Monroe County and Monroe Community College are teaming up once again to host "Inspire Monroe," a new targeted career exploration fair.

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo joined MCC President Anne Kress to announce the fair, which will focus on careers in three in-demand industries: advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology.

Kress says these are fields with thousands of jobs open in the area, but many people don’t think they’re accessible.

Among the Big 5 districts in New York State, Rochester still comes in last in terms of high school graduation rates.

The State Education Department released graduation rates for the 2013 freshman class, and Rochester still falls behind the other Big 5 schools with a 51.9% graduation rate.

This number grew 4.2% from the previous year.

Across the state, Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia says the current rate for English language learners or ELLs has decreased to just over 26%

On any given day last spring, nearly one in 10 children in the Rochester suburbs had a negative balance on a school lunch account. Because of that, many were denied lunch. That’s according to a recent Democrat & Chronicle report by Justin Murphy. He explored what’s known as “lunch shaming” in Rochester-area districts. The practice refers to schools across the state withholding food, providing alternate meals, making students “earn” their lunch by doing chores, or giving students wristbands identifying them as truant if they can’t pay for meals. In some schools, staff even throw lunches in the garbage if students pick up food and cannot pay once they reach the register.

We discuss the policies of local districts, and changes that may be coming at the state level. Our guests:

  • Justin Murphy, education reporter at the Democrat & Chronicle
  • Debbi Beauvais, school nutrition director at Gates Chili, East Rochester, and East Irondequoit Central School Districts
  • Casey Kosiorek, superintendent of the Hilton Central School District
  • Mike Bulger, healthy communities coordinator for the Healthi Kids coalition at Common Ground Health'
  • Kiara Warren, parent

Local school district officials are keeping a watchful eye on federal and state initiatives as the New Year rolls in.  

Funding is going to be a top priority, according to Sherry Johnson, the Executive Director of Monroe County School Boards Association. She says funding is a major issue, particularly for programs and initiatives meant to balance out inequalities around the state.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” she said. “We understand the state has some revenue issues of their own on top of any impact from the federal government.”

Karen DeWitt / WXXI News

New York State's Teacher of the Year is back in studio. Christopher Albrecht is a fourth grade teacher at the Fred W. Hill School in Brockport. He joins us to discuss the value of community service and service-based learning, and the impact those models can have on students.

Albrecht also shares what he has learned from other districts as he travels the state as a teacher ambassador. Our guests:

  • Christopher Albrecht, fourth grade teacher at the Fred W. Hill School in Brockport, and New York State’s Teacher of the Year
  • Jacob Gaskill, graduate of SUNY ESF, current Ph.D. candidate, and Christopher Albrecht’s former student

What can the U.S. education system learn from Finland? Perhaps the better question is, do students need school subjects? Teachers in Finland are gearing up for a significant shift in curricula for high school students. In 2020, curricula for students aged 16 and older will be rooted in phenomenon-based learning. That means instead of students taking math class, then science class, then English class, they will choose an event or phenomenon to study, incorporating multiple subjects in the process (something like exploring the climates of different countries, and reporting on them in French).

The model is getting some pushback, with critics saying it may lower standards and widen the gap between students who grasp concepts more quickly and those who need more direction. Could such a model be adopted in the U.S.?

Our guests weigh in on different forms of learning and the future of education. In studio:

  • Evvy Fanning, local high school English teacher
  • Douglas Allard, 7th grade social studies teacher in the Phelps Clifton Springs School District
  • Jennifer Wagner, RCSD educator and parent
  • Joanne Larson, professor of education and associate director of research at the Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education


The New York State Board of Regents this week voted to expand options for special education students who struggle with academic exams.  

The Regents adopted regulations to expand the criteria under which students with disabilities may be eligible to graduate high school with a local diploma. That’s a high school diploma that has different requirements from those needed to get a Regents Diploma.

State Education Department officials say that some students with disabilities are unable to demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests even with certain accommodations.

There are major gaps in special education spending in New York. A study by the New York State Association of School Business Officials found that spending in wealthier districts for special needs students was almost double the spending in more impoverished districts.

“Special education spending in the lowest need districts is $43,635 per special education pupil while spending in the highest need districts is $25,823 per special education pupil,” wrote researchers of the study.

An increasing number of African American families are turning to homeschooling. Parents say they want to protect their children from institutional racism, and they want their children to learn African American history outside of a Eurocentric curriculum. According to an estimate by the National Home Education Research Institute, the number of African American children who are home-schooled grew by about 10 percent between 2012 and 2016. That estimate puts the total number of black home-schooled students at more than 200,000.

Our guests share their experiences with homeschooling and unschooling:

In his book, Reinventing America’s Schools, author David Osborne argues that we should treat every public school like a charter school. He suggests an emphasis on autonomy, accountability of performance, diversity in school design, and parental choice. Osborne is in Rochester to meet with school leaders to discuss his ideas for the future of education, but first, he joins us Connections.