On Sunday afternoon, Revere High School (RHS) will officially come under the microscope.
After about 18 months of preparations and written evaluations from every corner of every academic department in RHS, a team of outside evaluators from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) will arrive to see just how well the school is doing.
However, contrary to what one might think, school leaders are excited and not nervous to welcome the evaluation team – led by Richard Kraemer of New York – and believe that the team will leave impressed.
“I would say we’re in good shape,” said RHS Principal Lourenco Garcia on Monday. “We have a lot of things to be proud of and have a list of things we would like to show the visiting team. It’s very seldom to have a school of this magnitude and with the diverse population and immigrant kids and transient population to have completed such a major transformation in a year and a half. To have the entire faculty supporting the initiatives we’ve introduced is great. It’s amazing to have that support. I believe many urban schools have a lesson to learn from us and I think they’ll see that when they visit.”
Added Director John Mitchell, “The restructuring efforts we put in place have put us in a great place. We wouldn’t have been in the shape we’re in if we didn’t have these things functioning. The block schedule has pushed the teachers and put the onus of learning on the students themselves.”
Accreditation evaluations happen once every 10 years – with the last RHS evaluation in 2002. A team of education evaluators from all over New England conducts the visit. The team studies the best education practices, reads all of the school’s submissions and then visits the school building.
Team members interact with students and parents, talk with teachers, shadow certain students throughout the day and check to see if things are going as well as stated.
The process is voluntary and the NEASC is a membership association, but it is also a way of letting parents and students know that the best learning, based on the best research, is going on in the local high school.
This coming week, evaluators will be looking for just that at RHS.
“They are going to try and evaluate and verify the information we have given them in our own self-study,” said Garcia. “They want to see if what we have claimed in the self-study is accurate in what it states and that there are no discrepancies. They will also give us some suggestions from the point of view of an outside observer, which is very valuable.”
RHS has spent the better part of last year and this year preparing their self-study – a 100-page document that literally everyone on the staff helped write. Of the seven standards that will be evaluated, each had to have a detailed self-evaluation. When each of the seven was finished, RHS staff and administrators held a democratic vote to see if there was support.
In each case, there was, and that finished self-study was given to the evaluation team in advance of this coming week’s visit.
All of them have read the document and are familiar with the school.
During that self-study, major changes were also implemented that are seen as positive steps towards the best learning environment. Some of those steps include the new block scheduling, the Freshman Academy, and student advisory time – as alluded to above by both Garcia and Mitchell.
“Obviously they will be able to see the whole change we’ve made,” Garcia said. “There is a wide range of things that weren’t here 10 years ago when they last visited. These are things brought in because of the different demands on schools.”
Added Mitchell, “That’s really it. Ten years ago we didn’t have to worry about advisory of students or teachers collaborating.”
But there are some things that have been left undone, and Garcia said that the good thing is that there is a plan in place for all of those things.
“There are some things I would like to have had done before the accreditation, but they are works in progress,” said Garcia. “They are things like the science labs and better signage and the completion of the Learning Commons – which is the library. However, we have plans for all of these things and we’ll be able to show how we’re going to accomplish all of them within two years.”
After Sunday’s activities, evaluators will have a whirlwind schedule when students return to school on Monday. They will spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday going to classrooms, talking with students, and holding meetings of all sorts.
One thing both Garcia and Mitchell said they know will shine is the positive relationships between students and teachers – something they consider the school’s greatest strength.
“We have a very caring and positive faculty,” said Mitchell.
“Our strengths are really the relationships between staff and students,” said Garcia. “We have a lot of clubs and activities. We might have a long way to go, but I believe we are on the right path.”