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East High-UR partnership is extended


East High School's educational partnership with the University of Rochester has been extended. - PHOTO COUTESY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS
  • East High School's educational partnership with the University of Rochester has been extended.
East High School will continue to be managed through a partnership with the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education at least another four years.

The New York State Education Department has approved an extension of the agreement through 2025.

The educational partnership organization, or EPO, started in 2015. Back then, East was slated to close for failing to meet state standards for several years.

Since that time, the four-year graduation rate increased from 33% to 85% and the attendance rate grew from 77% to 90%. The drop-out rate declined from 41% to 15%.

The school's superintendent Shaun Nelms said it's ultimately the voice and advocacy of the students that makes it work.

"They just want to be valued for who they are. They want to be pushed and challenged by adults, but they want to be respected," he said. "It was the loudest thing they said years one, two and three of the EPO and it's the loudest thing they're saying now."

Sarah Peyre, dean of Warner School of Education, said the partnership has allowed Warner to challenge its assumptions about how to address disparities in urban education to change student outcomes.

"So as practitioners and researchers", she added, "we have been able to show that we can walk the talk, if you will."

The current budget for East High School for the 2021-2022 academic year is $20,530,911. That is several million dollars less than was spent in the first year of the EPO.

Nelms said the lower cost is attributable to the school's academic success.

"When you have a graduation rate of 85%, you have less kids going to summer school, which is a cost, you have less kids being held back or retained, which is a cost, and you need less staff," he explained.

Nelms would like to be part of the EPO in some capacity until the state ends the partnership or it evolves into something else.

He said if he could write the perfect ending, it would be the creation of a Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade program that extends to strategic partnerships with employers, colleges, and the military so student success can be tracked after high school graduation.

"I'm gonna work diligently to make that happen," said Nelms.

In the meantime, he sees a more immediate challenge: Helping students transition back to full-time, in-person learning after they spent so much time out of the classroom in the last 18 months.

Beth Adams is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.