Op/Ed By Brigit Hurley, Policy Analyst, The Children’s Agenda and Ann M. Johnson, Senior Director, ACT Rochester –
On Friday, April 7, ACT Rochester released new data on Rochester and its surrounding region at its 6th annual Community Report Card event. The focus of the 2017 event was on influencing change through the power of data.
The Children’s Agenda relies on ACT Rochester indicators to help determine what’s needed most, and works best for children in Monroe County, particularly the most vulnerable.
With the constant drumbeat of negative data about Rochester, it’s good to have positive news to share:
- Many of the education indicators in Rochester show an encouraging trend – Pre-K participation is up, as are the percentage of 3rd and 4th grade students passing state competency tests in Math and English.
- A larger portion of high school students in Rochester are graduating in 4 years.
- Both teen pregnancy and infant deaths have dropped dramatically.
- Residents of Rochester love their libraries – the city’s library visit rate is higher than the county, region, and state rate, and the portion of the population that are library borrowers is higher than all but one surrounding county.
The news is not all good, though, and that is especially true of Black and Latino Rochesterians. (It’s important to keep in mind that the natural lag in data collection and reporting means that most of the new information is from 2014 or 2015. It probably doesn’t show any results from the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, for example).
Rochester’s Black and Hispanic residents are more likely to experience a teen pregnancy, live in poverty, be unemployed, and pay higher rent. And, the median household income in Rochester continues to drop.
At $30,960, it’s nearly half that of the lowest county in our region. For Black and Hispanic households in Rochester, the median income is $23,000.
ACT Rochester gathers all of the indicators they have broken down by race and ethnicity in one place on their website. But they don’t provide this information so we can spend more time admiring Rochester’s problems.
It is designed to spur action, and, indeed, it has.
Ajamu Kitwana, executive director of ESL Charitable Foundation, facilitated the presentations at the Report Card event that illustrated how ACT Rochester indicators have been used to create positive change at REOC, and at the HOPE Center in Penn Yan. Kitwana shared that communities must design and implement initiatives and programs with priorities placed on equity, meaningfully including community members, and use data to learn, adapt and improve — not just to evaluate.
We are fortunate to have ACT Rochester and its accessible, authoritative data, but, it is only a first step. Now that everyone is aware of the deep disparities that exist in our community, we have no excuse for inaction.