East High School receives medal for excellence

About two years ago, East High School Principal Patrick Enright led a tour for a reunion of 1947 East graduates. Several graduates told Mr. Enright they didn’t think the community knew enough about the transformation at East.

Even more transformation is ahead. By the end of this month, a stunning renovation of East’s auditorium should be finished. A new field house is under construction. The library is being redone. New high-efficiency windows are projected to save thousands of dollars each year.

The library at East High School is being renovated as part of a 10-Year Master Facilities Plan.

The library at East High School is being renovated as part of a 10-Year Master Facilities Plan.

But not all the upgrades are physical. There are academic improvements at East, too. In this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best High Schools, East received a bronze medal. The national ranking looks at overall student performance on state-mandated assessments as well as how effectively schools educate their black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.

The ranking was released in April, but the school just received the good news this month.

East was one of 2,688 schools across the country to receive a bronze medal. A total of 500 schools earned a gold medal from U.S. News and 1,519 earned silver. The magazine analyzed more than 31,200 public high schools in all. The designation is based on data from the 2011-12 school year. At the time of the ranking, 72 percent of students at East were economically disadvantaged. The minority enrollment was 54 percent.

Mr. Enright sees the medal as validation for several targeted approaches the school has taken:

–Focusing on their professional learning communities, which are a way to share measurement and collaborate for more effective instruction.

–Implementing content area teams, consisting of teachers who share a content area teaching assignment. For example, all teachers who teach English 9 in a building might be on a content area team.

–Setting monthly objectives based on the areas of greatest need for students.

The bronze medal could also be attributed to a school-wide program of weekly ACT words and a weekly ACT prep class. There’s also been attention to reading, using a “think-aloud” technique that engages students about what they are reading. There have been school-wide writing prompts.

All these steps involved a lot of work and relationship-building by teachers, Mr. Enright said.

The real reward is in helping students achieve their potential. But a little reinforcement every now and then – in the form of a national recognition — doesn’t hurt, either. Congratulations, East.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.