Yes, we’re still at it! Quietly but steadily, Great Schools for All continues to work behind the scenes to build support for the creation over time of a network of voluntary cross-district socioeconomically diverse magnet schools offering opportunities not otherwise available in our current schools – new schools designed to improve outcomes for all students, especially those living with the effects of concentrated poverty.
Decades of research clearly indicate that the odds of graduation and other measures of student success dramatically improve for low-income students in such integrated schools, reducing disparities between low-income and middle-income students. Moreover, students of all income and racial/ethnic groups in such schools benefit from improved decision-making, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, teamwork and ability to process diverse perspectives and approaches, and improved preparation for the increasingly-diverse workforce and society of the future. More recent research also indicates that the benefits continue into adulthood, with students from such schools experiencing higher levels of family and income stability, less dependence on public assistance, and less involvement in the criminal justice system.
We realize there are many obstacles to introducing systemic change at a time when school districts are dealing with the pandemic, fiscal uncertainty and dwindling resources, in addition to the need to address issues of racism in our schools and community, On the other hand, crises present opportunities for new approaches to be considered, and many organizations throughout the community are looking at ways in which we can use the crises of the moment to think creatively about new initiatives and approaches to many issues, including the educational opportunities we provide for our students. Continue reading
In the Raleigh/Wake County public school system, more than 35 magnet schools of varying grade levels have been established over the years, each deliberately drawing a socioeconomically diverse student population. GS4A representatives spent three days visiting the district several years ago, and were impressed with the strong schools and the student outcomes. There have been many changes since we visited, including some frustrations as a result of political and demographic shifts in the community. But throughout these changes, graduation rates have continued to increase steadily across all racial and ethnic subgroups over the past 10 years, with the biggest gains among Black and Hispanic/Latino students. Gaps in graduation rates between white students and Latino and Black students have been cut in half during that time. Rates for all subgroups far exceed those among Rochester City School District students. For more details, see the five-page report here.
Excerpt from a Rochester Beacon opinion from April 22, 2019 by Mark Hare and Don Pryor
“GS4A is not advocating the creation of a single countywide school district. Rather, we support a network of voluntary interdistrict schools. Our niche at GS4A has been to insist on a public school system that does its job to sharply improve the odds of success for all children—and in particular for those most at risk of failure. Socioeconomically diverse schools can significantly improve the odds.”
NY Times opinion by Myron Orfield and Will Stancil: “George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Might as Well Have Lived on Different Planets” – June 3, 2020
“Minneapolis also operated an aggressive school desegregation plan…This new approach focused more on improving segregated schools than eliminating them, and uplifting impoverished neighborhoods without directly addressing the region’s racialized living patterns. “
From the LA School Report: “Haves and have-nots: The borders between school districts often mark extreme segregation. A new study outlines America’s 50 worst cases” by Mark Keierleber, January 22, 2020
“The Rust Belt city of Rochester in upstate New York has the most economically segregating school district border in the country, walling off the high-poverty education system from its affluent neighbors next door, according to a new report.”
From Children of the Dream by Rucker Johnson
“We are frequently told that school integration was a social experiment doomed from the start. But as Rucker C. Johnson demonstrates in Children of the Dream, it was, in fact, a spectacular achievement. Drawing on longitudinal studies going back to the 1960s, he shows that students who attended integrated and well-funded schools were more successful in life than those who did not — and this held true for children of all races.
“Yet as a society we have given up on integration. Since the high point of integration in 1988, we have regressed and segregation again prevails. Contending that integrated, well-funded schools are the primary engine of social mobility, Children of the Dream offers a radical new take on social policy. It is essential reading in our divided times.”
By Mark Hare and Don Pryor
We have an April 9, 2019 opinion piece in City Newspaper: “Integrated metro schools can be a reality in Rochester. ”
Facit: “Given local demographics and finite available resources, desegregating schools and reversing the insidious effects of concentrated poverty in Rochester schools require a broad-based, community-wide response. For example, collaborations between city and suburban school districts can lead to a network of evidence-based, cross-district, socioeconomically-diverse magnet schools.”
To date, more than 1,180 individuals and 150 local organizations, including Great Schools for All, have endorsed this call to action challenging individuals and organizations to take specific steps to help eliminate organizational and community policies, practices and behaviors that perpetuate inequity.
Add your name to the statement here.
Special congratulations to Clay Osborne, member of Great School for All’s steering committee, who recently was awarded the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Joe U. Posner Founders Award, the Foundation’s highest community service and philanthropy award. A well-deserved honor, Clay!
In his acceptance remarks, Clay stated:
“I urge that we continue to seek out the missing links to further the gains we have earned thus far through our philanthropic giving and advocacy. 1. Is to invite in more evidence based, thought disruptive and sometimes controversial initiatives into the tent.
For example, we can examine more closely and intentionally thought disruptive ideas, even some controversial ones; as an example we can pursue having economically diverse magnet schools, supported by the Great Schools for All group, while at the same time supporting quality neighborhood schools.”
On June 25th, Democratic voters in the City of Rochester will choose the four candidates who will appear on the Democratic Party line in the November election for the Rochester Board of Education.
Great Schools for All (GS4A) does not support specific candidates, but urges voters to designate candidates who are collaborative in their approach and supportive of cross-district, socio-economically balanced schools so that more students and families have access to academic and social success.
If our community intends to move forward to deconcentrate poverty in schools, electing school commissioners who are willing to show leadership for systemic change is essential. Candidate information is available at City Newspaper
With the large field of candidates this year, it is especially important for voters to educate themselves about issues and positions. And, most important, to vote on June 25th.