Improving Rochester Schools: A Steep Hill to Climb

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI attended a Great Schools for All event on November 10, a discussion of the school reform efforts of Raleigh, NC. Underlying the discussion was the proposition that when a substantial share of children in a classroom are in poverty, it is nearly impossible for students to achieve at a high level. Raleigh, part of the Wake County school district, responded to poverty concentration by establishing and preserving a balance of poor and non-poor children in every school in the district. Raleigh points to trends in graduation rates and other indicators that suggest that the policy has been effective. See Hope and Despair in the American City: why there are no bad schools in Raleigh, by Gerald Grant, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University. A book review and summary can be found here. Read more »

The Challenge of Matching Jobs and Job Seekers

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerThere is nothing more debilitating than unemployment—both for the individual and society. The jobless are deprived of the dignity of work and the community is deprived of the benefit of their labor. We look to workforce development programs and higher education to match jobs and job seekers and, often, to help the unemployed gain the skills that are needed in the workplace.

Recent attention has focused on “middle skills,” those positions requiring some postsecondary technical education and training but not a four year college degree. A recent Harvard Business Review article[*] found that nearly half of new job openings from 2010 through 2020 will be middle-skills positions in fields such as computer technology, nursing, and high-skill manufacturing. Community colleges (such as Monroe Community College) are particularly well suited to addressing the middle skills gap and are exploring how they can best fill that need.

This leads to a reasonably neat policy prescription: If we have willing workers whose skills simply fall short, then the public’s role is to provide a bridge to employment through training. Easy, right? As one of the Rochester area’s most strategic training providers, Monroe Community College is continuously seeking better information on the needs of its market. Read more »

National Technical Institute for Deaf Boosts Rochester Economy & Visibility

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerHigher education is a major contributor to our region’s prosperity. Home to 18 colleges and universities, total employment in the sector rose steadily during the recession and totaled nearly 35,000 last year, up 16% since 2007.

Yet Rochester higher ed stands out for more than just job and payroll totals. The community is home to a number of distinctive institutions that set the region apart. One of these, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute for Technology, may be better recognized outside Rochester than inside. NTID is the world’s first and largest technological college for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Established by Congress in 1965, the first students entered in 1968.

A recent CGR study of NTID concluded that the Institute is responsible for more than 1,000 jobs, both direct and spillover, and over $50 million in labor income. Moreover, due to its national scope and reputation, it captured $84 million in outside funding (75% federal) over the 2006-11 period. NTID has done its part to strengthen higher ed in Rochester, boosting enrollment by 24% from 2007. Read more »

Imagine a Very Different Public Library

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

If you live in Monroe County NY, and especially if you reside in Rochester, you have an immediate opportunity to weigh in on what you want your public library to be. Take a brief survey, developed by CGR, about how to shape Rochester Public Library’s future: www.cgr.org/RochesterPublicLibrary .

Kirstin PryorJust what do we want from a bricks and mortar public library in our digital age? Just over half of Americans, age 16 and up, visited one in the past year, according to the most recent Pew Internet & American Life national survey, and 91% of visitors called libraries an important part of their community.

Further, they said they value, in order of importance, books to borrow, reference librarians and free public access to computers and the Internet. Clearly, most of the traditional aspects of libraries—that quiet hush, the many stacks, the quintessential librarian, and (for some decades now) the rows of computers, matter to a great many of us.

The question communities everywhere are grappling with is how to balance the traditional library with digital world realities. What used to require a reference librarian is now often a quick Google or Wikipedia search. Many of our book recommendations come from booksellers’ “customers who bought, also liked” features or Facebook posts. And countless books, articles and newspapers that used to be print only are now downloadable to e-readers and smartphones. Read more »

We’re on a Long Trek to Fix Urban Schools

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner

The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk underscored the gap in educational outcomes between the nation’s disadvantaged and the rest of society, while challenging the nation’s confidence in the entire K-12 educational system by unfavorable international comparisons. We have made little progress in closing either the gap between America’s rich and poor, or the gap between our students and those of other nations.

Since 1983, we’ve been looking for a quick fix solution, the one Big Thing that would close these gaps. This is ultimately fruitless. Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas seems to have taken this lesson to heart. As noted in a recent City Newspaper interview, he studiously avoids the temptation to predict speedy, miraculous success by imposing bold new policies bundled up with a clever name. Read more »

UR-RIT Corridor: Rochester’s New Economic Center of Gravity

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerIn Triumph of the City, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser attempts to explain why some cities—think New York or London or Bangalore—have prospered, even as the cost of communication has plummeted. The “death of distance” suggests the death of cities. Why do some defy the prognosis?

Glaeser reminds us that cities are “density, proximity, closeness. . . . [T]heir success depends on the demand for physical closeness.” He asserts that electronic communication is not a substitute for face-to-face contact (a proposition anyone who has endured a few conference calls will accept). Even sophisticated “virtual meeting” suites fall short. (Maybe it looks like Nathan is in the same room, but you can’t go out for a beer after the meeting.) Read more »

Competitive Partners: The difficult, but critical, challenge of Nonprofit Collaborations

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Tough times have spurred a renewed interest in collaborations among nonprofit agencies – everything from co-location to formal programmatic partnerships to organizational mergers. With fewer public dollars available to support programs, and the economic pinch slowing private contributions, it makes sense to rethink how the nonprofit sector operates.

The nonprofit sector has certainly grown in both numbers and scale over the past few decades. The National Center for Charitable Statistics reports, for example, the number of registered nonprofits in New York State nearly hit 104,000 this year, up 50% compared to the mid-1990s. The human service sector alone (excluding health care) represents over $25 billion in annual revenue in NY with nearly $40 billion in total assets.  In Rochester, Guidestar reports 245 human services agencies with income over $100,000—from Hillside Family of Agencies with revenue of $100 million to Bethany House women’s shelter with income under $130,000. Read more »

Rochester’s Middlin Economy: A Decade of Transformation

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent Gardner
For most of 2009, Rochester ranked in the Top 20 in the Brookings Institution’s regular reports on the impact of the recession. Indeed, for 2009, Rochester had the 15th best job report among the nation’s 100 largest metros. New York’s job creation record was the best of the 15 largest states.

By the end of last year, Rochester had slid to #41 and New York State to #11. What happened? Well, not much. In Rochester, at least. Our job performance over the last decade has been quite consistent from year to year: We lost jobs, but never more than 2% in a year. The Great Recession was triggered when the real estate bubble burst, the construction and real estate sectors suddenly cooled and millions found their jobs gone or at risk. Having missed the boom, Rochester also missed the bust and continued the trend of the early part of the century—slow shrinkage as the economy struggled to absorb cuts at Kodak and other large employers. Read more »

Regents study is reason to push forward with reform, not retreat

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner

Confronted by a Regents study declaring that only 5 percent of Rochester City School District graduates are college-ready, Jean-Claude Brizard declares the findings “terrifying.”

One of Brizard’s best qualities is his persistent willingness to look the facts in the face. Too often our education leadership—the district administration and the Board of Education—has been unwilling to state the obvious. It is a natural reaction: The task is herculean. The need is desperate. The consequences of failure are tragic. Read more »

Mayoral Control: The conversation continues

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerSchool Board President Malik Evans and CGR are portrayed as being on different sides of this “mayoral control” discussion. Yet we agree that community opinion matters. The response of CGR was to conduct a poll with our partner, Metrix Matrix. At a forum televised by WXXI last Thursday, Mr. Evans suggested a referendum. But it amounts to the same thing—what the community thinks about this issue is important.

We’ve had two helpful forums on the topic. After the City Administration postponed several planned public meetings, the Rochester Business Journal’s forum was the first. School Board Commissioner Van White and Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski spoke against the proposal. In addition to remarks from Mayor Duffy, panelists Margaret Raymond from Stanford, Kenneth Wong from Brown, and Dennis Walcott, NYC’s Deputy Mayor for Education, spoke in support.

Read more »