)
Charter schools are not an ultimate solution, since they serve a skewed percentage of the City’s population, and thereby prevent a focus on the real problems of poverty, trauma, institutional racism, and non-research-informed educational and social solutions.
The Rochester Coalition for Public Education supports the rights of Rochester parents and students to have the ability to select from a wide range of options. However, we also recognize that many of these options, though potentially desirable from an individual student perspective, have negative public policy implications for the Rochester City School District, by not only removing dedicated, motivated students and parents from the District, but also, along with the loss of enrollment, loss of revenues essential to the District’s financial viability – thereby helping exacerbate existing disparities between city and suburban district student outcomes.
Thus, we also advocate for immediate changes in the funding formulas, such that the District does not lose needed revenues for those students who leave the RCSD for other options. Moreover, we strongly support adding to parent and student choices by the creation of new research-based city and suburban cross-district regional public magnet schools designed to be socio-economically and racially-diverse and to more effectively address currently-unmet needs and interests of students across the county. Essentially, these schools would be “re-imagined schools” with consciously-diverse student bodies and special themes, curricula, pedagogy standards and assessments. The NYS Performance-Based Standards Consortium, a Regents-approved group of approximately 30 public schools, should be used as a model. These schools would also be designed to attract, reclaim and retain city private school and charter school students within public school settings, while retaining public school revenues within the District.
RCSD Intervention Recommendations to
Ensure Student Success
Recommended RCSD Intervention Initiatives
All listed goals that follow in this document would be priority agenda items for the RCSD Superintendent and BoE to implement and achieve, working closely with the Education Leaders as directed by the NYS Board of Regents and subject to their review, advisement and intervention.
The BoE, Superintendent Dade, Mayor Warren, County Executive Bello and our local State legislative delegation must lobby, intensively, and mobilize all local organizations and citizens to lobby the NYS Legislature and Governor for application of the court-ordered Campaign for Fiscal Equity equitable funding to Rochester schools. Without this additional funding, given current financial RCSD deficits, RCSD students will suffer irreparable harm and many of the recommendations in this document for students’ benefit will not be able to be adequately achieved.
*See Addendum #1 for more information.
Building upon current efforts of the RCSD Parent Office, Parent Advisory Committee efforts and individual School Based Planning Team initiatives, there must be immediate initiatives to create and model with volunteer parents, parent advocates and concerned citizens, a new BoE policy that emphasizes the development of meaningful parent partnerships in all schools and with all BoE committees.* See Addendum #2 for more details.
Building upon the School #17 model, requiring the Superintendent, in consultation with the New York State Education Commissioner, to convert all schools to “community schools,” with funding from New York State; with a specific focus on providing services to those students and families experiencing trauma from poverty-related conditions. To that end, the 1.5 mile minimum busing requirement in New York State’s busing reimbursement formula will be waved to allow parents the ability to choose safe busing for their child to their neighborhood school. * See Addendum #3 for more details.
Extending on current RCSD initiatives, collaboratively creating, with the assistance of the Advisory Committee (see #5 below), RTA, ASAR, and BENTE, a policy and plan for providing required professional development for all staff in “trauma-based” education, institutional and personal racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance.* See Addendum #4 for more details.
Creating a permanent BoE Advisory Committee, consisting of students, parents, teachers, administrators, university/college of education professors, and other human development and health experts who would meet monthly with the BoE to:
a) Present and encourage valic education “best practice” for use in the RCSD (e.g., collaborating with local higher education representatives for agreement on changes needed to prepare teachers and administrators for employment in the RCSD, starting times for schools, intrinsic motivation, etc.), and "learner-centered” teaching methodologies
b) Encourage community engagement for creating proposals for innovative schools and programs for more effectively meeting the needs of RCSD students, by providing new, “best-practice” learning opportunities to those parents and students seeking creative alternatives to the traditional education system.
c)Agenda priorities will be determined jointly, by this Advisory Committee, the Superintendent, the appointed “Education Experts” and BoE members. * Please see Addendum #5 for more details.
Building upon the highly successful RCSD Pre-K Literacy Program, establish an Early Literacy Policy and Practice Council (ELPPC) PreK - Third Grade, led by a nationally recognized early literacy expert. The ELPPC would include the Executive Director of Early Childhood, elementary principals, literacy coaches, and classroom teachers. The Council would be responsible for developing and implementing the research-based early literacy standards, curriculum, instructional practices, accountability measures, and teacher development necessary to construct clarity of purpose and a shared vision for early literacy education. The Early Literacy Policy and Practice Council would report directly to the Superintendent.
We also recommend that:
There be two certified teachers in every Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade class, and
All Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade teachers complete a paid six-week Early Literacy Inservice Course during the summer.
That literacy development encompass a number of spheres, including interpersonal skills, health, self recognition, creativity and curiosity, numerical cognition and spatial relationships.
* Please see Addendum #6 for more information.
7. Assisting the RCSD superintendent in assembling suburban superintendents ready to work with RCSD to consider developing one or more pilot voluntary inter-district magnet schools aimed at easing the effects of concentrated poverty in city schools. These schools would offer unique programming that no individual district can offer and would be intentionally integrated (with an approximate 50-50 mix of low and middle-income students, consistent with national research indicating significant improvements in student outcomes and longer-term success as a result).
* Please see Addendum #7 for more information.
8. Obtaining NYS funding and variances to:
Significantly reduce current student/teacher classroom ratios for the purpose of:
Building closer 1:1 teacher-student relationships to meet student academic & psycho-social needs,
Increasing learning with fewer academic interventions and classroom disruptions, and
Creating more accountability for learning for all students.
*See Addendum 8A.
Create alternatives to all current high stakes standardized testing in all K-12 grades, including 9-12 Regents Exams, Next Generation and Common Core Exams and standards, to those that are more relevant and intrinsically motivating for students to develop skills and knowledge needed to survive and function effectively and responsibly in our society.
* See Addendum 8B for more specifics.
Create alternative diplomas to the current “one-size-fits-all” Regents diploma track, to one that includes:
A high standards, real-world oriented Vocational Diploma that includes apprenticeships, internships, co-ops, and demonstrations of employability.
A diploma modeled after the NYS Performance Standards Consortium diploma requirements,
A Special Needs Diploma that incorporates a major emphasis on real-world social/emotional skills, values and understandings,
The current Regents test-driven diploma, for those students and parents who desire it, and
Any of the above described diplomas for “over-age and under credit” students, other than the current GED
* See Addendum 8C for more details.
New requirements for "New English Language Learners" with the support systems they need to learn English through responsible, best-practice, research-based methods, and earn a diploma in any of the above diploma areas.
* See Addendum 8D for more details.
9. The “Future Search” process has been used successfully for the past thirty years, internationally, for helping regions consisting of diverse power structures and backgrounds develop and achieve a vision, goals, commitment and action to solve “common ground” agreed-upon issues. Because the academic and social/emotional condition of RCSD students is the direct result of regional structural and institutional racism and classism, the BoE must become active initiators and supporters of this process, if they hope to see significant relief from the poverty and trauma that negatively impacts RCSD student growth and development.
* Please see Addendum #9.
According to data compiled by the Alliance for Quality Education, the Rochester City School District is owed approximately $97,000,000, by NYS.
All RCSD “Parent Liaisons” must have a priority goal of creating and maintaining positive parent-school relationships and involvement. They must demonstrate proficiency in communications and interpersonal relationships, through in-service training and assessments. “Meaningful parent/school partnerships” should include staff and parent training, home visits, parent participation in student portfolio reviews, classroom visitations, volunteer opportunities, feedback sessions with principal and staff, and parent representation on School Based Planning Teams and opportunities to make recommendations to staff other than through SBPT.
The Supt. and BoE must create more models of “neighborhood community schools,” similar to that of School #17, for the purpose of stimulating more parent participation and community involvement, as well as a culture where all students are “known by face and name.” The bussing requirement encourages participation in their child’s school. This is vital for regular neighborhood schools and community schools alike. Given the level of poverty in Rochester and the poor state of public transportation many parents do not have the transportation means to go to their child’s school if it is over 1.5 miles from their home.
All RCSD school and administrative staff must experience significant training and demonstrate proficient understanding and skills in these areas of diversity. We specifically recommend that staffs begin with “trauma informed” education practices as a process that is critical and a gateway to other areas of diversity training.
We strongly recommend that the Advisory Committee make regular presentations on the research and “best practice” on each of the other recommendations in this document. The Advisory Committee membership would consist of 2 students selected by student members of the Student Advisory Board, 2 parents democratically selected by the RCSD Parent Advisory Council, 2 teachers from RTA, 2 administrators from ASAR, a faculty member from each of the following local college and university education departments (Brockport, University of Rochester, St. John Fisher, Nazareth, Roberts Wesleyan, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Geneseo and MCC), 2 human development experts from the Children’s Agenda and 2 members of the Monroe County Social Services Dept who focus on public and mental health, and 2 appointees by Roc the Future.
We strongly recommend against drilling, memorization and frequent testing and by adding homework or reducing play time. The RCSD also needs to acknowledge the gains that have been made in Rochester, especially in early pre-K and pre-K, and the critical role that has been played by local organizations such as the Early Childhood Development Initiative, Early Childhood Quality Council, and Rochester's Child among others.
Although the creation of desegregated inter-district magnet schools has been criticized by some city and suburban citizens, focus groups and professional surveys of city and suburban parents indicate strong support across urban and suburban lines, racial/ethnic groups and income levels for such schools, and it has been the only system-wide reform initiative that has consistently demonstrated in research across the country significant reductions in outcome disparities, and academic and social/emotional growth for both low and middle-income students and for students of color and white students. A BOCES partnership may be the best way to achieve this goal. The schools would be jointly administered by the participating districts, and where possible would be housed in existing school spaces and staffed by teachers and administrators working for the participating districts. Discussions are currently underway concerning the possible creation of a downtown magnet school designed to attract students of parents who live in the city and in suburban locations, who work downtown. Participation in such magnet schools would be voluntary—on the part of the districts and families—but there should be state incentives and assistance in developing these schools, which reflect the policy of State Ed and the Regents—to promote integration as a key strategy for improving educational outcomes that is consistent with years of extensive national research. The planning and development of inter-district integrated schools should take place simultaneously with the enactment of other important reforms aimed at improving RCSD internal functions related to organizational and management structure, budgeting, curriculum, and internal culture.
8A. The BoE and Supt. must seek increased funding through enforcement of CFE Court decisions and rethinking the Foundation Aid formula. The BoE and Supt. can create more public support and action to support this recommendation by:
Raising awareness through public discussions, and making it a public priority,
Reorganizing staff to reduce class size without increasing costs,
Creating partnerships with colleges, universities, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
8B. The BoE, Supt. and community organizations must seek a variance from all high-stakes standardized exams, using the NYS Performance Standards Consortium’s performance-based assessments as a model.
8C.Any diploma option created must meet the highest literacy expectations relevant to its curricular focus.
8D. Additionally, there needs to be instruction in all foreign languages, other than Spanish and English, and there must be an appropriate, expeditious process for helping certified teachers from other countries (e.g., Puerto Rico) get certified to teach in New York State.
9. The BoE and Superintendent are urged to contact “Future Search” consultants to explore designs for a Rochester intervention with all regional powers.
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