School District Superintendents Meet to Discuss Planning for Integrated Crossdistrict Magnet Schools

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.

Please share this news on social media and with friends.

Countywide Survey Shows Support for Creation of Crossdistrict Magnet Schools

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.

Kate Nelligan's "Establishing New Schools" graphic from the Democrat and Chronicle on April 5, 2022.

Seeking social-media skills

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.

GS4A: quiet, but still very active

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

Raleigh/Wake County graduation rates continue to increase for all subgroups; disparity gaps cut in half

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.

Rochester needs socioeconomically diverse, cross-district magnet schools

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.”

Minneapolis unrest stems from segregated schools and neighborhoods 

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. “

Rochester’s extreme school segregation, worst in U.S.

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.”

School integration actually drives social mobility

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.”