Sept. 30, 2014

The fourth annual Urban Presbyterians Together education evening, held Sept. 30, 2014, at Third Presbyterian Church, featured five speakers addressing the topic “Learning from Raleigh: A Journey Toward Great Schools For All.”

Raleigh came into focus through the book Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh, and a subsequent meeting with its author Gerald Grant, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University. A Rochester Area Community Foundation grant helped enable the two-way exchange of visits of Raleigh and Rochester leaders. Eleven Rochesterians visited Raleigh, N.C. in April 2014, meeting with over 75 school education stakeholders. The group included parents, community members, tutors, educators, non-profit agency leaders, business leaders, and a journalist.

The presenters, John Wilkinson, Lynette Sparks, Don Pryor, Beth Laidlaw and Corni Labrum, said their Raleigh visit led to a set of key principles for Rochester (rather than a specific set of solutions).  Key principles are summarized below:

  • Socioeconomic balance is important. Raleigh’s target is that no more than 40% of students come from families at or below the poverty level
    • Raleigh achieved this through 35 magnet schools and voluntary choice
    • Urban and suburban children have much to learn from one another
    • Disparities are reduced without negative impacts on middle class: almost 70% Raleigh graduation rate for low-income and minority students
  • Focus on strong leaders and teachers in schools
  • Community leaders must build consensus around great schools
  • Broad community collaboration and strong leadership are required
  • Cooperation and policy changes at local and state levels are needed
  • Local pilots can help move toward achievement of key principles/goals
  • Faith community support can help build grass roots momentum


Raleigh Trip Presentation

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