Rochester’s East High, a school designated as persistently failing by the New York State Education Department in 2014, has been given a new lease on life — or at least on education. In July, the school partnered with the University of Rochester, with hopes of turning around the school and improving its state of education.
But just weeks into the new school year, East High is already off to a shaky start. According to WHAM, the attendance rate for upper-level students has already been cause for concern.
These problems were addressed in a required update meeting with East High faculty and parents. The meetings are to take place throughout the year.
To track the progress of this educational partnership, Professor Joanne Larson of the U of R’s Warner school of education has been awarded a grant of $50,000. With the grant money, Larson is spearheading a leadership team and five-year study that will help to understand what WXXI News calls “the developing culture” at East High.
Larson tells the news station, “The culture between teachers and administrators, the culture and relationships between students and administrations, students and teachers; what changes are we noticing in the tone of the building, or the kind of inspiration or excitement that people have — that sense of hope.”
If the partnership develops positively, Larson believes that East High could be a future model for urban school reform.
“If we figure this out, which I think we’re going to, I think other people can do it,” said Larson. “And we can help to turn around the downward spiral of urban education.”
Last year, East High’s graduation rate was 30%. As part of the partnership with U of R, the school aims to increase the graduation rate to 46%. While that’s a modest improvement, it’s an improvement nevertheless.
In addition, Larson hopes to focus on the ways that students learn critical thinking and analytical reading via different interdisciplinary texts. Through this, students will be able to make larger connections to history and culture, and understand these texts’ roles in daily life.
These connections start as early as preschool; researchers in a study of 1,364 children found that early education improves language and memory dramatically. As education improves at East High, these skills will be solidified and translated into meaningful critical thinking and analyzing skills.