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East High Math Program to Get Boost From Federal Grant

Staff reports

East High School

East High School’s partnership with the University of Rochester is paying another dividend as the two will work together to explore ways to build a challenging mathematics program.

The university’s Warner School of Education received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The task: Work on overcoming barriers for students in a high-poverty setting, identify resources and make sure they stay in place to keep the program going. The idea is to create a model that can be used in various settings.

The four-year project is funded through the NSF Discovery Research preK-12 program, which provides grants to boost teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It builds on the mathematics reform efforts underway at East.

The Warner School announced the grant Aug. 10.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, a majority of students from urban areas attend high-poverty, high-need schools. Many of these students are from communities that are underrepresented in STEM fields.

Ambitious mathematics instruction involves students not only solving demanding problems but being able to explain how they did so and using methods that work for different types of problems. In typical math classes in high-need settings, students may not be challenged to figure out solutions. But that’s how STEM courses work.

Outcomes of such instruction include an increase in students’ course taking of advanced STEM courses, enhanced student identities with respect to STEM, and students’ increased competency in core STEM practices.

Research has shown long-standing challenges in secondary mathematics education in broadening participation in STEM classes and careers. Attempts often fizzle, particularly in high-need schools.

“Our goal is to take what we learn at East to support educators working in other high-need settings to implement and sustain ambitious reform efforts to broaden STEM participation to include historically marginalized students,” said Jeffrey Choppin, the principal investigator on the project and chair of teaching and curriculum at the Warner School.

UR’s Warner School and East High School formed an educational partnership in 2015. Over that time, East Lower School (Grades 6-8) has seen gains in scores at Level 2 and above on New York State assessments, rising from 19 percent in 2014-15 to 36 percent in 2018-19, and has experienced greater participation and success in advanced mathematics coursework.

The support and academic intervention available to all students, the ambitious curricula and instruction and the professional development offered to teachers have led to improved achievement throughout the high school years. In East Upper School (Grades 9-12), the on-time Regents passage rates have more than doubled in mathematics, and the graduation rate has improved from 33 percent in 2015 to 77 percent in 2020.