From News10NBC

By: Andrew Hyman

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — School leaders and parents in the Rochester City School District are now looking at how to build on the district’s improved graduation rate.

During a high school basketball game at Rochester’s School 33, parent Phyllis Moss was heard cheering on the action down on the court.

Though, the mother of two RCSD students was also cheering the recent graduation developments.

A New York State Department of Education report released Thursday showed an increase in on-time graduates in 2019.

And while Moss says she still has her concerns, she saw promise in the numbers.

“Always want to look on a positive side,” Moss said.

The report shows 63% of 2015 freshmen graduated “on-time” in 2019, which was a 4% increase over the previous year.

Here’s a breakdown of the rate (Per RCSD):

  • 15.9% increase for English Language Learners, from 26.7% to 42.6%.
  • 7.6% increase for Hispanic students, from 55.0% to 62.6%.
  • 5.3% increase for Students with Disabilities, from 41.7% to 47.0%.
  • 2.9% increase for Black students, from 59.7% to 62.6%.
  • 1.5% decrease in Dropouts, from 18.3% to 16.8%.

And it’s an increase school board president Van White says, did not happen overnight, as he points to an improvement in how the district tracks student growth from beginning to end.

“We’ve gotten more effective and efficient in responding to the needs of our students,” White said.

Though, he admits there’s room for improvement because while the trend is up, the grad rate is still the lowest of the state’s big five cities.

That’s Rochester Syracuse, Yonkers, Buffalo and New York City.

Not to mention, the district just came off a mass layoff of teachers.

News10NBC’s Andrew Hyman: Do you think that would have any sort of impact on this progress?”

Van White: “We can’t guarantee that there won’t be some form of consequence to the loss of staff, in fact, there will be consequence. But the question is not will there be some consequence, but how will you respond to that.”

Much like it takes a team effort to win a basketball game, Moss says, the district and its parents will have to work together.

Among her biggest concerns are the high number of students dealing with economic disadvantages, which was the third-highest of the five cities. And then, Moss says people need to address at-home traumas.

We asked her if she thought those factors could keep a student from graduating.

“Yeah, they absolutely do affect our children, and if you think they don’t, you are mistaken,” Moss said.

White shared the same sentiment, though he says, progress will take time.

And Moss says, she’s holding out hope.

“I’m praying for our city, and our children,” Moss said. “And I just want to see us come together.”

Short-term, White says he’s confident the school district can increase the rate to at or around 70% by the end of the school year.

In a statement, Rochester School District Superintendent Terry Dade said:

“These numbers are a testament to the hard work our RCSD family has done over the last year. We are clearly taking big steps towards assuring all of our students graduate. However, much work is still to be done during very difficult times. I am convinced that we can achieve great accomplishments working together for the benefit of our students.”

Watch here