ROC the Future names executive director  

ROC the Future has named Brian Lewis its new executive director.  


He replaces Jackie Campbell who retired after serving as the executive director for the alliance since 2015. 

Lewis previously served as chief program officer at Exalt Youth, a NYC-based nonprofit. 

While there, Lewis led efforts focused on juvenile justice and youth development.

He has spent fifteen years of his career working to eliminate disparities in education, supporting individuals navigating the criminal justice system, and bringing more equitable employment outcomes to historically underserved communities. 

“I am so honored and privileged to have a pivotal role in bringing sustainable improvements to the Rochester community that will ensure every child is school ready, supported, successful and ready for college and a career,” Lewis said.  

ROC the Future is an alliance of over 60 leading Rochester-area institutions and community partners that promotes alignment of community resources to improve the academic achievement of Rochester’s children. 

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

ROC the Future releases State of Our Children Report Card

Students in the Rochester City School District continue to trail their counterparts statewide in third-grade English language arts proficiency, high school graduation rates and kindergarten readiness, an annual report from ROC the Future shows.

ROC the Future, a nonprofit alliance of more than 60 local organizations dedicated to improving outcomes for Rochester children, on Tuesday released its eighth annual State of Our Children Report Card, which details student-level achievement, as well as data on school and community systems and examples of how the coalition is working to change and create systems to support cradle to career outcomes.

The Report Card also addressed the pandemic and systemic racism and the effect both have or will have on student learning.

“The short-term and long-term effects are not yet known,” the report said of COVID-19 and remote learning. “What we do know is we must be ready to step up in new ways to support our children and families as they recover from lost learning and work through social and emotional impacts.”

In examining school and community systems, ROC the Future also is intentionally focusing on race equity.

“We recognize that racism is embedded in the structures, policies and practices of our institutions and communities,” the report states. “Taking a systems-level approach will disrupt structural racism and build racial equity, ensuring that all children have the opportunity to thrive from cradle to career.”

In terms of kindergarten readiness for RCSD and community-based programs, the percentage of children ready fell in 2019 to 52 percent. Readiness among African American children improved to 51 percent, while the percentage of white children ready for school fell to 64 percent. Some 49 percent of Hispanic and Latino children were ready for kindergarten last year, unchanged from the 2017-2018 school year.

ROC the Future has set a goal of 80 percent readiness across the board.

Some 18 percent of RCSD students showed third-grade ELA proficiency in the 2018-2019 school year, up from the previous year but still far below the 52 percent statewide. The lowest-performing school reported a 3 percent proficiency, while the highest reported 48 percent.

Forty percent of non-economically disadvantaged students showed third-grade English language arts proficiency, compared with 16 percent of economically disadvantaged kids. Among African American students, 18 percent show third-grade ELA proficiency, down from the previous year, while among Hispanic and Latino children that dropped to 14 percent.

High school graduation rates improved to 63 percent in 2019 but remained far behind the 83 percent statewide. The lowest graduation rate was 30 percent, while the highest was 95 percent. Students of color had a 63 percent graduation rate, while white students fell to 64 percent. Asian students had the highest graduation rate at 76 percent.

RTF has set a goal of 80 percent of all high school seniors in Rochester graduating with their ninth-grade cohort.

Additionally, the report card shows:

• Student achievement varies greatly from one school building to another.
• Family support for pre-K children and adolescents is strong, but adolescents report little sense of support at school or in the community.
• Pre-kindergarten programs continue to provide high-quality classroom environments but supports in elementary and secondary schools vary greatly.
• The need to be attentive to community factors, including child poverty, youth employment, family mobility and access to transportation.

“Systems-level change in schools is not only about making the current education system work better. It is also about transforming the system for the future. Our children, especially the youngest, are learning for careers and a world that do not exist yet,” the report states.

To meet that challenge, RTF has formed the Community Commission on Education. Chaired by Melanie Funchess and Dirk Hightower, the planning group has introduced its goals to community stakeholders and content experts for feedback and interest. The commission will launch this year with a focus on creating a framework for its work over the next two to three years.

“We need the entire community to support the education of our children,” said RTF Director of Research & Analytics Stephanie Townsend. “Our region’s larger employers can play an important role not only through their philanthropic contributions but also through their own organizational practices.”

Townsend suggested the business community help in those endeavors by:

  • Offering paid time off for parents/guardians to attend school conferences and children’s medical and dental appointments
  • Providing high quality, on-site early childhood programs or a childcare benefit for employees
  • Paying livable wages
  • Offering high school internships and summer employment for youth

This year’s “State of Our Children” address that typically accompanies the report card has gone virtual and will take place from Nov. 16 to 19 with the theme of “Equity and Education: The Next Horizon.” Each day will offer a series of one-hour discussions focused on pertinent topics related to the digital divide, racial equity and education and educational access.

Each of the panel discussions will feature speakers who bring a wide variety of perspectives to each topic. Additionally, the final day will also feature the announcement of the winners of the Jacque Cady Annual Advocacy for Children Award, Parent Leader Award and the Organizational Partner Award. Each panel discussion will take place on Facebook Live.

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Children’s Institute to host ROC the Future staff

Beginning in April 2021, the Children’s Institute will host ROC the Future’s backbone staff. The Children’s Institute was chosen following a request for proposal process on anchoring ROC the Future’s staff as it moves toward the next stage in its evolution.

Since 2013, the Children’s Agenda has served as host entity for ROC the Future, following Monroe Community College’s hosting of the organization since its inception. In each of the last seven years, ROC the Future has grown considerably, officials said.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Children’s Agenda over the past seven years. We look forward to the continued strategic relationship with TCA as they are a leading voice within our collective work to build capacity for advocacy and policy change, which are critical elements necessary to change systems so that they work better for all children,” said Jackie Campbell, ROC the Future Alliance director.

ROC the Future is a member of the StriveTogether network, a national movement impacting the lives of 13.7 million youth. A core outcome of RTF’s work is systems-level change, which StriveTogether describes as developing shared accountability; implementing a comprehensive data system and continuous improvement processes to facilitate data sharing; co-developing solutions with the community; and aligning resources around evidence-based strategies.

“We are so pleased to be invited to build upon the excellent foundation the Children’s Agenda has provided ROC the Future as host agency since 2013. As a founding convener, Children’s Institute greatly values ROC the Future’s unique effort and capacities to drive collective impact solutions with parents, practitioners, and other child-serving organizations that strive for academic growth,” said Ann Marie White, executive director of the Children’s Institute. “We are poised to expand our ongoing support in practical ways as a backbone organization of ROC the Future, while we continue to lean in together as a body of conveners to obtain greater equity in educational outcomes for every young person.”

Since 1957, the Children’s Institute has been committed to strengthening the social and emotional health of children, through a whole-child approach. The nonprofit’s work through collaborative initiatives with a variety of health, education and human service organizations has helped make progress on issues impacting children in the community.

Children’s Institute’s experience with data sharing and building data systems well positions and accelerates ROC the Future’s move towards systems-level change, agency officials noted. This presents opportunities to align with their Center for Continuous Improvement to reach beyond the early education/childcare arena and amplify RTF’s efforts to lift organizational practice change necessary to reach the systems level. ROC the Future brings expertise and value in the area of community engagement and engages parents and community members as co-developers of solutions and decision-makers. This ongoing and evolving work for RTF is a necessary element of systems change work.

ROC the Future is an alliance of leading Rochester-area institutions and community partners that promotes alignment and focuses community resources to improve the academic achievement of Rochester’s children.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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ROC the Future, Common Ground Health to build community playground

KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that works to ensure every kid and community have access to quality playspaces, has selected ROC the Future to lead a playground project here.

A playground sponsored by KaBOOM! (Photo courtesy of KaBOOM!)
A playground sponsored by KaBOOM! (Photo courtesy of KaBOOM!)

ROC the Future, in partnership with Common Ground Health’s Healthi Kids Initiative, is one of the three StriveTogether communities that will work with KaBOOM! to design a community playground that will help close racial and socioeconomic gaps in kids’ access to great places to play. The partnership will build the civic infrastructure through a project model that brings diverse residents and organizations together for youth.

“Every kid deserves a safe, amazing place to play. ROC the Future believes in the value and importance of play to support cognitive and social building skills for children,” said Jackie Campbell, ROC the Future Alliance director. “We are more than thrilled to be selected for this playground project to support children and look forward to breaking ground at a future site in the city of Rochester.”

Increasing access to safe places to play in Rochester is the cornerstone of the PlayROCs campaign at Common Ground Health, officials said, and the KaBOOM! grant will further the collective mission to make Rochester a “playful city.”

“We can all agree that play is an essential part of childhood, and all kids should have opportunities to play as a matter of their human right,” said Lysa Ratliff, vice president of partnership development at KaBOOM! “Research shows—what many parents know—that children learn through play. The more time they have to play outside with their peers, the more likely they are able to grow essential social, physical and cognitive skills that are so important for their future success. We are proud to partner with StriveTogether to bring this vision to life.”

ROC the Future and Common Ground Health will work together to recruit 200 volunteers in the community to join staff and partners in the design, planning and installation of the playground before September 2020. The process will kick off with “design day,” where kids and families will meet to create the design specifications for an innovative, custom play space.

The process will culminate with a day where hundreds of volunteers will build the playground. In between, partners and volunteers will work on a grassroots campaign to raise local matching funds and engage with elected officials and community leaders.

“StriveTogether shares the belief with KaBOOM! that the well-being of communities starts with the well-being of kids,” StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “Creating shared spaces fosters community pride and helps close the racial and socioeconomic gaps that deny many children great places to play. Local change is possible when the community unites around a common vision for families and kids.”

KaBOOM! is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

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Shaun Nelms named ROC the Future chair

ROC the Future has selected East Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) Superintendent Shaun Nelms as chairman of its convener board.

Nelms replaces ESL Vice President and Director of Community Impact Ajamu Kitwana, whose term ended in June. East EPO joined ROC the Future’s convener board as a member in 2016.

Shaun Nelms
Shaun Nelms

“Shaun’s background and leadership makes him the ideal leader for ROC the Future at this time, as we work to improve educational outcomes for Rochester’s students, from cradle to career,” said Jackie Campbell, ROC the Future alliance director. “His leadership of the East EPO, as well as within the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) at the University of Rochester brings a unique mix of demonstrated success at the K-12 level, alongside critical research of and thinking on what works best to support student achievement.”

Nelms serves as superintendent of East Upper and Lower Schools, formerly East High School, a position that was created through a partnership between the state Education Department, Rochester City School District and UR. As the EPO for East, Nelms is creating a school reform model that can be replicated in urban settings throughout the country.

In 2018, Nelms was named the first William and Sheila Konar Director for CUES at UR’s Warner School of Education. In that role, Nelms leads the center’s efforts to support the success of urban schools locally and nationally through a combination of research, relationship building and a commitment to pursue and share best practices.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have outstanding leadership for ROC the Future since its inception, and Dr. Nelms will continue this legacy for the betterment of all of Rochester’s children,” Campbell said.

ROC the Future is an alliance of Rochester area institutions and community partners that promotes alignment and focuses community resources to improve the academic achievement of Rochester’s kids.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Coalition forms to improve city schools

Roc the Future, an alliance of more than 60 leading Rochester institutions, on Monday launched a new initiative to transform the Rochester City School District.

Our Children, Our Future is a community partnership committed to working with the state’s Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and the Board of Regents to develop a process of engagement designed to improve the school district.

“We understand that the voices of children and families, community, civic, business and nonprofit leaders must be represented and engaged at all essential decision-making tables,” said Roc the Future Director Jackie Campbell. “Roc the Future steps forward to actively assure that these voices are represented during the months ahead.”

In a letter to Elia and the Board of Regents, Roc the Future addressed the Distinguished Educator’s Report that was handed down last fall suggesting that, among other things, RCSD improve relationships among all stakeholders by establishing a community engagement team to review pertinent data, including chronic absenteeism rates, and develop an action plan to address any areas that need improvement.

“The Distinguished Educator’s Report describes and focuses the attention of essential stakeholders and decision-makers on the irrefutable breakdown of public education in Rochester,” the letter states. “The system is broken and must be replaced. Its cumulative failures have evolved over decades. They are systemic failures; certainly not failures of our children, nor of any one leader, teacher or board. They are failures that combine to perpetuate inequality based on race and income in our city and region. Systemic and transformational change is needed now, and into the future. The Distinguished Educator’s Report and your call to action compel us all to reflect upon how we can best serve the children entrusted to our care, and to take action on their behalf.”

Roc the Future Chairman Ajamu Kitwana on Monday said the conveners and institutional partners recognize that their success is tied to the success of the community’s children.

“We are asking for the commissioner’s help to end the decades-long treadmill of finger pointing, revolving door leadership and consistent, unacceptable outcomes for our children,” Kitwana said. “We need a chance to stop the cycle and take the time to work with our school district, teachers and administrators, parents and students to co-create a solution, then share accountability for excellent results.”

A petition asking the community to join Our Children, Our Future in support of a new governance structure that can “transform Rochester’s schools” is available at Roc the Future’s website.

“Quality education is fundamental to our children’s success—and right now, we are failing them,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester, who took part in Monday’s event. “We need bold action to address the crisis in our city schools. We can only accomplish this by working together as a community, and that is why I am so proud to partner with ROC the Future, Mayor (Lovely) Warren and leaders throughout Rochester to strengthen our schools and put our students on the path to success.”

Warren said Roc the Future is best positioned to help the community quickly determine how to transform the city schools.

“Our children are not just our future, they are our right now,” Warren said. “We can’t afford to wait. We can’t lose another generation of our children to a broken system.”

Separately, on Friday, state Sen. Robert Jackson, D-Manhattan, joined RCSD officials and parents for a fact-finding tour of Rochester schools, part of a statewide tour that aims to document student needs and school funding inequities in preparation for the state budget.

The tour is a collaboration between Jackson and the Alliance for Quality Education. Currently, the state owes RCSD $97 million, or $2,900 per student. The Board of Regents and the Alliance for Quality Education have called for a $1.66 billion increase in Foundation Aid this year, and a three year phase-in of the $4.1 billion in Foundation Aid owed under current state law, which is targeted to high-need school districts like Rochester, officials said.

The Foundation Aid formula was designed to ensure that all schools statewide have the resources needed to ensure every student receives the “sound, basic education” that New York’s constitution guarantees. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a $338 million increase in Foundation Aid and opposes a full phase-in of the funding.

“Through these visits to schools across our state, I am finding in each instance that the paltry $338 million in Foundation Aid that Gov. Cuomo’s budget offers is truly an insult to our children,” Jackson said in a statement Friday. “These districts are not getting the resources they need from the state. My colleagues in the Senate and I will continue fighting until our schools statewide are given the $4.1 billion they are owed to ensure a quality education for all New York children.”

Alliance for Quality Education Legislative Director Jasmine Gripper said districts like Rochester “are exactly why New York State needs to renew its commitment to funding the Foundation Aid formula.”

“High-need communities are dependent on state aid to meet the educational needs of students,” she said. “When state aid falls short, these students are the ones who suffer most. Every year the Foundation Aid goes unfunded is another year of systemic educational neglect. We have to break this harmful cycle by enacting a state budget that fully funds our schools.”

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RCSD student graduation rate improves, other metrics slip

brochureThe high school graduation rate in the Rochester City School District is projected to improve this year. Early grade literacy is trending up, and so is middle grade math. But there is much more to be done, and community leaders and educators say it will take a collective effort to make it happen.

“This isn’t about new programs; it’s about making what we do more effective by making sure we’re all playing to the same rhythm, that we all understand the development milestones critical to our children’s success and that we work together to help our children grow and achieve,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in a statement read during the sixth annual State of Our Children Address held Thursday morning at Monroe Community College.

The annual progress report found that the number of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in Pre-K or Head Start increased from 2017 to 2018; the percentage of ninth-graders with at least six credits improved year-over-year; and the projected 2018 high school graduation rate improved to 59.3 percent.

But chronic absence in elementary school has increased; the percentage of third-graders reading above the national norm declined and the percentage of students completing post-secondary schooling within six years fell.

“When we talk about collective impact, it’s about leaders coming together from across sectors: policymakers, educators on the ground, philanthropy, all of us who are committed to our shared goals,” said Ajamu Kitwana, executive director of ESL Charitable Foundation and chairman of ROC the Future, which produces the report. “For us at ROC the Future, it’s that every child enters kindergarten ready, that every child is supported through their journey through school, every child is successful in that journey and ultimately that every child leaves (high school) college and/or career ready.”

Thursday’s event featured keynote speaker Shaun Nelms, East High Educational Partnership Organization superintendent and the first William and Sheila Konar director for the Center for Urban Education Success, who discussed the impact a few small changes at East High have made on student outcomes.

“The transformation process really began the moment that we interviewed parents and students and allowed them to identify the critical needs that were impacting them, and then built a system and plan around those identified needs,” Nelms said. “Typically organizations start with the comprehensive plan that is, with all good intentions, designed to support the community, but often lacks the community’s voice.”

East High has been run by University of Rochester since 2015. One of the main goals UR set in its plan was to double East High’s graduation rate from 42 percent to 84 percent over the five-year partnership.

“When the University of Rochester conducted its assessment of East prior to year one of implementation they surveyed teachers and students and families and administrators to determine what was working well here and what were some areas for growth,” Nelms said. “Students consistently said there were broken relationships between them and the adults in building.”

So school leadership began to allow students and families to have a voice in certain initiatives, one of which was the collection of student cellphones at the beginning of the school day.

“It was the parents and students who supported the initiative, because they saw (cellphones) as distractions in the academic environment,” he said. “So we made that change this year and it’s paid incredible dividends in allowing kids to be more engaged in the classroom setting and less distracted on social media.”

The move also has led to fewer infractions because the drama isn’t carried into the classroom, Nelms said.

Nelms added that by asking for parental input, the school discovered that its parent-teacher conference attendance was low primarily because they were held at times inconvenient for those taking public transportation. Attendance at the conferences immediately rose when adjustments were made.

Van White
Van White

“Until we authentically listen to parents and students and then make decisions around that, we’ll continue to find opportunities to justify that parents or students aren’t engaged because they’re not following our path,” Nelms said. “Instead of us going to parents and asking them to support our initiatives, we should be going to parents with the expectation that we’re going to support their initiatives. Once you put parents and students at the center, their actions start to change drastically in a very positive and effective way.”

RCSD Board of Education President Van White echoed that sentiment.

“Heroes are all around us. And they don’t wear capes and they don’t have X-ray vision. They are the grocer and the grandma, the preacher and the teacher, the mother and the father, the college professor and the school principal, the custodians and the counselors,” White said. “Everyone has a different superpower. Data is power. Data provides us the ability to understand what is happening to our children, whether our powers are having an impact.”

The data shared Thursday with the community will help drive the initiatives and the collective impacts of the future, he said.

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Childhood education successes, challenges highlighted in report card

From left, ROC the Future panelists Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation; Fran Weisberg, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Rochester; Van White, president of the Rochester school board; Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren; Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo; and Ajamu Kitwana, chair and executive committee member of ROC the Future and executive director of ESL Charitable Foundation, with moderator and RBJ Editor Ben Jacobs. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)
From left, ROC the Future panelists Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation; Fran Weisberg, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Rochester; Van White, president of the Rochester school board; Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren; Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo; and Ajamu Kitwana, chair and executive committee member of ROC the Future and executive director of ESL Charitable Foundation, with moderator and RBJ Editor Ben Jacobs. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

Poverty is closely linked to how our children do in school and their future success as contributing members of society, so working to have every child ready for school and then supporting them through extended learning opportunities are important steps toward enabling our children to thrive.

image001The ROC the Future Annual Report Card 2017 shows improvement across a number of key indicators including school readiness, supports and graduation rates, but there is room for improvement in a number of other areas.

“We’re excited to see steady improvements in many of our key indicators and energized by the challenges still ahead, but it’s important for the community to know that big system changes of this magnitude don’t happen overnight,” said Ajamu Kitwana, ROC the Future chairman and ESL Charitable Foundation executive director. “As we conclude our fifth State of Our Children Address and look forward to the next, we’ll be working to improve our indicators, programs, and partnerships to further drive results.”

ROC the Future chair Ajamu Kitwama speaks at the RBJ's Power Breakfast event Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)
ROC the Future chair Ajamu Kitwama speaks at the RBJ’s Power Breakfast event Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

The fifth annual report card was presented Tuesday as part of the RBJ Power Breakfast Series. Panelists and presenters included Kitwana; Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo; Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren; Rochester City School District school board President Van White; RCSD Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Wright; President and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation Jennifer Leonard; United Way President and CEO Fran Weisberg; Center for Governmental Research Inc. principal Erika Rosenberg; and ROC the Future Alliance director Jackie Campbell.

“Look around this room,” Warren said. “Together we can change what’s happening in our school district, in our community and we can truly help families by working together.”

Warren noted that in her four years as mayor she has seen four school superintendents come and go.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren speaks as a panelist at the RBJ's ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren speaks as a panelist at the RBJ’s ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

“Stability at the top is the most important thing we can do for our community and our school district,” she said, thanking White for bringing in new RCSD Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams.

Warren acknowledged that the ROC the Future data presented Tuesday was bleak but the numbers were improving in many ways. She reminded the crowd of 300 that the data was more than numbers, that they represented children.

“Each one is unique, each one is special, and to solve this problem we must lift each child up, one child at a time and one family at a time,” Warren added.

ROC the Future works toward four overarching goals: every child is school ready; every child is supported; every child is successful; and every child is college and career ready. Benchmarks include kindergarten readiness, early grade reading, middle grade math, high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and post-secondary completion.

“When we look at the data from our community, we’re all reminded of the importance of our mission, which is to help kids succeed,” Wright said. “We have challenges ahead of us for sure, but in our struggle there’s an opportunity, an opportunity to make our schools and to make our communities better places.”

Kindergarten readiness improved 4 percentage points from 2016 to 2017, while early grade reading was up nearly 2 percentage points. High school graduation rates were up 2 percentage points this year from 2016, while there was no change in middle grade math scores.

Two areas that showed a decline this year include college enrollment and college completion, down 2 percentage points and 1 percentage point, respectively.

As an event panelist, Dinolfo took the opportunity to highlight the county’s eight-point plan, which includes funding for 30 new child protective services workers in 2018’s budget, as well as an upgrade to CPS caseworkers’ salaries to help with recruiting and longevity, among other things.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo discusses the county's eight-point plan at RBJ's ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)
Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo discusses the county’s eight-point plan at RBJ’s ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

“Our caseworkers do incredible work. It’s rewarding work. It’s important work,” Dinolfo said. “It’s important that we provide all of the tools necessary in our community so that our children have the best opportunity to grow and flourish and remain safe in our community, and our families have the best opportunity for success.”

Rochester has made critical investments in early childhood education to help our youngest learners prepare for school. Some 96 percent of 4-year-olds access high quality Universal preK through Rochester City School District and Head Start sites, and more than 1,000 3-year-olds are in Early PreK programs.

The number of 3-year-olds attending the SummerLEAP program—which helps to stem the disastrous effects of summer learning loss for low-income students—doubled in 2017.

Academic progress during the school year is supported by summer and other extended learning opportunities, without which students lose ground over the years, ROC the Future officials said. This is especially difficult when students also face high levels of stress, violence and trauma due in part to the high level and concentration of poverty in their neighborhoods.

RCSD has increased its investments in staff development that better supports the social and emotional well-being of students, such as Restorative practices, and has improved school climate by developing “Help Zones” in schools, which help students decompress in stressful situations and help them focus on learning.

To improve school attendance, RCSD will reinforce the “Every Minute Matters” best practices to all schools and grade levels, adding quarterly attendance blitzes for PreK and will target supports in three high schools with the highest chronic absence rates.

“One thing we must do as community leaders is we must listen to the people,” Warren said, referring to a number of new programs that target city children and their families.

Erika Rosenberg, principal at the Center for Governmental Research, presents this year's report card at RBJ's ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)
Erika Rosenberg, principal at the Center for Governmental Research, presents this year’s report card at RBJ’s ROC the Future Power Breakfast on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

ROC the Future engages more than 100 organizations and individuals to work together to improve academic outcomes for students. In addition to its collective work on shared goals, ROC the Future works collaboratively with several other collective impact networks including the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, Community Advisory Council and the School Climate Task Force, among others.

To explain the collective impact model, White channeled Marvel’s the Avengers movies and DC Comics’ Justice League, noting that in both series a group of characters with different abilities and talents come together to improve the lives of others, with no one character better than another.

“It’s a model of leadership. It suggests that we benefit most if we collectively take advantage of each individual’s powers and abilities and talents. That’s when we are at our best,” White said.

White noted that in 2012 RCSD had no reading instructors. This year the district has 105 reading instructors.

White closed his discussion by quoting the Avengers’ character, Nick Fury: “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to make them work together when we need them to, to fight the battles that need to be fought, to fight the battles we never could win. You, my friends, are those remarkable people.

“If we work together, drawing upon our remarkable strengths and our collective powers, to fight the battles that we have not been able to win against poverty, illiteracy and racism,” White added. “If, no, when we do that we will ROC the future.”

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

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