Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Tests show many kindergartners in city school district have possible developmental delays

James Brown

Of nearly 1,000 Rochester City School District kindergartners tested for developmental delays this past fall, a majority have been flagged for formal evaluation.

The tests identified possible early childhood delays in speech, hearing, vision, language, motor skills, social-emotional skills, and cognitive development.

Just under 66% of students evaluated using a comprehensive screening called Brigance tested at a Level 1, which is low. About 3% tested at a Level 4, which means they may qualify as “gifted.”

Board of Education Vice President Beatriz LeBron said this finding should alarm the community.

“We're talking about 3- and 4-year-olds, who really were born and being raised in their infancy, through COVID, and lockdowns,” LeBron said. “So there was a lack of social skills and just human interaction that they did not receive.”

Superintendent Carmine Peluso said with early intervention and more time in classrooms, students could test out of needing additional support or receiving a special education referral.

“We also don't want to go down a referral path unless absolutely necessary,” Peluso said. “But some of these skills that Brigance gives us are skills that we know, if addressed immediately, kids can catch up rather quickly.”

Chief Academic Officer Shanie Keelean said when students get supports early, they can flourish and outgrow those developmental issues.

But LeBron said she’s concerned some students who need additional support like speech therapy may not get it because of systemic barriers or a lack of education for parents on how to access services.

She said that in her grandson’s case, he still has not been evaluated in school even though his pediatrician said he needs speech support.

“If this is my struggle, and I have all these privileges, I can't imagine for the parent who just simply doesn't know that something that their child even needs speech, because they may not even understand that that's something that exists out there,” LeBron said.

School board member Ricardo Adams said it may be worth revisiting data on lead paint exposure in case there may also be a correlation to the high percentage of students with potential early intervention needs. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays in children.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.