Has the city school district hit bottom?


In light of threats from state officials about closing failing schools and taking control of failing districts, many people wonder if the Rochester school district has finally hit bottom. Were the last round of state exams the worst of it? And should we lo
NYS Education Commissioner John King. - PROVIDED PHOTO
  • NYS Education Commissioner John King.
ok for student achievement to begin inching upward?

That's been the general thinking from at least three city school officials during the last few days. They may be getting the idea from Commissioner John King, who, I'm told, frequently refers to Massachusetts as inspiration for what's possible.

A recent New York Times article looked at Massachusetts' success. If Massachusetts were a country, the Times says, its students would be second in the world in science, behind only Singapore. The state's math scores aren't far behind. 

But Massachusetts' strategy for increasing student achievement doesn't resemble much of what is usually touted as education reform. And oddly, it doesn't exactly resemble what King is promoting, either.

Massachusetts raised standards, but it also increased the amount of money spent on education, putting much of the added funding into urban school districts. 

Parents are not offered vouchers that could be used at private schools, and Massachusetts didn't close its low performing schools. It hasn't allowed a proliferation of charters, either.

Teacher tenure remains intact, and teachers don't receive merit pay for higher student achievement.

What state officials did instead was stay the course — allowing things to get worse before they improved. And here's the caveat: it took a long time.

"Behind the raw numbers are two decades of efforts," writes the Times.