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RCSD Graduation Rates Show Some Improvement

New state figures show the four year graduation rate in Rochester schools was up slightly last year, but not enough to please one district leader.

"We're not sitting in one place and waiting for things to happen. We're being proactive. We're looking at curriculums. We're looking at programs. We're looking at social emotional supports."

Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Christiana Otuwa told WXXI that for some students, finishing high school in four years is not always possible. Many need more time.

The state reports the RCSD four year June graduation rate grew two points last year, to 45.5%, but it's still lowest rate among big cities in the state. Otuwa admits they aren't proud of this.

"We're working hard to make sure there are improvements. We can only improve on that number."

Otuwa says the graduation rates for students who need until August of a fifth year to graduate is at 58%, its highest level in six years, and up 4% from the year before.

"We are looking at the course offerings to make sure that the courses we offer matches what students need, and also, we're making sure that we train our teachers, and they understand what they are teaching. We're also training our counselors, so our counselors are matching the students to the classes they need."

Otuwa says the RCSD looks at what she calls “the whole child” in its turnaround effort.

"And that's why our focus in Teaching and Learning this coming year is to look at the curriculum; make sure it is comprehensive, meets the needs of our students, is culturally relevant, and also has social emotional components into it."

She says the district is focused on getting more students to pass the state's higher standards to graduate, not whether they need four or five years.

Why does Rochester lag behind the other big New York cities?

"I want to know more what they are doing, and also, I want to know more what other highly successful schools - even outside New York State - are doing, so we can bring those models and those standards here," said Otuwa.

Otuwa believes they're on top of the educational requirements, "There are movements, and those movements are going in the positive way. Our challenge right now is to keep the work going."

They'll have new programs, and continue professional training.

"We're also providing that social/emotional support that sometimes students need, in order to be successful. It's just not what happens at school. It's what happens in their life and what they bring with them."

Otuwa insists the district is “not static like it used to be,” it is moving forward.

“We're never happy. We want all students to be successful, and we're working towards that, definitely. We're not pleased with the numbers."

NYS Education Dept report on RCSD

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