WXXI AM News

East High Partnership is Focus of 5-Year Study

Sep 22, 2015

A professor at the University of Rochester has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation to study the first year of the university's collaborative attempt to turn around East High School.

Professor Joanne Larson of the U of R’s Warner School of Education is part of the new leadership team at East High. She said her embedded role at the school will help her to understand the developing culture there.

"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."

Larson said the new university-school partnership could become a model for urban school reform.

"If we figure this out, which I think we're going to, I think other people can do it. And we can help to turn around the downward spiral of urban education."

Larson wants her research to move beyond test scores to shed light on how much students are actually learning.

"We're concerned that students are learning critical thinking and deep thinking about novels, for instance, in the ELA courses - that they can critique a text and understand its role; they can connect it to history and all the different interdisciplinary connections that good literature helps us do," Larson said.

East High was designated by the New York State Education Department as a persistently failing school in 2014. A team from the Warner School of Education formed a partnership with the Rochester City School District to take over management of East High in July of this year.