City NewspaperWe're not Waiting for Superman

letter to the editor, Dec. 7, 2010

Regarding "There Is No Superman" (November 17): Everyone can agree that high-quality teaching is one of the best ways to improve educational outcomes. The problem I have with the film "Waiting for ‘Superman'" is the overwhelming focus on bad teachers. We shouldn't be so concerned about the small number of bad teachers. We should focus on the vast majority of good teachers and find ways to support them so they can become very good teachers on their way to becoming outstanding teachers.

In Rochester, we're not waiting for Superman. The Greater Rochester community is taking charge. A new initiative in Rochester is focusing on supporting teachers: Friends of Educational Excellence - FREE - Partnerships supports RCSD teachers so they can be as effective as possible.

Friends of Educational Excellence supports community - school partnerships that provide volunteers to RCSD schools to support teachers so their students can be successful in school. These volunteers provide a helping hand to students who need academic assistance to achieve their grade level skills. Currently, Friends of Educational Excellence has an agreement with the RCSD to support community-school partnerships in five schools: 52, 22, 20, 7, and 34.

School 52 partners with Temple B'rith Kodesh; School 22 partners with the First Unitarian Church; School 20 partners with Mt. Olivet Baptist Church; School 7 partners with the First Universalist Church; and School 34 partners with Grace Urban Ministries and Saint Catherine of Siena Church.

These RCSD school partnerships make a difference. Using this model, in 2010 School 52 achieved a ranking of Number 2 in the Rochester school district out of 38 elementary schools on the NYS English Language Arts exam. School 52 had over 90 volunteers during the 2009-2010 school year. They became an integral part of the student learning environment. By June 2010, 88 percent of all students in School 52 were reading at grade level.

Rochester schools certainly need this kind of support. In 2010, with tougher state standards, only 28 percent of Rochester elementary school children passed the state English Language Arts exam; 6700 children did not pass. Community partners provide volunteers that support students so they have adequate academic skills. With this support, teachers can be more effective with their overall class.

We're not "Waiting for Superman." The Rochester community is already taking action to see its city schools perform better. Hundreds of volunteers today - growing to thousands in the near future - are getting involved. They aren't just talking about what needs to be done. They are doing the heavy lifting to work directly with teachers and students. They are supporting the many good city school district teachers.

If you'd like to learn more about Friends of Educational Excellence, please see our website: www.freepartnerships.org. If you want to join this initiative, please contact Bruce Pollock, Friends of Educational Excellence executive director, at 218-0038 or info@freepartnerships.org.

BRUCE J. POLLOCK, PITTSFORD