An article on the Dropout Nation website highlights terrible statistics about the Rochester City School District. The Democrat and Chronicle editorial board linked to the piece by Michael Holzman, which has been making the rounds on social media.
There are some big problems with this article.
After discussing low test scores, low college readiness rates, and high dropout rates, the article concludes:
At the end of the day, the only thing Rochester does well is reinforce a socioeconomic caste system that keeps young black men and women at the bottom. Thanks to the district, they will have a good chance of being known to the criminal justice system.
The first sentence may be correct. But Holzman is wrong to place the blame solely on the RCSD. He points out 85 percent of RCSD students are poor. He also says about two-thirds of the city’s white children don’t attend city schools. That does indeed look like a caste system, but the district didn’t create it by itself. The “caste system” comes from decades of middle class people fleeing the city, housing policies that segregate the poor and inflexible school district boundaries. The “caste system” also comes from broader government policies and social ills.
Holzman compares the RCSD to Greece, saying Greece does a much better job educating black students. This is an apples to oranges comparison. Greece is a racially and economically integrated school system. Compared to the RCSD, Greece has half the rate of poverty, and far fewer special education and English language learners. There is no “caste system” in Greece. Studies support the idea that poor students at economically integrated schools perform better.
Holzman also criticizes RCSD teachers:
In the 2011-12 school year, the turnover rate of teachers with fewer than five years of experience was 51 percent. The turnover rate of all teachers was 28 percent, double the state-wide average. In a typical Rochester school, comparatively few teachers are highly educated, few teachers new to teaching are in the classroom after their second year, few of any teachers after their fourth year.
I would love to know what he means by “comparatively few teachers are highly educated.” The requirements to teach in New York State are the same in all districts. Teachers have five years to get their master’s degrees. If he’s suggesting RCSD has so many novice teachers that they do not yet have their master’s degrees, he should provide that data. Salary data doesn’t appear to support the notion the RCSD is teeming with young teachers. The average salary for RCSD teachers is $56,570, which is higher than the Pittsford average. Yet Pittsford pays teachers more. That suggests the RCSD has more veterans.
As for teacher turnover, Holzman’s data tells us very little. How many teachers retired? How many left for the suburbs? How many left the teaching profession? Teacher job cuts in the RCSD have been real, with young teachers often getting laid off every summer. This could impact turnover data.
Among the non-retirees, we also have to know WHY they left. I know of one teacher – not a novice – who left an RCSD elementary for a western suburb because of a high stress level. It’s alarming if the district is losing talented educators who feel overwhelmed by chaotic school environments. The RCSD should take ownership of this issue. But the “caste system” is also at play – the system that loads up schools and classrooms with a high-needs population. This doesn’t serve teachers or students.
The bottom line is this article takes a lot of shots and offers few solutions. There’s no question the RCSD is responsible for some of its failures and could do more to fix them. But holding the RCSD responsible for the “caste system” is grossly unfair. The district didn’t create this mess. We all did.
Links of the Day:
– New York’s casino developers admit locals will drive business. That runs counter to the governor’s argument they will bring tourists.
– The postage to mail out rebate checks to families will cost New York $1.6 million. I’m burned this is not targeted to low-income families. I may not have children, but I could use free money a lot more than a household earning $150,000.
– “Dawn Nguyen is being held responsible for her role. Will Gander Mountain be held responsible for its part as well?”
– The U.S. has banned imports of Russian AK-47s. Gun dealers are selling out.
– Tops is rolling out new packaging for its private label to make products look “less cheap.”
Stat of the Day:
According to UnionStats.com, Rochester union membership has held steady. In 1993, 17 percent of workers were in a union, with 7 percent of private sector workers being unionized. In 2013, 18 percent of the workforce is unionized, including 8 percent of private sector workers.
Tweets of the Day:
The "don't take naked pics if you don't want them online" argument is the "she was wearing a short skirt" of the web. Ugh.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) September 1, 2014
— Conrad Hackett (@conradhackett) September 1, 2014
NYC: your Mayor. pic.twitter.com/98wACAtmxx
— Monica Klein (@MonicaCKlein) September 1, 2014