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?
“How we address our fundamental issues is determined by how we invest our resources. Research shows there is a direct correlation between restorative practices and academic achievement. The school board must see an investment in restorative practices as an investment in academic achievement. Furthermore, if we can also properly invest in social-emotional support, quality after-school programs, prenatal care, and other wrap-around services we will see an impact in academic achievement.”
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?
“The Rochester City School District (RCSD) must raise the standard for all students. We pass many students to the next grade even though they don’t show the proficiency needed to excel in the next grade. If the RCSD can properly convene business owners and area colleges, we can address fundamental issues to ensure we graduate students who are career or college ready. Local businesses can show us the skills our students must graduate with and local colleges can show us what proficiencies they look for in applicants.”
New York’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?
“The school district must invest in restorative practices, cultural competency, social-emotional support, quality after-school programs, prenatal care, and other wrap-around services. In the past five decades, the school district has yet to increase these type of services. However, if we mitigate all of the issues students face outside of the classroom we can create a better education system for all. In addition to this, I would like to see the district properly fund our special education services because the school district is engaging in illegal efforts in this area. Lastly, in the past decades, the school district has invested in positions which take power away from principals and push the Superintendent further away from actual decisions. It is crucial we invest in services at the school building level, so we can make a direct impact on the issues students and families see every day.”
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?
“Many school districts across the country, are struggling to recruit teachers of color. However, we know half of our nation’s teachers come from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It is our duty to travel across the country to persuade teachers of color to join our district. In addition to this, we must inspire our own students to be future educators. Moreover, we must ensure all of our teachers have the tools they need to engage with our students in a meaningful way. Lastly, we must work with local colleges to ensure education programs are affordable for low-income Black and Brown students.”
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?
“One of the most important pieces of legislation the RCSD passed in the last four decades was the new code of conduct in 2016. Since it was passed, suspensions have gone down in a very impactful way. We need to ensure every school building has the resources to implement the new code of conduct. Engaging in restorative discipline requires staffing and resources. I will be dedicated to ensuring every building has the resources it needs to be successful in restorative initiatives.”
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?
“There are many key performance indicators school board members should be closely watching. We need to monitor the work we do for special education, career and college readiness, restorative justice, and so much more. A board member should be an advocate of families to improve the outcomes we see in every single building. A board member is responsible for hiring a capable Superintendent to advance the district in an authentic and transformative way. It is the duty of a board member to craft policies, agree upon a feasible budget that addresses the needs of the district and chart a vision for student achievement. A school board member must firmly believe in accountability and have viable relationships with staff and community members. School board members must be data savvy because they are given a massive amount of information and asked to make very quick decisions.”