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Rochester City School District, New York
|Number of Schools||57|
Rochester City School District and many of its families face difficult conditions. According to 2000 census data, out of America's 245 largest districts, Rochester had the 11th highest child poverty rate, with 38 percent of its children ages 0-17 living below the poverty line.1 Of the nearly 37,000 students enrolled during 2002-03, 78 percent qualified for the free lunch program and 80 percent for Title I services.2 All of Rochester's 57 schools are eligible for Title I services, and a third of its students, at 8 schools, qualify for SES.3 The poor achievement in 21 schools that have not met AYP goals has caused the district itself to be designated as "in need of improvement." In this challenging environment, Rochester developed SES as a means of augmenting existing district efforts to raise the achievement of its lowest-performing students.
The district's concerted outreach efforts have begun to pay off: Between the first and second year of SES implementation, the number of students requesting services more than quadrupled, rising from 429 to 1878. The district has profited from an established culture in which parents are treated as collaborative partners. For more than 30 years, local parents interested in ensuring high-quality Title I education have worked through the District Advisory Council to Title I (DACT). Although all Title I programs are required to fund a parent advisory board, the district's proven receptiveness to working with the DACT meant that when NCLB passed, the group stepped up immediately to help move it forward.
DACT members attended state and national conferences about Title I and NCLB and became knowledgeable enough to assume a critical role in providing early information to both parents and district staff about NCLB's various provisions, including SES. In addition to its members reaching out personally to other parents, the council has held town hall meetings on NCLB, hosted an application night to link parents to SES providers, and written about SES in its newsletter. The DACT also coordinates its message with the parent liaisons at Title I schools. In addition to helping parents understand how to support their child's learning, these liaisons have become an important link to parents not yet aware of SES.
To ensure that the SES program receives the attention it warrants and the set-up expertise necessary for an important new program, Rochester has placed it in a district office that is experienced in incubating new initiatives. Once it has been solidly established, it may be moved into the office that oversees Rochester's state-mandated Academic Intervention Services (AIS), which serve students who have not passed, or are considered at risk of not passing, New York's standards-based assessments in key academic areas. Identification of a student's needs and appropriate services are made jointly by the student's parent(s) and classroom teacher and documented in an AIS plan, just as the learning needs and targeted services for students receiving SES are documented in a Supplemental Education Plan (SEP).
In Rochester's first year of SES, 11 providers were serving district students. The district is intent on getting those who work with students on the same page. To that end: The SEP template specifies the NCLB requirement that all supplemental services align with state academic standards and district curriculum. Parents are encouraged to share with the provider information from their child's AIS reports, which can be used to target instruction. The district has also created a new Title I-funded position of AIS specialist for each of its most impacted schools to coordinate academic interventions, including facilitating ongoing exchange of information between providers (both AIS and SES) and classroom teachers.
The district has also been focused on how to assess student learning under SES. Qualitatively, it solicits parent satisfaction data, and to get the big picture, it looks at students' scores on the statewide test. But the district has begun investigating the use of standards-based benchmarking assessments common to all providers. Although the district contracted for and has begun piloting such assessment in a limited number of schools, the question of how to fund them on a larger scale remains unanswered. Either way, Rochester's intent to both qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate the impact of SES reflects its commitment to keep everyone focused on the primary goal of better meeting students' learning needs.
2District Web site: http://www.rcsdk12.org. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2nd Edition 1999.