Published December 11, 2018
East High School (EHS) in Rochester, NY was facing possible closure due to a long history of failure to meet New York State Education Department (NYSED) benchmarks in 2014, but Stephen Uebbing (EdD ’87, Educational Administration) and the University of Rochester (UR) were approached by the Rochester City School District and asked to oversee EHS. Uebbing and UR agreed to collaborate and took an aggressive approach to support the EHS students.
“If not us, who else is going to step up?” Uebbing said. “If we really believe the stuff that we teach in our classes, how can we say no?” Uebbing is humble about the transformation he has made in East High School, as he credits the product, work and passion of the people who are at East High School every day in helping to make it a better place. “Without the help and dedication of everybody, change would not be possible,” Uebbing said. “Teachers, administrators, professors and kids are the ones who deserve all the credit because they do all of the work.” Uebbing specifically identified Buffalo native and Superintendent Shaun Nelms, principals Marlene Blocker and Tanya Wilson, and fellow professors Susan Meier and Joanne Larson for their contribution.
After negotiations with NYSED and the board of education in Rochester, the Warner School of Education at UR developed a partnership with EHS, called the East Education Partnership Organization (EPO). Uebbing was named the EPO project director and he moved swiftly to appoint Nelms as the superintendent. There were many objectives of EPO to ensure a positive turn-around at EHS. The main goals included expanding the emotional/social support of the students, raising attendance rates, improving graduating rates, improving academic engagement and decreasing suspensions.
Prior to the creation of EPO, there was a 33 percent graduation rate at EHS, but after using research-based best practices, the school doubled its graduation rate to over 60 percent for the class of 2018. In the school year of 2014-15, there were 2,468 suspensions as compared to only 369 suspensions in 2017-18. The attendance rate of students also increased from 77 to 85 percent over a four-year period.
“Our students report that they feel safe in the school, participation in extracurricular activities increases every year and the total number of athletic teams and student participation on those teams has also increased,” Uebbing said.
“The mission at East is to take charge of our future by being tenacious, thinking purposefully and advocating for self and others.”