On Tuesday June 27, the Rochester Board of Education approved a resolution that commits the district to working with wiling suburban partners to investigate the development of regional magnet-type schools that would offer students the well-known advantages of a truly diverse education.
We see this is as an important step forward and worth celebrating by all of you who support the goal of socioeconomic diversity as a key to reversing the devastating effects of high-poverty schools on the educational achievement of the poorest children in our community.
The board approved the resolution on a 5-0 vote, with Commissioners Malik Evan and Cynthia Elliot absent. The resolution was sponsored by Commissioner Willa Powell who says this is a perfect time to begin conversations on regional schools because the Rochester City School District is assessing its long term capacity needs and magnet schools could well effect the districts’s future needs for space.
Great Schools For All applauds the city school board for this action. We have earlier reached out to suburban superintendents and found several willing to discuss with the city ways they might work together toward diverse schools.
This is just one step. We understand there is a great deal to be done. But we hope that these conversations will arrive at agreements on the types of magnet schools that could appeal to city and suburban families. We hope they will also result in a framework for interdistrict collaboration, with an emphasis on using existing buildings and funding streams wherever possible. We hope they will also identify changes in state law or regulations needed to make interdistrict collaboration possible and successful.
Adding to our momentum at the local level is increased interest from the Regents in making school diversity a statewide priority. The Regents and New York State Education Department (NYSED) are currently leading two strands of work that directly complement and align with the goals of Great Schools for All.
First, NYSED included school diversity and integration in their draft state plan required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The state ESSA Plan, which will be finalized in September, lists school integration as a potential school intervention strategy and recommends that schools be able to use their Title I school improvement funds to support integration efforts. Additionally, the plan discusses using school integration as a potential accountability indicator that schools would have to measure and report on to the public.
Second, the Regents are developing a Policy Statement in support of school diversity and have created a Working Group to facilitate that effort. The current statement specifically mentions interdistrict partnerships as a strategy to address concentrated poverty, which aligns with our efforts in Monroe County.
GS4A is actively involved in these discussions and are hopeful it will create the state-level changes necessary to create diverse schools in Rochester and across the state.