Report backs proposed interdistrict magnet schools

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Interdistrict public magnet schools could be an effective strategy for rolling back segregation and improving educational outcomes for all children in Monroe County, a new report has found.

Schools that are socioeconomically and racially diverse and that offer educational opportunities not otherwise available to students in the county’s school districts “should be considered a realistic, feasible and viable option likely to improve educational outcomes and long-term success among all students, and particularly those in geographical areas with high concentrations of poverty,” states the report by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a global law firm with headquarters in San Francisco.

Orrick was engaged by Great Schools for All, an advocacy coalition that for a number of years has sought to build a network of socioeconomically diverse magnet schools open to students from across Monroe County.

While highlighting the promise of the proposed “breakthrough schools,” the report also outlines the hurdles—including legislative and financial hurdles—that must be cleared.

The 184-page report documents the stark disparities in terms of race and economic status between Rochester and nearby suburbs. School districts surrounding the city collectively are 83 percent white, 7 percent Black and 5 percent Hispanic; in the city, the breakdown is 53 percent Black, 33 percent Hispanic and 10 percent white.

Median household income in Rochester is $35,590—with 31 percent of the population, and roughly half of children, living in poverty. In Monroe County, median household income is $60,075, with 13 percent of the population living in poverty.

“Socio-economically diverse schools cannot be achieved in the City of Rochester if the Rochester City School District acts by itself, since 84% of its students are economically disadvantaged,” the report states.

Orrick found that “decades of research … show unequivocally that socioeconomic and racial integration of schools can dramatically improve academic progress, graduation rates and readiness for college or work.” The report adds that while integration helps to narrow the graduation-rate gap between white and Black and Latinx students, “research is also clear that all students in such diverse schools are likely to benefit from improved problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, ability to work collaboratively with those from different backgrounds, and preparation for the 21st-century workforce.”

Great Schools for All does not propose consolidation of county school districts; rather, it calls for a mechanism that would permit districts to work together to voluntarily develop magnet schools that would center curriculum around themes—such as health careers, language immersion, environmental science and social justice—to offer programs not otherwise available in the county’s public schools. Enrollment in the schools would be voluntary, but each would be integrated by design, with a racially and socioeconomically diverse mix of city and suburban students. The report says research shows the aim should be a roughly 50-50 mix of low- and middle-to-upper income students.

Orrick examined three current educational platforms that could help to launch the interdistrict magnet schools—BOCES, the Urban-Suburban Program and charter schools—and concluded that BOCES is “the most promising model.”

Interdistrict magnet schools in Monroe County would require legislative action in Albany because no New York law currently permits separate school districts to jointly create and co-manage diverse public schools with students from each of the participating districts. The report notes that state law does provide statutory models for innovation and interdistrict enrollment, but “legislative adaptations to the BOCES statute would be required. It points to two programs—Tech Valley High School near Albany, and the Syracuse Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center—that “provide useful models for how new enabling legislation may be coupled with the BOCES framework.”

The report also outlines other challenges the proposed interdistrict magnet schools would face. Among them: the poor reputation of a number of RCSD schools, which would “continue to discourage many suburban families from sending their children to schools in the city,” and the Rochester school district’s dire financial straits which, combined with New York’s budget woes, could limit the ability to fund new innovative schools.

Orrick’s advice to Great Schools for All and interested school districts: Start small. Identify several potential pilot schools that could be prototypes to demonstrate the model’s feasibility.

According to Great Schools for All, BOCES 1 District Superintendent Daniel White says a group of district superintendents in the county “has agreed to meet to discuss the Orrick report and its implications for moving forward in our community.”

The Orrick report was completed in May. It has just been released publicly, but Great Schools for All over the last six months shared the report with school district officials throughout the county as well as members of the local delegation of Assembly and Senate members and others including Rochester Mayor-elect Malik Evans.

“I applaud Great Schools for All for commissioning the Orrick report,” Evans says. “My hope is that this report will spur further discussions and more importantly collective action on how we create more equitable and quality schools in our community.”

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.

3 thoughts on “Report backs proposed interdistrict magnet schools

  1. “Interdistrict public magnet schools could be an effective strategy for rolling back segregation…”  STOP IT! It’s a pipe dream, and here’s why: 

    http://minorityreporter.net/chasing-pipe-dreams-dogs-wont-hunt/  

    http://minorityreporter.net/black-folks-are-not-listening-to-dangerous-white-super-liberals-about-school-integration-and-im-glad/

    It never ceases to amaze me how people play games with statistics in order to bolster illegitimate arguments. For example, although “school districts surrounding the city [are so-called] collectively 83 percent white, 7 percent Black and 5 percent Hispanic — more significantly — numerous of the 20-plus, lily-white “school districts surrounding the city” are composed of 95% or higher white student populations. There’s a clear reason for that, e.g., it’s crystal-clear that the overwhelming majority of middle and upper-class white folks in Monroe Country and beyond — do NOT want their white children to attend school with predominantly Black, economically poor children — period, which is why those lily-white districts and carefully drawn boundaries exist in the first place. We’re not looking at a grand coincident, or happenstance, but instead, intentional, calculated design. Surely, it will take a heck-of-a-lot more than pipe-dream, so-called “breakthrough schools” to change this reality. The objective truth of the matter is — what will necessarily have to be broken through — are widespread racist attitudes and belief systems on the part of the lily-white suburbanites. And who in the heck has another two or three hundred years to waste in the process of attempting such an unachievable feat? Certainly NOT economically poor Black folks.

    “Socio-economically diverse schools cannot be achieved in the City of Rochester if the Rochester City School District acts by itself, since 84% of its students are economically disadvantaged, the report states.” SO WHAT??? STOP IT!!! Who in blazes decided that educational improvement can not occur unless so-called “socio-economic diversity” exists??? Have the researchers forgotten, or perhaps they never knew that Black folks made astronomical academic progress right after 1865 (when nearly 100% of our people lived in the sort of abject poverty that would make today’s conditions look like prosperity). One major difference was that we were in charge of our own education, that is, OUR schools had ALL Black teachers, administrators, support staff, etc…, and even under grossly inferior physical and fiscal conditions, WE ACHIEVED GREATLY ( https://i.pinimg.com/originals/49/58/50/495850daa2823dc072121cf889d48491.jpg ).

    Again, I have already explained (above) why the following intentions will defeat the entire scheme: “Enrollment in the schools would be voluntary, but each would be integrated by design, with a racially and socioeconomically diverse mix of city and suburban students. The report says research shows the aim should be a roughly 50-50 mix of low-and middle-to-upper income students.” IT’S NOT HAPPENING — PERIOD.

    Another reason why this pipedream is certain to fail is because: “Interdistrict magnet schools in Monroe County would require legislative action in Albany…” Ask yourself the questions — who (SPECIFICALLY) in Monroe County are most well organized politically, and what will their political stand and position be regarding this idea??? In case you don’t know — here’s your answer >>> https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/07/03/critical-race-theory-makes-school-board-meetings-political-ground-zero/7785802002/ .

    Like the Mayor-Elect, many of us “hope that this report will spur further discussions and more importantly collective action on how we create more equitable and quality schools in our community.” However, WE ALSO KNOW that the misguided concept of so-called “breakthrough schools” — is NOT it.

  2. What about Great School ADVICE for all? GS(A)4A?
    We can endlessly argue about what advice can help students, teachers, parents, etc.
    But why not encourage the sharing of some free advice, right now, today?
    Isn’t education about advice, after all?

    For example, there are many, many free YouTube videos available to all, at any time.
    Take your pick. Here is one of my favorites, ALTERNATIVE MATH 8min:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw&t=56s

    (I think videos, like ALTERNATIVE MATH may encourage questioning about learning, itself)
    So, what about NOW? What can we do, today, and tomorrow to motivate learning?

  3. While I agree with the idea of sharing between districts, I don’t think we need to include to charter schools to do this. Charter schools underpay their staff, remove kids who don’t conform, and avoid special ed kids. We still will leave kids behind with charter schools involved. Why can’t we work with the systems they mention in the report and leave the charter schools out of the equation?

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