Center for Urban Education Success

$2.5M NSF grant will build upon UR-East’s partnership to bolster STEM programs for historically marginalized students

August 11, 2020 –East High School’s partnership with the University of Rochester is paying another dividend as the two will work together to explore ways to build a challenging mathematics program.The university’s Warner School of Education received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The task: Work on overcoming barriers for students in a high-poverty setting, identify resources and make sure they stay in place to keep the program going. The idea is to create a model that can be used in various settings.

Read article in Minority Reporter here.


Marsh and Nelms Write for School Administrator Magazine

How Student Voice Transformed East High

This article documents how a collaborative group of teachers, administrators, parents, students, community members and university staff designed a model that built student voice into the foundation of school culture and practices.  The stakes were high. We faced both the pressure to prevent the school from closing and the opportunity to reshape it into a place that truly served young people and expanded their opportunities for advocacy.

Read full article here.

Marsh and Nelms write for Educational Leadership magazine

Partners in Fighting Cyberbulllying

Steady increases in both teen suicides and school shootings have heightened public concern about cyberbullying. This article documents how the University of Rochester-East collaboration is reshaping school climate and strengthening relationships at school to curb cyberbullying. We describe how three aspects of school life — beliefs, structures, and policies — have changed the climate at East High, in ways that better attend to cyberbullying.

Read full article here.

New Video: Community Schooling

Along the journey to transform East High School, the notion of becoming a community school became increasingly central. Community schools address the needs, interests, and aspirations of the whole child. They are places where students, their families, community agencies, teachers, administrators and staff work together to provide support for all stakeholders. This video tells the story of how East has become a community school from the perspectives of East staff, administrators, students, parents, and UR faculty. Their reflections can inform other schools seeking to collaborate with the communities they serve.

Marsh Publishes on Chronic Absenteeism in American Educator

What Research Tells Us about Poor Attendance at School

Absenteeism links to low achievement in urban districts. And since urban schools comprise a higher percentage of students of color and students living with poverty, absenteeism can be understood as contributing to the achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts. Thus, reducing absenteeism is a move to reduce inequity. Read more here

When 'All' Means 'All': Two Warner Centers Partner to Support Students with Disabilities at East

A Commitment to Inclusion at East: Developing a Culture of Change for Students with Disabilities

written by Theresa Danylak, Assistant Director for  Communications at University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development

Schools only become “inclusive” once the school culture changes. At East Upper & Lower Schools, students with disabilities are starting to feel the change. Read entire article here.

CUES Partners with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and East to Host Literacy Summit

September 14, 2019 — During this community summit of educators from East High and region-wide, thought leaders shared proven ways to captivate readers and writers in the secondary classroom, address the needs of the entire learning community, and improve student outcomes. After several keynote presentations, breakout sessions addressed such themes as:  Implementing An Innovative Literacy Model at East, Improving Student Proficiency Through Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships, and Literacy Work and Course Offerings: University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education.

Larson Writes Guest Essay about Housing Insecurity and Education

May 2019 — CUES Associate Director of Research,  Joanne Larson contributed a contributed a Speaking Out essay that published as part of the Democrat & Chronicle’s Time to Educate” campaign. Housing insecurity is often overlooked in the education debate, but it’s key to understanding the challenges faced by parents and children in the Rochester City School District. Read the essay here.

Nelms Writes Essay Published in Rochester Beacon

May 2019 — CUES Director,  Shaun Nelms contributed a guest essay on the positive trajectory of the UR-East EPO Partnership published by the Rochester Beacon. After years of low performance, East High School was designated a “persistently failing school” by New York’s commissioner of education. Having failed to achieve sufficient progress in the year following this designation, the Rochester City School District Board of Education was required to designate an independent receiver called an Educational Partnership Organization. In April 2014, the president of the board of education approached the University of Rochester about becoming East High’s EPO. The university accepted the challenge and welcomed the first class of students in the fall of 2015. Read the essay here.

Larson and East English Teachers Publish in the Journal of Adult & Adolescent Literacy

March 2019 — CUES Associate Director of Research, Joanne Larson, collaborated with two teachers from East High School to study how the use of sarcasm in an urban high school English classroom fostered critical language awareness and positive relationships among diverse classroom participants. They found that sarcasm was used to construct a sense of belonging which supported building trusting relationships and complex language learning. Learn More

Cover of East EOP Three-Year Report featuring mural of multicultural faces

EAST EPO Issues Three-Year Progress Report

February 2019 — The EAST EPO has issued a report to communicate the progress of East High School in the first three years of the partnership with the University of Rochester. The Center for Urban Education Success supports and researches this partnership. Students, staff, and families have accomplished a great deal, and the trajectory for the future looks positive. Report in English. Report in Spanish.


Marsh and Nelms Publish in District Administration on Attendance

January 2019 — Valerie Marsh and Shaun Nelms recently co-wrote an article focused on stemming chronic absenteeism in urban schools for District Administration magazine. Based on research conducted at the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) (Attendance Brief #1, Attendance Brief #2) and applied at East Upper and Lower Schools in Rochester, NY, this article outlines four steps schools can take to increase attendance, especially pertinent to urban settings. Learn More


CUES Publishes Practitioner Brief on Bullying

October 2018 — CUES publishes a practitioner brief on bullying in schools, exploring prevalence, contributing factors, and interventions. This brief’s analysis of empirical research aims to provide a balanced and accurate depiction of bullying in all of its forms. A resource guide for teachers and practitioners is included. Learn More


CUES Receives $2.5 Million Gift from William and Sheila Konar Foundation

June 2018 –The Konar Foundation’s gift creates a new endowed directorship position to lead CUES, and Dr. Shaun Nelms, Superintendent of East Upper and Lower Schools in Rochester and formerly an affiliated faculty member of CUES, was installed as the inaugural director to fill this endowed position. Learn More

Supporting Meaningful, Lasting Change in Urban Schools

Message from the Director

Thank you for visiting the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES)! 

At CUES, we believe in equity and excellence for ALL students. In order to meet this demand, we must consider questions such as: Who will begin to change systems so this work and accountability is shared? And, under what conditions can this change take place? At CUES, we work daily to explore innovative approaches to tackle persistent challenges which hinder educational systems.  More from Director.

Focusing on Key Topics in Urban Education

CUES studies best practices in urban education and produces various resources for interested educators and scholars: research articles, practitioner briefs, videos, professional articles, and resource guides.


Absenteeism is a persistent problem, particularly acute in urban school settings. According to the US Department of Education, six million students (one out of seven) are missing at least 15 days during the school year, increasing their likelihood for lower achievement and dropping out.

Restorative Practices

As more and more schools are realizing that the traditional approach of punitive discipline is not only ineffective in improving student behavior, but resembles the culture of prison systems, they have been turning increasingly to a restorative practices approach.


Bullying, which involves an intention to do harm, repetition, and a power imbalance between bully and victim, has become a public health concern not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Alongside the increased attention to bullying, a related phenomenon of cyberbullying has emerged.

Distributed Leadership

In a distributed leadership structure, leadership roles are supported and shared among many individuals in the community. By expanding accountability and voice to teachers, staff, students, and families, distributed leadership shifts leadership more widely and horizontally.

ALL IN at East.

Step in for a look at the people, programs, and vision that are driving change at East High under the leadership of the University of Rochester – East High EPO.

As featured in the November/December issue of the University’s Rochester Review in 2017.

Connecting Theory and Practice to Improve Urban Schools


We have a deep commitment to research that is collaborative, participatory, and emancipatory. By researching alongside the East community, our goal is to produce more authentic and useful accounts of school change.

Community Conversations

Each year, CUES organizes a major symposium designed to showcase and support the work at East and engage the larger community in a conversation and professional learning opportunity to promote quality education in our cities and support the transformation of community schools.

Practitioner Briefs

As a clearinghouse for research, we publish practitioner briefs that address particular topics, questions, and problems pertinent to urban education. We draw upon our network with other urban secondary schools to help understand how these schools are successfully addressing the challenges and questions they confront.

VIDEOS: Practices, Ideas and People Transforming East

CUES sat down with teachers, students, administrators, and staff to talk about the lessons they’re learning as they participate in this comprehensive project. The videos featured here share their successes, their struggles, and their plans going forward so that others who are interested in urban education reform may learn from their insights.