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How COVID-19 Will Make Fixing America’s Worst-Performing Schools Even Harder

Six years ago, barely a third of the students at East High School, in Rochester, N.Y., graduated on time. Students were being suspended at a rate of more than 2,000 each year. More than half were chronically absent, and more than three-quarters couldn’t meet the state’s academic benchmarks.

In 2015, at a time when East High—one of the city’s oldest and biggest—had been deemed New York state’s worst-performing school, the district’s board let the University of Rochester take the reins.

The arrangement, which involved overhauling the staff, curriculum, and school climate, has proven mostly successful—and came at a sticker price of more than $36,000 per student.