Before the University of Rochester stepped in, East High School was destined to close. In one year there were more than 3,000 suspensions, and a quarter of the students had gotten into fights. “What I saw was more of a police state,” says East High School’s superintendent, Shaun Nelms.
In 2014 the Rochester City School Board asked the university to enlist in an Educational Partnership Organization, a provision of New York law allowing the university to run the school. “We’re in a symbiotic relationship with Rochester,” says the University of Rochester’s president, Joel Seligman, who convinced his Board of Trustees that it was a project the university could not walk away from.
Educators and researchers at East and at the Center for Urban Education Success, at the university’s Warner School of Education, are developing strategies that could benefit not only Rochester’s schools but also other challenged urban-school systems.
With the partnership’s second school year just ending, positive signs have appeared, but challenges remain.