Press Release 12.2

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE* December 2, 2014


At More Than 500 Schools Statewide, 90% of Students Cannot Read or Do Math and Are Graduating from High School Without Skills for College — A Crisis that Threatens to Stall State’s Economic Gains

Parents Call for Urgent Action to Expand Access to Higher-Quality Schools

Contact:, 212 634 7469 OR, 347 596 6389

New York, NY—A new report from the parent advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools shows that hundreds of schools are failing to educate students across New York State — a situation that diminishes New York’s ability to educate and train skilled workers just as many regions are showing signs of economic recovery. The analysis, Ignition Failure: Broken Schools Threaten New York State’s Revival, released Tuesday, reveals that the schools crisis extends to every geographic region in the state, from Candor in Tioga County, where 278 out of 326 kids cannot do basic math, to Rochester, where only 3% of high school students are college ready. All told, 249,000 students—more than 11% of the statewide student population—attend a badly failing school.

As the report details, the schools crisis across the state is dire. In the Big Four cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers, more than 68,000 students are trapped in 128 persistently failing schools. In other areas of the state, another 75 schools serving about 32,000 students have gained this dismal distinction. This means that at more than 500 schools across the state, just 10% of students were able to master basic math and reading — and graduate from high school prepared for college. In many of these communities, neighboring schools are only marginally better, leaving parents with essentially no options for their children — and employers with an abysmally unqualified workforce.

For decades, Western New York and regions across the state have faced bleak job prospects, limited economic growth, and the lingering effects of a statewide recession. Recent investments in health care and technology show glimmers of hope for new jobs. However, that progress is threatened by the profound failure of so many of the state’s schools to produce a well-educated workforce, despite the fact that New York spends more per pupil on education than any other state in the country. With fewer than 53% of students graduating high school across the Big Four cities, jobs will go unfilled, poverty will remain stagnant, and cities will be robbed of their economic potential unless parents are immediately given higher-quality school options.

In light of the report, leaders and parents are calling for bold, urgent action across the state to expand access to higher-quality schools and enact swift reforms that give parents choice.

“This report speaks volumes of the need to work quicker and smarter to create schools that ensure that every child has access to the American dream. I am encouraged by the efforts of many teachers, parents and administrators however schools of excellence must be the norm and not the exception,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“We can and we must do better for our children. That’s why we are advocates for bold, transformational change in our schools–no child should be forced to attend a school that is failing them,” said Samuel L. Radford III, parent of Buffalo public school children and President of the Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Council.

“With almost a quarter million students trapped in failing schools statewide, we are facing an urgent crisis that threatens our economy and kids’ futures,” said Jeremiah Kittredge, Executive Director of Families for Excellent Schools.

Key Findings:

•   There are 249,000 students statewide in failing schools where 90% or more of students cannot read or do math at grade level or were not college ready.
•  In New York’s Big Four school districts, 6 out of 10 schools fail 90% of their students: In 58% of schools in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers, 90% or more of children failed 2014 state exams in English Language Arts and math or were not college ready.*
•  There are only 4 schools—in all 4 cities combined—where students have a chance to succeed: At only four schools in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers do a majority of students achieve at grade level or graduate ready for college. Parents are starved of high-quality school options for their children.
•  Outside of the Big Four and NYC school districts, another 75 schools across the state are failing.

Below are the report’s finding for each of the Big Four districts in the state:


•  At 42 schools in Buffalo – 61% of all schools – no more than 1 in 10 students is academically proficient or college ready. These schools enroll more than 21,000 children.
•  At only two schools are at least half of students proficient or college ready.  Both of those schools have a majority of students who are white – in a district where the average school is 20% white.


•  At 54 schools in Rochester – 79% of all schools – no more than 1 in 10 students is academically proficient or college ready. These schools enroll more than 24,300 kids.
•  There is only one school in the city where a majority of kids are proficient or college ready. That school, Genesee Community Charter School, enrolls 216 children, 67% of them white and 27% of them are economically disadvantaged. Citywide, 13% of students are white and 82% are economically disadvantaged.


•  At 23 schools in Syracuse – 72% of all schools – no more than 1 in 10 students is academically proficient or college ready. These schools enroll approximately 15,100 students.
•  Not a single school in the Syracuse has a majority of students who are proficient or college ready.


•  At 11 schools in Yonkers – 28% of all schools – no more than 1 in 10 students is academically proficient or college ready. These schools enroll approximately 8,500 students.
•  At only one public school in the city, Pearls Hawthorne School, do a majority of students meet state academic standards. Students at Pearls Hawthorne are about half as likely to grow up in poverty than kids at the 11 severely failing schools in Yonkers.

*Elementary and middle schools are categorized as failing when 90% (or more) of students fail to pass annual state ELA and math exams administered for grades 3-8. High schools are categorized as failing when more than 90% of students fail to meet the state’s standard for college readiness, the aspirational performance measure.