We answered questions we’re often asked in a new posting under the “About” tab.
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.”
Great Schools for All scheduled three meetings for further community discussion of GS4A’s current work and proposals. The topics will focus on:
- Proposals for legislative changes
- Expanded summer-learning opportunities starting in 2016
- Broadened GS4A leadership and support
These meetings differ from some recent GS4A updates in that:
- They are held at different times of day and at different locations. GS4A hopes this will permit more overall discussion
- They are shorter; each meeting will last about 90 minutes
- The material presented at each meeting is the same. Of course the discussion will vary with the audience
The meetings are Thursday, November 5 (day and evening) plus Saturday morning, November 14, 2015 as described on our web site. Please come. No registration is necessary.
I read with interest Erica Bryant’s D&C column over the past weekend that focuses precisely on the key concern of Great Schools for All: the concentration of economically disadvantaged students in any given school. Only one school in Rochester meets school reformers’ guideline of fewer than 40%, she said. Yet the New York State Education Department is encouraging that school to accept more students from poor families. Please see “Keep middle-class kids in charter schools.”
Three points from the November 10, 2014 community meeting organized by Great Schools for All particularly impressed me. From them I conclude that yes, this effort has an excellent probability of improving public-school education in our region.
- Mark Hare reminded us in the audience that concentrated poverty in part of the area can’t be solved in that part alone. And no one is elected or appointed to work on the regional challenges. Therefore active citizens have a role
- The Great Schools for All effort is directed at identifying and encouraging voluntary actions that community leaders, schools, parents, elected officials, and ordinary citizens can take. In other words, progress does not have to wait for any comprehensive “master plan,” buy-in, or vote
- I found especially enlightening comments by Kara Finnigan of the University of Rochester. Much of her research focuses on struggling schools. In particular she talked about findings in the Twin Cities, Richmond VA, and Omaha NE. From those studies and others she’s formed concepts about what’s likely to produce meaningful change. She provided a taxonomy of solutions highlighting four broad areas, which I took to be in increasing probability of benefit from (my terminology) minimal to significant:
- Standards and accountability factors: incentives, sanctions, governance structures
- Place-based strategies: increased investment, children’s zones, neighborhood revitalization
- Urban-suburban systems: remove/reduce boundaries, consolidation, annexation, choice and mobility across systems
- Regional strategies: voluntary/legislated councils, inter-local agreements, metropolitan planning organizations, federated regionalism
The November 10 meeting led to six working groups outlined elsewhere on this web site. Group members are all volunteers seeking to identify actions in their group’s area of focus and report those at the next Great Schools for All general meeting on May 5, 2015.