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Back to school means changes in RCSD

Rochester, N.Y.--Michelle Frye has been teaching for 17 years but still gets excited for the first day of school.

This year, she admits, will bring more challenges. Michelle teaches second grade in the Rochester City School District. She spent Tuesday getting her classroom ready, placing a reading book at each child's desk.

Frye said the Common Core Curriculum is challenging, because it requires a lot more reading and writing but she believes it will pay off for students later on.

The new school year means more instruction time for most students in city schools. There is no more early release on Wednesdays and some schools will have an extended day.

For teachers there are other challenges as well. Because of new state standards, teachers now are also being graded. Most got their evaluation scores over the Labor Day weekend.

Though exact numbers aren't being released, the Rochester Teacher's Union said a significant number of teachers were rated "developing." That means they will have to be placed on an improvement plan.

The union is setting up workshops for teachers next week to explain how the improvement plan works and what they need to do.

Teachers can also appeal their evaluation score. They have 15 days to file an appeal. The Rochester Teacher's Union is holding workshops for teachers to explain this process, this week at the union offices.

RTA President Adam Urbanski said the evaluation system is flawed and isn't a fair measure of a teacher's performance or student learning.

Rochester School Board President Malik Evans said this will be a rocky year because of the new evaluation system and the Common Core Curriculum, but he said it's important that the district give teachers what they need to succeed in the classroom and that parents send their children to school each day.

Evans said children who miss more than ten days of school fall too far behind and cannot catch up.

He said kids can't learn and teacher's can't teach, if students aren't in school.

School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said there is room for improvement on all levels in the district, including his job.

He said if the district doesn't fix it's own problems, someone else will.

Vargas doesn't support a state take-over of schools but said there isn't much more time to improve student performance and graduation rates in the district.

Vargas told 13 WHAM News: "This is our last chance to improve our schools and of course, the improvement needs to come from us."

Malik Evans said he isn't surprised to hear rumors of a takeover of the district by the state but said it is too drastic and not the answer.

Evans told us: "There are no silver bullets to resolving the issues...The last thing you need is for Rochester to be an orphan of the state."

School Board Member Van White challenged the state to do a better job of helping the district instead of trying to take it over.

White told 13 WHAM News: "I would challenge the Governor to serve as a teacher in a district where 95 percent of students get free or reduced lunches. If he can walk in those shoes, then he should choose to be a board member, Principal or teacher, or better yet stay in Albany and give schools the help they need."

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Washington Times