Some of what panel members at ROC the Future’s second “State of Our Children” discussed at a breakfast meeting this morning would not have surprised a lot of people. The challenges that many Rochester students and their families face as well as students' low performance in key areas of early childhood development and education are well known.
According a report card issued by group, only two-thirds of city children in prekindergarten are meeting basic math, language, and other developmental screening standards entering school. Too many students are still not attending school consistently, and just 5 percent of third graders passed the state’s reading test. And while fourth graders showed some improvement in math, Rochester students have a long way to go to catch up to their suburban peers.
But the report is nuanced, and there is some reason for optimism. While ROC the Future’s data shows only slight, sporadic gains in some areas, the important achievement here is focusing community-wide attention on the needs of city children.
ROC the Future is an alliance of community organizations working with the Rochester City School District to improve academic achievement. The alliance’s efforts are based on a community improvement model out of Cincinnati called “Strive Together,” which emphasizes aligning resources with specific goals and doggedly tracking results. The approach is sometimes referred to as having collective impact.
During the past five years, Strive has been directly linked to increasing Cincinnati’s third-grade literacy, high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness.
ROC the Future’s report card serves mostly as a guide for agencies and institutions in Rochester, says Leonard Brock, the Children’s Agenda’s executive for education initiatives. The report helps the different professionals collaborate on a common set of goals and to avoid working in silos, he says.
“This is a long-term effort,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. “We don’t expect to see results in the first two to three years. But the model works.”
The Children's Agenda and the Community Foundation are among 50 members of ROC the Future.