RCSD’s low test scores means state monitor intervenes

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – More than half of Rochester students are two or more grade levels behind in math or reading. That data came out in a new report. That report from Rochester School District says only 2 percent of students test at grade level in math.

“You’re looking at a 10th grader reading at a 7th grade level, an 11th grader reading at a 8th grade level, and a 12th grader at  a 9th grade level so I really want us to be sober when looking at this data,” Board of education commissioner, Camille Simmons said during a meeting this week. Let that sink in.

The report says half the students in the district are chronically absent. That means the overwhelming majority of students are really behind, and half don’t go to school often enough to ever catch up.

“And no, it didn’t happen overnight, this is ridiculous this is devastating,” Commissioner Ricardo Adams said.

This new report is data across 12,000 Rochester students. Over the fall, students were given a proficiency test and the Rochester district failed.

According to the data, the tests show the problem beginning well before school age. 90 percent of kindergarteners are not reading at grade level and 96 percent are behind in math.

More broadly, kindergarten through 8th grade, 8 percent are on grade level in reading and only 2 percent are on grade level in math. The deficiencies are profound. 63 percent of students tested two grade levels or below in reading.

“At one point we had reading teachers, and we just don’t teach kids how to read anymore, but we got rid of them, the board did because we were told there was no evidence that reading teachers produce different outcomes. The administration at the time they never gave us real data around that, they just made it as part of the cuts that were happening,” board Vice President, Beatriz LeBron said.

Shelley Jallow, the state monitor for the school district added several recommendations in an academic plan to reverse these failing numbers.

“Younger children and infants, that might be a collaboration with hospitals, I don’t know, I leave that to you, but you have to do something with early literacy,” Jallow said.

Jallow also suggested the district heavily invest in summer school and after school programs.

The Rochester Teachers Association president, Adam Urbanski also chimed in with suggestions and believes teachers need smaller classroom sizes.

“Bottom line is, lower class sizes, hire more reading teachers, hire more counselors social workers and psychologists,” Urbanski said.

Jallow says it could take a number of forums and community partners to create the academic change the district needs. She also gave the district a deadline of July 1st to find a new superintendent.