When Principal Robbie Torchon was told that one-fourth of his students at Alvarez High School failed at least three classes during the first quarter of this academic year, he didn’t blame the usual suspects: Truancy, tardiness and parental disengagement.
Instead, Torchon saw the dismal performance as a challenge. How, he asked, can the 600-student Alvarez — formerly Adelaide High School — get students to not only turn around their grades but set higher goals?
Torchon didn’t waste any time. He put each of the 146 failing students on academic probation, and then invited their parents to attend a conference in the principal’s office.
Read the story for more about what Torchon and Alvarez teachers are doing to create a culture at the school that provides support for all students to meet high expectations and succeed academically. By focusing on those high expectations, structuring ways to check in with student and their teachers, and relying on family members as allies, the school is doing what has been proven to work in similar settings, and is pointing the way to practices that make sense for all of Providence's high schools.
I was quite struck by Torchon's comments at the end of the story:
Although measurable results take time, Torchon said he already sees a shift in attitude. Teachers are taking a closer look at what they do in the classroom, students are beginning to take their work more seriously and parents recognize that the school cares about their children.
Still, Providence, he said, must reach a stage where school quality is no longer dependent on a charismatic leader: “It’s hard to become a principal in a city without a tradition of excellence.”
What will it take to establish that tradition of excellence? Providence has a wealth of educational assets, including school leaders like Torchon. By shaping a system that creates the best conditions for achievement not only within a particular school but within all of them, we will be able to contextualize and best take advantage of those assets.