Parent engagement will be essential to continued progress in educational success, according to ROC the Future’s ninth annual State of Our Children Report. Vigilance through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond also is paramount.
Seventy percent of Rochester’s young children are kindergarten-ready after participation in Rochester’s pre-K programs, run by the Rochester City School District and community organizations, the report shows. High school graduation rates—for the RCSD ninth grade cohort graduate in four years—are up 21 percentage points, while college readiness—the percentage of RCSD graduates who are college-ready in English—is up 11 points. College graduation is up as well. The percentage of RCSD graduates who complete college in four years has increased by 11 points.
“Our work at ROC the Future has developed from raising awareness through practices such as pre-K family orientations to interventions like the Every Minute Matters campaign—we’ve built so much on what we’ve learned over the years and used that knowledge to expand our work to include new systems and intentionally working for equity in all areas,” says Jackie Campbell, director of ROC the Future, which was founded 10 years ago. “Together with our conveners, we have significantly improved education outcomes in Rochester, but there’s still so much more we plan to accomplish.”
Among the areas identified in the report that need additional work are early grade literacy (RCSD third graders proficient on state assessment declined 6 points); college enrollment (the percentage of RCSD graduates enrolled in a two- or four-year college within one year of graduation is down 12 points) and RCSD faculty/staff of color down 3 points in teachers and 10 points in staff).
To ensure additional progress, the collective impact effort has identified parent engagement, in partnership with CauseWave and others, as a “wildly important goal.” Between now and June 2022, ROC the Future will ensure that its parents will engage with at least 6,000 families to ensure that the reopening period following COVID-19 is both responsive to unfinished learning and the gateway to long-term transformation, officials say.
“We have a nationally ranked pre-K program that has seen improvements in preparing kids for a strong start and we’re working together to build and expand those efforts to lift our modest gains for early grade literacy,” Campbell says. “Our out-of-school programs have provided an additional layer of support that all students should have access to. We are nearing our goal of 80 percent high school graduation within the Rochester City School District. And parent leadership and engagement in decision-making are the new standards for success across the community.”
Actions for partner organizations include identifying the essential elements of successful learning environments for children, deciding on priority actions and informing funding priorities. ROC the Future also hopes to develop strategies that improve student achievement by strengthening relationships; ensuring school systems meet the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of children; and building community systems that empower and support children and families both inside and outside of school, the report says.
“Together, we can make that goal attainable. Moving the needle on critical milestones such as middle-grade math, post-secondary education and career training is essential to creating a thriving future for our students—but we can’t do it alone.” Campbell says. “It will take all of us, working together, to set us on a course of educational renewal that prioritize(s) the need of all students, regardless of race, ZIP code or circumstance. Rochester’s children are counting on us.”
At an event Thursday, Shaun Nelms, chair of ROC the Future, presented the ninth Annual State of Our Children Awards. The recipients include:
■ Tonia Burton at the Rochester Public Library, who received the Jacque Cady Annual Advocacy for Children Award, which honors an individual for extraordinary accomplishment in advancing public policy or funding decisions for the benefit of children in the community, in furtherance of ROC the Future’s mission to improve cradle-to-career outcomes for Rochester’s children. As part of the award, the recipient selects an agency serving children ages 0-8 to receive a $5,000 donation, courtesy of Rochester’s Child, an initiative of the Rochester Area Community Foundation in honor of Jacque Cady.
■ Allen Jackson, Cherriese Bufis, Heather Feinman, Patricia McKinney and Michaela Wall received the Parent Leader Award. They exhibited exemplary leadership by engaging and partnering with other parents to support the success of the community’s children and families.
■ Parent Leadership Training Institute was recognized with the Organizational Partner Award for its exemplary leadership working with other organizations in collective impact and collaboration in support of ROC the Future’s mission to improve cradle-to-career outcomes for Rochester’s children.
“We are happy to recognize the many individuals who are leaning in to support student success,” Nelms says. “ROC the Future is uniquely positioned to align the economic, educational, and community-based initiatives in our community to collectively address needs of our children. The State of Our Children (report) is more than a call to action. It is a commitment to ensure the sustainability of our city.”
Launched 10 years ago, Roc the Future was established as an alliance of more than 70 local institutions and community partners, aligning resources and initiatives to improve academic achievement of Rochester’s children. With a common agenda and outcomes, evidence-based practices, continuous communication and mutual reinforcement, mobilizing resources and increasing equity, ROC the Future believes it creates an impact.
“Since its inception, ROC the Future has represented our city’s ‘village,’ in the African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child,” says Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “By bringing key community stakeholders to the table and keeping them engaged in these important topics, ROC the Future is demonstrating that collective impact is critical to the success of any effort to overcome the challenges of our education system and provide our children the futures they deserve.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.