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New poll shows parents in Finger Lakes are cautiously optimistic about new school year

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  • Staff Report 

Parents are showing cautious optimism about the new school year.

That’s according to new polling by the Children’s Agenda, which took responses from 600 parents in the region about the school year.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The findings show parents are cautiously optimistic as their children move into a new school year but are still looking for stronger academic and social-emotional support for their children and families.

“Parents need to know they’re not alone,” said Toyin Anderson, a Rochester parent leader and Board member at The Children’s Agenda. “More than 1 out of every 3 parents don’t feel listened to by their schools. For parents in the city, that’s especially true for parents of older children in middle and high schools. For parents in the suburbs, that’s especially true for parents of younger children, Pre-K through elementary schools. It takes the whole community coming together to make sure children thrive, from cradle to career.”

The poll explored four aspects of children’s education and well-being: 

  • School-based academic and social-emotional supports; 
  • Integration and diversity in schools; 
  • Supports for youth mental health; and 
  • Access to summer enrichment programs.  

While almost all parents see school-based supports as helpful, confidence that their child’s school will provide those supports is slightly lower.

What were the findings? 

  • Parents have clear opinions about school policies and the potential for new education structures in Monroe County, with growing support for greater socio-economic integration of students and greater diversity of teachers and staff. Increasingly, parents think school integration and diversity is important. There is strong support for public Pre-K programs and magnet schools that cross district boundaries. 
  • In both Rochester and the suburbs, parents support alternatives to suspension, especially in Pre-K through Grade 3. A notable number of parents worry about their children being suspended for minor infractions. This was especially true for Hispanic and Black parents and parents of children with disabilities.
  • Both within and outside of schools, parents want access to a variety of mental health supports such as mentoring, counseling and support groups. These supports are particularly viewed as helpful by Black and Hispanic parents and parents of children with disabilities. 
  • Finally, 6 out of 10 parents enrolled their children in a summer program, either this summer or in the past. Parents who have never enrolled their children most frequently cited a lack of interest, costs being too high, the hours not working for their family, and transportation difficulties. Transportation difficulties were especially high for families in Rochester, most notably for Hispanic families.  

“What families have told us calls for bold action on public policies and funding that provide for the needs of the whole child and the whole family,” said Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda. “Policy makers and our education system may see a dichotomy between academic and social-emotional development in their post-pandemic response to learning loss and other issues, but parents don’t.”

The Children’s Agenda works in partnership with parent advocates, local and statewide coalitions, and elected officials to change public policies and make smart use of public funds.

What changes would be helpful?

  • Investing in greater academic and social-emotional supports in schools that include ongoing communication with families, direct supports for students, and enrichment opportunities. 
  • Changing state law and local practices to replace over-reliance on suspensions and instead promoting use of supportive interventions and restorative practices. 
  • Integrating students and strengthening teacher/staff diversity through inter-district mechanisms. 
  • Ensuring mental health supports are available to children and families when and where they need them.
  • Decreasing the cost of and investing in transportation to summer programs so all children can be supported in their social, emotional and intellectual development throughout the year.