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Key Elements of UR-EPO Plan
Structure and Organization
- Comprehensive community school.
We are implementing a plan to make East a comprehensive school with a robust set of services to support a diverse student body. Entrance is by student choice, giving priority to students living in proximity to East and the neighborhoods surrounding the school. We are building a strong academic program and an increasingly fuller complement of athletic and extra-curricular activities that support and engage students.
- School organization.
We have reorganized East high school into two separate schools and have added a 6th grade. The Lower School includes grades 6-8 and the Upper School, grades 9-12. Though part of the Upper School, a separate Freshman Academy, houses first-time 9th graders. Adding 6th grade has provided students a jumpstart on developing the foundational skills and attitudes necessary for success in high school and positions students to earn more high school credits before entering 9th grade.
- School size.
East Upper and Lower Schools will eventually have fewer students than it served when the UR-EPO began, reducing the student body over time from 1750-1350. This will be accomplished by having smaller entering cohorts and the voluntary transfer of students. No East students are required to transfer.
- Extended school day.
Students experience extended learning time every day through a longer 7.5-hour school day. Students in Grades 6-9 now have increased instructional time devoted to math and literacy, supported by a high-quality and culturally-relevant curriculum. Students in grades 10-12 now have additional opportunities to focus on college and career preparation, as well as on course recovery and small group remediation where needed.
- Staggered start times.
The Lower School and the Upper School have different start times, with Lower School students arriving earlier and being transported on yellow school buses, rather than city buses which previously drove them to school.
“All in…all the time.”
- School family groups. Each grade is organized into small “family groups” (about 10 students each) that meet daily with a mentor (faculty, staff, or administrator) to work on student interests and needs, such as leadership development, attendance, study skills, academic performance, community service projects, restorative justice practice, and other topics that support students’ development and achievement. School family group time is augmented by community advocate support to engage students and their parents and families on a daily basis.
- Engaged, active students. The UR-East EPO plan places students squarely at the center of the schooling experience. Students are starting to take charge of their learning and are beginning to take on leadership roles both within the school and community. Students are being prepared through both family group work and student-driven pedagogy in all classes to be active citizens in their community.
- Expanded social and emotional support. We are promoting and implementing a vision for social and emotional health that supports a safe and healthy school environment for teachers, students, and their families, using a restorative justice approach with systematic support of counselors, social workers, and comprehensive health services.
- Deep recognition of families as true partners. East uses a model of engagement and relationship building that focuses on the strengths of students and families, creating meaningful opportunities for shared decision-making with youth, families, and other partners in the Rochester community. East will be open evenings and weekends to serve as a focal point for the community and to provide academic and other support services to families.
- Better support for English language learners. East offers a full continuum of programs for English language learners, including integrated supports throughout the school program, as well as an enhanced dual language program for students whose home language is Spanish. Professional learning for content teachers strives to better serve English language learning students, and efforts are being made to attract school personnel who can speak languages other than English.
- Professional learning. Transformation of the East culture requires ongoing, embedded, and intensive professional learning for all school staff, and includes extensive summer work that continues through the academic year. All teachers have daily collaborative planning time to work on curriculum design, assessment, and data analysis to inform instruction, planning, and professional learning.
Academic Preparation for Career and College
- Early success. The Lower School program is designed to develop academic and social foundations, with increased instruction time in math and literacy, a school-wide approach to leadership development and restorative justice, and a wide range of athletic, co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities designed to engage students. All students entering the Lower School participate in a summer preparation program as a prerequisite of entry.
- Special focus on 9th grade. Research shows that the first year in high school is pivotal to ongoing academic achievement. Historically, an excessive number of 9th graders at East had been failing and repeating, in some cases, multiple times. With that in mind, first-time freshmen now attend the Freshman Academy and have their own section of the building, their own physical education period, special supports for students struggling academically, and continued extended time devoted to math and literacy. Students who are not on track at the end of 9th grade are provided opportunities for alternative pathways to success through campus-based and off-site choices that result in credit recovery and realignment with graduation plans that provide the full range of academic and social-emotional support the students require.
- Engaging and rigorous curriculum. The curriculum at East has been selected based on research, with extensive input from East teachers and University of Rochester faculty, building on successes in Rochester and across the country. The curriculum and teaching practices are culturally relevant and rigorous and use universal design principles to engage students in active learning, including problem-based learning that is connected with community issues. Specific, detailed curriculum changes are detailed in the proposal. At the Upper School, a comprehensive program offers a full range of classes leading to a New York State Regents diploma, including career and technical pathways, as well as a range of Advanced Placement and early-college classes.
- Expanded and vibrant Career and Technical Education program. In-house programs include Health Related Careers, featuring a partnership with UR Medicine; Culinary Arts, including a partnership with Wegman’s grocery stores; Information Technology; and Advanced Manufacturing, including the manufacturing of optical components. East also has a program in Clinical Optics that is part of the Health Related Careers Program and offers robust career pathways in teaching and business professions. Additionally, East’s students have access to the full range of BOCES programs currently available in Monroe County.
- Unique approach to credit recovery. For those students who are not on track to graduate, there are a variety of options, including two off-site programs, a later start time, special compressed standards-based classes, online credit recovery, and evening classes that provide flexibility and focus, allowing students to better balance work or meet family demands and to recover missed credits toward graduation.
- Improving attendance. Historically, East’s attendance rate has not been conducive to credit completion and graduation. We are closely monitoring attendance rates, and are putting supports in place and a range of interventions designed to motivate students and improve attendance.
- Improving graduation rates. The proposal outlines targets for increased graduation rates for all students, improving over time. Students who entered East as 6th graders in the first year under the new plan (2015), are expected to reach the New York State standard of 80% graduation rate.