The partnership between the University of Rochester and East Upper and Lower is an educational reform model that begins with culture change. At the UR-East EPO (Educational Partnership Organization), we changed everything, all at the same time. From adding more social and emotional supports for students, to implementing a new approach to relationships, to rewriting curriculum, to reconnecting the school to its community of parents and neighbors, to numerous other initiatives, East is in the midst of a major and unique turnaround effort.
Now that the EPO has been in place for over three years, the shift is becoming more apparent. A recent survey of students placed trust in teachers at 98 percent, and in staff and administrators at 100 percent. This trust connects directly to some of the positive outcomes we are beginning to see: increased attendance, ELA and Math scores, graduation rates, and family engagement; decreased suspensions, behavioral incidents, and dropout rates.
East has been featured in videos produced by the University and media outlets. In addition, 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.
Remaking East: The Community's School
How a University Helped Save a Failing High School
East utilizes an innovative leadership structure which is unlike the more familiar, hierarchical model that locates responsibility and confidence in one or two administrators. The practice of distributed leadership is moving the school toward the idea that leadership roles are supported and shared among many individuals in the community. At East, leadership emerges from whomever is most knowledgeable for a given situation. Staff and administrators have learned to rely on each other to address critical problems as they emerge in the community. Distributed leadership expands accountability and voice to teachers, staff, students and families. This shift to a more horizontal and wider leadership structure too time for staff to learn and adopt. They talk about the experience in this video.
As part of the distributed leadership model at East, teacher leaders teach at least one class as well as provide curricular and instructional support to their content area peers. Over that past three years, there has been an increasing number of teachers applying for and stepping into teacher leader positions. This expansion is a tribute to the power of the teacher leader role to implement instructional initiatives. Teacher leaders are responsible for coaching content area teachers, coordinating curriculum development, facilitating daily collaborative planning time (CPT), and leading “learning labs.” The teacher leaders ensure that the time, space, and collaborative practice is in place for effective peer to peer learning. In this video, teachers and administrators discuss their changing conceptions of leadership roles for teachers.
As part of an approach to students’ social-emotional well-being, East implemented the Family Group structure into the daily schedule. Family Group is a 30-minute daily period where the same 10-12 students meet with the same two teachers, called “Carents,” all year and every year during their time at East. We have two videos on Family Group – one that explores theory and purposes and the other that describes the practices of implementing this structure.
One of the major initiatives at the UR-East EPO is the implementation of a Restorative Practices (RP) approach, which offers schools a productive way to reimagine culture. An increasingly acknowledged and employed approach to school discipline, restorative practices focuses on building relationships and repairing relationships when harm has occurred. This video features researchers, administrators, community members, and staff talking about the theories and practices involved in living and interacting within a restorative practices framework.