There has never been a more stark contrast between the elite and the failed schools within Proviso Township’s District 209. 

In reporting the results of the first-ever PARRC standardized tests, we see and we celebrate the success of students at the Proviso Math and Science Academy. The students at this select-admission public school did exceptionally well, especially in the English portion of this new, tougher test. Their performance put the school in the upper echelon of public high schools in the state. Good for them.

Meanwhile, in part the result of having its best prospects syphoned off by PMSA, Proviso East has hit what must be near rock bottom with just 8 percent of students who took the test meeting or exceeding standards in English and an almost incomprehensible two percent reaching that marker in math. 

Certainly PMSA is not going away, nor should it. So the question is: What does the upward path look like for East? We assume it will be a long, hard climb. There are no miracles in the offing. But we’d suggest that two critical steps have already been taken and now need to be fanned and protected.

 First is the election last April of a new school board majority (with some support from holdovers) that simply focuses on students. Sounds simple but in this politically polluted district it isn’t. This school board acknowledges how far East has fallen, does not make excuses, and is ready to work.

Second, and perhaps on the ground, more critically, Proviso East now has a principal with school-turnaround experience, an abundance of optimism and a pragmatist’s approach to the possibilities. Patrick Hardy arrived with this new school year and his clear enthusiasm for the job is a joy to observe. He likes kids and engages them. He knows teachers need to be supported and mentored, especially at East where they have been worked over by politics and let off the hook by low expectations.

The dizzying turnover and recycling of substandard talent in the principal’s office over many years was the clearest possible signal that no one in this district thought there was a way forward. 

Keep Mr. Hardy in place for years, let him nurture and hire teachers, let him open doors to parents, let him build on small successes, let him convince students that they have power to shape their futures, and we may actually rise above rock bottom at this school.