It’s been one year since The University of Rochester took on the role as the Educational Partnership Organization for East High School.
Superintendent of the Lower and Upper schools Shaun Nelms said that year one has been about identifying the root issues they plan to address with this partnership. The list ranged from low attendance rates and curriculum changes, to behavioral problems, and student teacher relations.
The statistic Nelms was most proud of was increased retention rates from grade 9 to grade 10.
"In previous years, 50% of students were held back in grade 9. This past year, 75% of our kids moved forward. Retention is something that’s a predictor for graduation, three years later for these students. And at 75%, it’s not a number that we ideally want, but to see it improve that drastically in year one was incredible."
Suspensions were another major issue tackled this year. The 2014-2015 school year saw over 2500 suspensions total, while the 2015-2016 school year saw just over 900.
"We realized that these students had no shot of graduating, or even successfully completing the year if they’re repeatedly being suspended. So we found students who may have had ten 5-day suspensions. And there’s no way you can miss 50 days of school and be successful. So we continued to uncover different systemic issues. But it also provides the unique opportunity to build new systems that address that."
But not all of the concerns could be analyzed with statistics. Nelms also mentioned mediating issues that occur outside the classroom, and encouraging families to be involved in their child's schooling.
"Many of our parents, we have to remember, were parents with in the system. And if they had a bad experience as students, its hard to reengage them. And so the challenge becomes, to create a school environment that is welcoming to students, that welcomes parents differently, but also engages the community as a whole."
Nelms hopes to engage in more community schooling, working with organizations around the Beechwood neighborhood to change perceptions of East High.
"I think those who thought East was a place that was dangerous and out of control, they have a new definition. Because they're in the building, we hold our meetings here. I want people to be in the school, to see that this school is like many other schools throughout the county."
The receivership program with the University of Rochester is in year two, of a five-year plan.