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More than a dozen Monroe County school superintendents representing the east and west side BOCES, Rochester City School District, and several suburban school districts have met twice with Great Schools for All since the beginning of 2022 to explore issues related to the possible creation of one or more pilot integrated public magnet schools. Such schools would be intentionally socioeconomically and racially diverse and draw students from both city and suburban school districts.
Subsequent meetings will discuss issues including, but not limited to:
- Governance and oversight of such magnet schools
- Financing to ensure equitable funding for all participating districts
- Determination of the number, types, and location of initial pilot school(s)
- Student selection process
- Staffing and sharing of resources
- Transportation, and
- Determination of any legislation that may be needed to create such schools
It is anticipated that a second phase of this planning process would include parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other school employees, as well as others in the larger community, in identifying the key components or pillars of specific proposed pilot magnet school(s). Our local NYS legislators have indicated their interest in collaborating in the process of crafting any needed legislation.
With the generous support of a small foundation at Rochester Area Community Foundation, initial discussions are underway to engage an experienced independent facilitator to help guide the planning process going forward.
Discussions and plans to date have been consistent with findings and recommendations outlined in a 2021 report by the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe global law firm, which specializes in conducting independent, objective research on education and integration issues. The Orrick report strongly endorsed integrated crossdistrict magnet schools in Monroe County as practical and “a realistic, feasible and viable option likely to improve educational outcomes and long-term success” among its students. The report also identified types of legislation that may be needed to develop and implement such schools and outlined a two-phase planning process to address key issues and implement and test the impact of one or more pilot magnet schools.
Great Schools for All has proposed the creation of a network of voluntary integrated magnet schools offering unique educational opportunities not currently available to either city or suburban students. Such schools have been successfully implemented in other communities throughout the country. Decades of research have shown unequivocally that such integrated schools can dramatically improve the odds of academic progress and graduation, as well as improving critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and readiness for future college and work. More recent research documents positive long-term outcomes well into adulthood among students enrolled in such integrated schools.
More to follow as decisions are made in the coming weeks and months.
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A recent Siena College Research Institute poll of Monroe County residents indicates strong support for the establishment of magnet schools with specialized curricula that would draw students from both urban and suburban schools. As indicated in the graphs below, 75 percent of all respondents support the creation of such schools. Support was consistently strong across racial/ethnic groups and across both city and suburban residents.
The Siena College poll was commissioned by the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Democrat and Chronicle. It was conducted during this past December and early January, with 707 county residents, reflecting the demographic makeup of the county population. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.
The graphs, created by Kate Nelligan, were published by the Democrat and Chronicle on April 5, 2022.
If you support voluntary diverse interdistrict magnet schools as a way to improve the learning opportunities for all students in our community, consider writing to your district superintendent, encouraging him or her to join other superintendents who will soon begin to discuss the idea.
Below is a sample letter you may cut and paste into an email, but by all means write your own personal letter if you prefer. If you contact your Superintendent, please copy us in on your letter at email@example.com
Need help finding the contact information? The links below take you to your district’s web page with the superintendent’s contact information:
Feel free to share this link with any friends who may also support this effort.
Melody Wollgren and Mark Hare
Check out this story by Democrat and Chronicle reporter Justin Murphy: “Report revives vision for integrated, inter-district ‘breakthrough schools’”, November 18, 2021.
Please share the link on social media and with friends.
A thoroughly-documented new report shows that diverse magnets are an effective tool in rolling back segregation and improving educational outcomes for all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.
This summary was written by Mark Hare and Don Pryor.
Several Monroe County school superintendents will soon meet to discuss how to proceed in response to the new research report, which analyzes the possible creation of one or more pilot interdistrict collaborative magnet schools. Attendance at these schools would be voluntary, but each would be “intentionally integrated,” with a racially and socioeconomically diverse mix of city and suburban students.
This convening could be a first step toward possible interdistrict collaboration as a partial remedy for the troubling effects of high-poverty segregated city schools. Great Schools for All, a citizens advocacy group, has been calling for years for a network of these schools to improve the odds of success for the most disadvantaged students in the county—and to improve the skills needed by all students to successfully navigate the 21st century.
Great Schools for All does not call for consolidation of school districts, but rather for a mechanism that would permit districts to jointly and voluntarily develop magnet schools to better serve the needs of their students and the Greater Rochester community.
Great Schools has just released the independent report from the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe law firm, based in Washington and NYC,[i] which objectively assessed the viability of our magnet schools proposal. Such schools would center curriculum around themes (e.g., health careers, language immersion, environmental science, social justice) to offer programs not otherwise available in Monroe County schools.
The report’s primary conclusion: GS4A’s proposed “Breakthrough Schools that are socioeconomically and racially diverse and that offer unique educational opportunities not otherwise available to students in Monroe County school districts should be considered a realistic, feasible and viable option likely to improve educational outcomes and long-term success among all students, and particularly those in geographical areas with high concentrations of poverty. This report outlines practical proposals designed to incentivize school districts to collaborate in the creation of a structure to implement proposed pilot interdistrict magnet schools.”
Great Schools for All (GS4A) has published the analysis of a collaborative survey of students in Monroe County Schools conducted in May and June of 2021. GS4A partnered with students planning the ROC2Change virtual gathering which brought over 300 students together to discuss the current – and historic – racial and economic segregation in Monroe County. Students who participated reflected representation from almost every school district, parochial and private high school in Monroe County.
Read the “Student Survey Summary Report” here.
With student planners, GS4A was able to help design a student survey to determine potential student interest in and support for voluntary, racially and socio-economically diverse cross-district magnet schools. Student perspectives are critical in considering community education options, as they are the ones who will ultimately determine whether such schools should be part of the answer to racial and economic segregation in our community. The analysis of student responses was conducted by Research America, Inc., in August of 2021.
GS4A surveyed over 600 city and suburban parents in May of 2016 (“Great Schools for All Parent Survey Summary Report”) about the possibilities of diverse magnet schools. The survey of students touched on many of the same issues. In that survey, between 70% and 80% or more of all respondents supported the concept of such schools.
Hello Great School supporters,
Although we’ve had a low profile for a while, Great Schools for All has been quietly developing a proposal for interdistrict magnet schools that would be socioeconomically and racially diverse, jointly administered by two or more school districts and open to students from across Monroe County. We have been meeting with state legislators, city officials, and the RCSD and BOCES superintendents. We hope soon to meet with additional superintendents and other interested parties. We have also recently conducted a survey of students, and have received a comprehensive report from the Orrick law firm that addresses a number of issues that need to be resolved in the process of creating diverse magnet schools. We will be sharing summaries of these research initiatives in the near future.
We’re hoping to begin a social media campaign this fall, focused on getting our message in front of multiple audiences and asking community members for support in a variety of ways.
If you have social media skills and would be interested in helping, we’d like to hear from you. We’ll be working with Causewave to shape a detailed communications strategy and doing some hands-on social media training. We expect the program will involve four 90-minute sessions, including both strategy development and social media training. Interested? Contact Mark Hare using our contact page.
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.