Skip to main content
Students with teacher at East High School

East High School partnership

Community initiative

Quick facts

In April of 2014, the University of Rochester was asked by the Rochester City School District Board of Education to become the Educational Partnership Organization for East High School. East was facing possible closure due to a long history of failure to meet New York State Education Department benchmarks. The Warner School of Education and the University developed a specific proposal to do this work in conjunction with the East educational community. 

The model has shown great success in addressing disparities in urban education to change student outcomes, while surpassing the goal to double the graduation rate of East students. 
Since 2015: 

  • the four-year graduation rate increased from 33 to 85 percent; 
  • the attendance rate grew from 77 to 90 percent; and 
  • the drop-out rate declined from 41 to 15 percent. 

Research at East High School

The partnership with East is an exciting opportunity to take what we know about education to a school that needs it. It is crucial that we document this partnership with rigorous research, but that we do not position East as a research lab. To construct a welcoming space for researchers that honors the East community, we have developed the following principles that all proposals will need to address before receiving the school district's letter of approval:

  • Research must benefit the mission of the school.
  • Relevance to practice must be an explicit criteria.
  • The research must be useful to the East community.
  • Proposal must be explicit about how this community will benefit (not just researcher benefit).
  • Proposals must show how the research will advance the needs of the school without overburdening East and without being intrusive.
  • Dissemination of results needs to include the East community (teachers, admins, students, family members).

We have established an East Research Committee, which will serve as the department review for IRB. The committee shall consist of Warner School of Education faculty, East teachers, students and administrators, and family/community members. The committee will ensure that the above criteria are met and will monitor the numbers of studies that are conducted so as not to overburden the East community or disrupt the partnership’s mission.
Process for approval:

  • All proposals must first be submitted to the East Research Committee.
  • Non-university principal investigators must provide their institution’s IRB approval with their proposal.
  • Upon approval from committee, the principal investigator will receive the required letter of support.
  • Principal investigators will then follow the usual University of Rochester IRB approval process.

Key elements of the plan for East High School

 Structure and organization

East High School will be a comprehensive school with a robust set of services to support its diverse students. Entrance will be by student choice, giving priority to students living in proximity to East and the neighborhoods surrounding the school. East will offer a strong academic program and a full complement of athletic and extra-curricular activities that support and engage students.

East will be organized into two separate schools and add 6th grade. The Lower School will include grades 6-8, and the Upper School will be Grades 9-12. Though part of the Upper School, a separate Freshman Academy will house first-time 9th graders. Adding 6th grade will provide students a jumpstart on developing the foundational skills and attitudes necessary for success in high school and will position students to earn more high school credits before entering 9th grade. 

East High School will eventually have fewer students than it currently serves, reducing the student body over time from 1750 to 1350. This will be accomplished by having smaller entering cohorts and the voluntary transfer of students. No current East students will be required to transfer.

Students will experience extended learning time every day through a longer 7.5-hour school day. Students in Grades 6-9 will have increased instructional time devoted to math and literacy, supported by a high-quality and culturally-relevant curriculum. Students in grades 10-12 will have additional opportunities to focus on college and career preparation, as well as on course recovery and small group remediation where needed.

The Lower School and the Upper School will have different start times, with the Lower School students arriving earlier and being transported on school buses, rather than city buses.

“All In...” culture, engagement and supports

The people working at East will be “all in... all the time,” meaning that they will direct their full professional efforts to helping to create a positive and successful educational experience for East’s students. East’s teachers and school leaders will engage in teaching and learning as a collaborative experience. Every day, they will work together planning lessons, assessing student progress, and sharing their practice. They will be proactive in their advocacy for and service to students. The schedules and compensation of people working at East will be adjusted to facilitate this increased engagement with students and professional learning.

Each grade will be organized into small “family groups” (about 10 students each) that meet daily with a mentor (faculty, staff, or administrator) to work on student interests and needs, such as leadership development, attendance, study skills, academic performance, community service projects, restorative justice practice, and other issues designed to support students’ development and achievement. School family time will be augmented by community advocate support to engage students and their parents and families on a daily basis.

The East plan places students squarely at the center of the schooling experience. Students will learn to take charge of their learning and gradually to take leadership roles both within the school and community. Students will be prepared through both school family group work and student-driven pedagogy in all classes to be active citizens in their community.

The proposal articulates and promotes a vision for social and emotional health that supports a safe and healthy school environment for teachers, students and their families, using a restorative justice approach with the systematic support of counselors, social workers and comprehensive health services.

East High will use an intentional model of engagement and relationship building that focuses on the strengths of students and families, creating meaningful opportunities for shared decision-making with youth, families and other partners in the Rochester community. East High will be open evenings and weekends to serve as a focal point for the community and to provide academic and other support services to families.

East will offer a full continuum of programs for English language learners, including integrated supports throughout the school program, as well as an enhanced dual language program for students whose home language is Spanish. Professional learning for content teachers will strive to better serve English language learning students, and efforts will be made to attract school personnel who can speak languages other than English.

Transformation of the East culture will require ongoing, embedded and intensive professional learning for all school staff, and will include extensive summer work that will continue through the academic year. It will also require a commitment to common planning time for curriculum design, assessment and data analysis to inform instruction, planning and professional learning. 

Academic preparation for career and college

The Lower School program is designed to develop academic and social foundations, with increased instructional time in math and literacy, a school-wide approach to leadership development and restorative justice, and a full range of athletic, co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities designed to engage students. All students entering the Lower School will participate in a summer preparation program as a prerequisite of entry.

Research shows that the first year in high school is pivotal to ongoing academic achievement. An excessive number of 9th graders at East have been failing and repeating, some multiple times. With that in mind, first-time freshmen will attend the Freshman Academy and have their own wing of the building, their own lunch and physical education, with special supports for students struggling academically; continued extended time devoted to math and literacy; and opportunities to complete as many as four high school credits. Students who are not on track at the end of 9th grade will not repeat a year in the Freshman Academy. Rather, they will have alternative pathways to success through campus-based and off-site choices that result in credit recovery and realignment with graduation plans and that provide the full range of academic and social-emotional support the students will require.

The curriculum at East has been selected based on research, with extensive input from East teachers and University of Rochester faculty, building on successes in Rochester and across the country. We expect the curriculum and teaching practices to be culturally relevant and rigorous and to use universal design principles to engage students in active learning, including problem-based learning that is connected with community issues.  Specific, detailed curriculum recommendations are outlined in the proposal. At the Upper School, a comprehensive program will offer a full range of classes leading to the Regents diploma, including career and technical pathways, as well as a range of AP and early-college classes.

In-house programs will include health-related careers, featuring a partnership with the University of Rochester Medical Center; culinary arts, including a partnership with Wegman's; information technology; and advanced manufacturing, including the manufacturing of optical components. East also has a program in clinical optics that will be part of the health-related careers program and will offer robust career pathways in teaching and business professions. Additionally, East’s students will have access to the full range of BOCES programs currently available in Monroe County.

For those students who are not on track to graduate, there will be a variety of options, including two off-site programs, a later start time, special compressed standards-based classes, online credit recovery, and evening classes that provide flexibility and focus, allowing students to better balance work or meet family demands and to recover missed credits toward graduation.

Results driven

East High’s current attendance rate is not conducive to credit completion and graduation. An initial focus is to increase the attendance rate for middle school students to 92 percent in year one, 93 percent in year two and 94 percent in year three. Attendance rates will be closely monitored, with supports in place and a range of interventions designed to motivate students and improve attendance.

The proposal outlines targets for increased graduation rates for all students, improving over time. Students who enter East as 6th graders in the first year under the new plan are expected to reach the New York State standard of 80 percent graduation rate.