Across New York, White students were given nearly twice as much access as their Latino and Black peers to a range of key courses in middle and high school in the 2016-17 school year. They were nearly three times as likely to be enrolled in advanced courses like Advanced Placement Math and Science. In Rochester in 2016-17, for example, White students were nearly 5 times more likely to be enrolled in AP or IB courses than Black students and more than 6 times more likely to be enrolled in AP or IB courses than Latino students. How should the Rochester school board address the issue of equitable access to advanced courses?
“We already know Black and Latino students in RCSD can do more and be successful. Justin Murphy (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) reported on a strategy last year that pushed 7th graders to take Regents Algebra, normally taken in 9th grade or as an honors course in 8th grade. Most of these students were considered not proficient according to their 6th grade state math tests, but most of them succeeded in Regents Algebra as 7th graders. As a board member I would want to see much more of this, including more AP and IB for Black and Latino students. I would hope the new superintendent would research this successful School 3 program with 7th graders, apply its lessons, and implement higher academic expectations as part of our collective vision for all students.”
New York has expanded the ways students can earn a high school diploma. These new rules can provide multiple pathways for students to demonstrate college and career readiness. But they can also be used to “track” students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities into less rigorous coursework and lower graduation standards. How should the Rochester school board address the issue of making sure the high school diploma has real value for all students?
“Graduation should be in reach for everyone who has made it to 12th grade, including students with special needs. The risk of tracking is real. It’s almost impossible for Black and Latino students, and students with disabilities, not to be tracked. But the benefit of having multiple ways to graduate for students who might otherwise drop out of school outweighs the risk at this point in time. RCSD has some very promising career and technical education opportunities that can help graduates get decent jobs. ”
New York State’s school districts are frequently failing to provide their highest-need schools with significantly greater levels of resources so that all students receive the support they need to succeed. For the 2018-19 school year, most school districts planned relatively little difference in budgeted per-pupil funding levels between their schools that serve the smallest share of low-income students compared to their schools serving the highest share of low-income students. How should the Rochester school board allocate the resources that it controls?
“State and federal funding formulas and grants dictate how significant funding streams are directed. There is not a lot of local school board input on how that money is spent. The large majority of RCSD students are low income and it is a myth that our school district gets more than enough resources from the state. We should advocate for more resources to support all of our schools.”
One-third of all New York schools had no Latino or Black teachers in the 2015-16 school year. As a result, more than 115,000 Latino and Black students were enrolled in schools without a single full-time same-race/ethnicity teacher, and nearly half of the state’s White students attended schools without a single full-time Latino or Black teacher. In Rochester, 86% of students were Latino or Black in 2015-16, compared to 18% of teachers. In addition, the least experienced teachers are disproportionately assigned to Rochester’s highest-need high schools. How should the Rochester school board address the issue of improving access to strong, well-supported, and diverse educators?
“The superintendent should work with unions to increase experienced staff in highest need schools. Recruitment of Black and Latino educators has been a priority and needs to continue to be a focus. The annual HBCU event for high school students has brought higher education staffs to Rochester and offers a way to build relationships with institutions that can help. East High School’s Teaching and Learning Institute is a highly successful starting place for RCSD students interested in careers as educators, but it needs to be expanded. There is no single strategy that will succeed by itself so we need to follow up on all possible paths for increasing Black and Latino, and bilingual, educators and be open to new strategies.”
New York schools suspended a student at least once every minute during the 2016-17 school year. During that period, Rochester schools suspended Black students at more than twice the rate of White students. How should the Rochester school board address school discipline?
“As a founding member of the Community Task Force on School Climate, I am committed seeing the full implementation of the 2016 RCSD Code of Conduct which requires the use of suspension as a last resort. Full implementation of the Code will result in continued decreases in suspensions and improvements in school climates. With continued student centered approaches such as restorative practices, trauma-informed care and culturally informed teaching, we can expect to see fewer suspensions, including of Black and Latino students.”
School boards are expected to hold the superintendent accountable for results and rely on the district leadership for day-to-day management of the school system. That requires a clear vision, transparent use of data, and an equity-driven strategic plan for the district’s operations. How should the Rochester school board think about its governance role?
“The board needs to develop and maintain a strong, collective voice on behalf of our community’s children and their families. The candidates who are elected this year should hold a press conference stating our commitment to work together for the betterment of the Rochester City School District. We should be clear in our intention to work in partnership with the new superintendent in advancing key priorities.”