Over the last two days the Rochester community has been voicing its concerns stemming from a story that was first reported by the New York Times, which indicated that RCSD graduates are grossly unprepared for life after high school. If only – ‘only’ being a relative term – half of the graduates were ill-prepared, that would be terrible enough. According to the New York State Board of Regents findings, an abysmally low 5 percent of RCSD graduates are ready to tackle college life or a career opportunity.
I’m not exactly sure what data was utilized to determine these figures. Is it possible the Board of Regents missed something, potentially adding a few percentage points to at least get the district’s number into double-digits? All kidding aside, this is really awful but not that shocking. Rochester’s situation is not an aberration either – not by a long shot. Other large urban centers in NYS are struggling in this regard as well, yet their numbers aren’t as low. The more prosperous districts aren’t tearing it up either. On average, these districts are sending out 72 percent of their graduates who are college-ready or prepared to secure employment and succeed in a particular career.
Who’s to blame? That was the refrain throughout the open comments section of the Democrat & Chronicle and other local media outlets. Teachers unions – the RTA specifically – were frequently skewered, as were teachers and parents. Numerous comments pertained to our more relaxed and appeasing modern-day culture, which has infused in our children a lack of moral and social discipline, with the resultant dismal academic achievement figures to show for it. Still others promoted the achievement of charter schools; charters are going to save us from almost certain ruination. Yet charters, per the Board of Regents findings, generate an equally appalling low number – 10 percent – of adequately-prepared graduates.
No one population is entirely culpable; we’ve all had a hand in creating this inauspicious situation, whether we want to admit to it or not. As I watched the comments persist in the D&C the past two days, the remarks, over a period of time, regrettably devolved into name-calling and demagoguery. What can be done to drastically improve this dire situation, other than to further water down curriculum, teach to the standardized tests, point fingers and pass the buck?
For starters, it’s time to get real. Not all children learn the same way and are not all interested in pursuing the popular and socially-accepted status quo. A far more effective education system will embody more realistic yet vigorous standards, incorporating a compulsory core competency portion, college preparatory modules and transferable vocational training. In addition, and most importantly, we need to figure out how to more satisfactorily provide for the millions of families in this country that, on a daily basis go without shelter, food and any parental support.
We live in a capitalist society and are encouraged – brainwashed – into thinking that anything is possible. Unfortunately, that is just not the case for some people. In a capitalist economy, there are going to be those who simply do not make it; it is the proverbial survival of the fittest mentality that plays out. Nevertheless, we must come up with feasible solutions that will enable everybody to have at least a reasonably fair chance in life.
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