Rochester City School District allows students to set their own pace in high school, enabling some students
to accelerate their learning and others to spend more time mastering the knowledge and skills they
need the most.
On East High School Principal Ed Cavalier's desk sits a decorative wooden box, a gift from a former
student. Inside is a note from the student, thanking Mr. Cavalier for being “like a father to me” and
allowing him the extra time he needed to complete his diploma requirements—specifically, two extra years.
In terms of the traditional schedule for high school completion, this student would have been considered a
failure for not graduating after his fourth year of high school. Instead, teachers gave him the time he needed
to earn his diploma, and he is now in his final year at Georgia State University, where he is studying to be a
For academic or developmental reasons, some students require more time to demonstrate their
knowledge and competence, and others require less. To address this disparity, the Rochester City (New
York) School District created Pathways to High School Success, which restructures the high school
program to allow students to earn a diploma in three, four, or five years. The shift in thinking is simple. We
used to hold time constant and vary quality of learning; with Pathways, we hold quality of learning constant
and vary time.
Formalizing the Informal