Freedom School in Rochester has demonstrated effective results and should be supported within RCSD as a valuable alternative teaching and learning approach. A project of Northeast Area Development (NEAD), this program has demonstrated success with little institutional financial support by whichever standard one looks at. University of Rochester education researchers continue to participate with Freedom School in reciprocal relationships benefitting students of education who visit the site to learn exemplary practices. UR has provided outcomes analysis of Freedom School’s summer school and after school programs, demonstrating positive results. For the most comprehensive qualitative picture of the work, anyone can simply visit the program to view work products or observe instruction or join in Harambe.
There has been ongoing contention between the school board and RCSD administrators regarding the potential for freedom school program implementation within a school or schools. During Jean Claude Brizard’s superintendency there was a model full day program for students from East High who were not succeeding in school. By all accounts the program demonstrated success, but was not renewed after the pilot period. There was talk of the program becoming a charter school – which would have been consistent with Brizard’s explicitly pro-charter stance. Furthermore when RCSD creates so many obstacles for implementing unique programs, the leaders of those programs probably feel like they are being forced away from our schools and toward the charter route. In my view, it is criminal for public education leaders to fail to embrace a program like Freedom School which truly engages children and families for effective, holistic education.
The latest RCSD-Freedom School iteration involves a question of whether an explict board directive to establish a freedom school program at East HS this September will be followed. I assisted in the writing and passage of the resolution in March, and fully expect to see a freedom school alternatives implemented. If the administration continues to defy the board’s directive, there will be continued exposition. As I informed the superintendent during arguments at a public work session earlier this month, this is not going to “go away,” and I look forward to collaborating with Commissioner White and others in pressing for resolution.