The Warren Education Plan
Dear Rochester Residents,
The most important issue of the 21st Century is the education of our children. It is at the root of every problem Rochester faces and the heart of every solution. Any conversation about jobs and economic growth must begin with education.
As a long-standing member of the Rochester City Council, I have met with countless parents, educators, community and political leaders who have expressed frustration over the education of the children in our city. My own parents shared this frustration and when I was in the fourth grade, they scraped together to send my sister and me to Catholic school until we both entered Joseph C. Wilson High School. Once ranked 24th in the nation, Wilson has fallen on to the New York State In Need of Improvement list. Today, only three Rochester high schools graduate more than 50% of their students.
The time has come for the city of Rochester to exercise leadership in the area of education.
Despite the many well-intentioned and sometimes successful programs over the years, the plight of urban education systems across the country has remained unchanged. For example, we know that early childhood education is essential to any educational program and here in Rochester we have many successful Pre-K programs. But studies show that for many urban children, the effects of these successful early childhood programs fade by fourth grade. What happens? It depends on whom you ask. Some blame poverty, others blame the K-12 educational system and some blame the parents. We must stop the blame game and elevate the conversation to what is in the best interest of the children in our city. It is time we stop focusing on school type and start focusing on school quality.
AN UNDENIABLE CRISIS
By any measure—Reading and Math proficiency, graduation rate, college-readiness—Rochester’s educational outcomes are the worst in the state. Each year, more than a thousand students will drop out, destined to a life of low wages and unemployment, public health care, food stamps and housing assistance.Too many will end up in prison. Their children—like more than half of Rochester’s children—are fated to live in poverty. According to a study by the Schott Foundation, only 9% of Black boys and 11% of Latino boys will graduate on time, the lowest in the nation. Of those 46% of students who do graduate, only 6% are college-ready. Those few who persevere and enroll in college will be burdened with significant and unplanned costs for remediation courses, few will complete their degrees. This, in an economy that is increasingly demanding high-school completion and postsecondary study.
The seven strategies in this plan are drawn from extraordinary communities like Pittsburgh, Newark, New Orleans, Boston and others that have been able to overcome many of the same challenges facing Rochester’s children. Their examples are important reminders that schools cannot solve this crisis alone and that providing Rochester’s children with high-quality pathways to adulthood is a collective responsibility. While none of these strategies requires mayoral control of the Rochester City School District, they all require mayoral leadership and take full advantage of the convening power of the office.