With a child poverty rate in Rochester of 55 percent, up nearly 20 percentage points in less than a decade and a half, it’s no wonder some people believe that efforts to substantially improve the performance of city school students are certain to fail.
Fortunately, many others don’t buy that. In particular, the broad coalition involved in the ROC the Future initiative believe economic circumstances do not determine outcomes.
As the 2015 ROC the Future report card states: “Poverty is not an excuse for failing to educate children—exceptional children and schools, including charters, can succeed despite the odds of high poverty rates.”
The report, released today, documents change over the last few years in areas such as prenatal care, enrollment in pre-K programs, readiness for school, reduction in chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, and college- and career-readiness. Several of these metrics show clear improvement.
For example, the rate of chronically absent students—those who miss 10 percent of the school year or more—in kindergarten through third grade declined in 2014-15 to 30 percent from 37 percent the year before. In target schools, the decrease was even greater—10 percentage points.
The number of city births to women who receive prenatal care has increased, reaching nearly three-quarters in 2013, and enrollment of 4-year-olds in pre-K has reached 95 percent versus 75 percent two years before.
But no one is claiming quick success. Big improvements in test scores and graduation rates will take much more work. And it’s sobering to see the percentage of students who are college- and career-ready—the finish line for the cradle-to-career initiative—fell by half over two years, to 18 percent.
One of ROC the Future’s earliest accomplishments was to bring together more than four dozen organizations and stakeholders throughout the community. Holding this coalition together is another success worth noting. Because without such commitment over a long period of time, the odds that the skeptics will be proved right increase sharply.
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