Professor Receives National Grant to Study the University of Rochester’s EPO Partnership with East

Joanne Larson  photo
Joanne Larson, Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, has been awarded a $50,000 grant to study the early stages of the University’s unique collaborative effort to help revitalize Rochester’s historic East High School.
The award from the Spencer Foundation will support Larson’s work in examining the role of literacy in the first year of the East Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) transformation process.  The study will uncover how larger structures of inequality influence the new partnership and its ability to transform education and social outcomes.
“We anticipate that this new university-school partnership has the potential to become a model for urban school reform, making it even more important to understand the challenges, like poverty, racial tensions, inequities, and deficit discourses about urban students and their families, impacting school participation and graduation rates in Rochester schools and schools across the nation,” said Larson, the principal investigator on the study. “Our research will tell the story of this unique partnership—from beginning to end—with a focus on the critical first year of the transformation process.”
Using an ethnographic approach that includes field notes, interviews, documents, and school demographic and achievement data, the study will allow Larson and her team to document how power relationships between students and their families, teachers, staff, and administrators develop and shift over the course of the urban school reform effort.
In 2014, East was on the verge of being closed by the state because of its designation as a “persistently failing” school. In working with the education department, the Rochester City School District, its collective bargaining units, and the East community, the University prepared and submitted a comprehensive proposal to assume the role of an EPO for East High School, beginning July 1, 2015. The University has since assumed full management responsibilities for East and opened its doors to a new era and a new school year on September 8, 2015.
Larson, who also serves on the leadership team of the EPO partnership and leads the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) committee at East, chairs the teaching and curriculum program at the Warner School, where she focuses her research on how language and literacy practices mediate social and power relations in literacy events in schools and communities. She received her PhD in curriculum from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1995.
The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 and investigates ways in which education can be improved around the world. Since 1971, the Foundation has awarded grants totaling nearly $500 million.
Learn more about the research opportunities available through the University’s EPO partnership with East.

Tags: East, Joanne Larson, research