Sunday, September 9, 2012

got college?

One of the first things that visitors notice at BVP are the strong cultural elements that make our schools stand out.  From silent hallways to lots of quirky engagement techniques (e.g. sending support, two vertical hands, snaps), the sense that "this is not your old school" is a very real and visceral reaction to a trip to BVP.

One of the most palpable of these cultural elements is our explicit and relentless pursuit of "putting 100% of scholars on a path to college."  Indeed, classrooms are named for colleges, and even the reference to the grade levels has been surreptitiously replaced by the expected four-year college graduation year of the scholars.  To be sure, this year's kindergarten class is referred to as the "college class of 2029."  College language is infused everywhere - we make "college lines," we raise "college hands," and teachers often can be heard saying, "when I was working on a problem like this in college...."

To celebrate this college focus, last year BVP printed t-shirts with the phrase "got college?" on the front, and we regularly use the hashtag #gotcollege? on twitter.  College is central to who we are and how we operate.

Visitors sometimes challenge me with questions like, "do you really believe that every child should attend a four-year college?" A few have been far more blunt by stating "you know that lots of kids are better off working with their hands" or even more direct, "college just isn't for everyone."  Indeed, one close family friend (a highly educated, highly successful professional) said to me, "at a macro level, our economy requires an entry-level labor force, so everyone shouldn't go to college."

Compound these challenges with some rough data from a Harvard study - 57% four-year college completion rate (in six years) and a bunch of other eye-popping stats - and you really start to wonder if the naysayers are right.  On top of that, when you look at how hard we work to get many of our "scholars we love the most" to approach grade level, it is fair to think hard about what it will take for some to make it to and through college.

So what is the answer?  Is college a just a euphemism for success? Are we setting our scholars up for imminent failure in post-secondary study by pushing college for everyone? 

My response is unequivocal - we must do everything, and I mean everything, that we can do to ensure that we achieve our mission to put every scholar on a path to college.  Even if some opt to pursue trades, armed forces, or starting a family, our job is to help every single BVP scholar be ready to tackle higher education.  Indeed, if we are successful, our scholars will have that choice to pursue college.

We are well on our way.  Indeed, allow me to share a published comment from one BVP parent who is adamant that we continue to push her scholar for success:
For those of you who don’t know my daughter was diagnosed this February with borderline intellectual function, and we were told that no matter what we do she would never exceed the comprehension of an 8 year old… we were crushed. People told us to pull her from BVP (as it would be ‘too hard’) and put her in a school with children with extreme special needs… long story short, she has been doing GREAT under the structure and direction of the teachers and special education staff at Blackstone Valley (I, personally, feel like she is a different child when she has long school breaks and in the summer). Yesterday her step father and I sat down to help her with her homework and realized she had done it at her afterschool program… I was worried they helped “too much” and asked her to explain the concepts to me… I almost cried when she explained perfectly what lines of symmetry were… We are both so proud of her progress and very happy she has such a great support system at BVP!  Thanks guys!
We can and will push for 100%.  Cien por ciento.  And when the work seems impossible, turn to one another, reach out to your team, call me.  We are all in this together. We #gotcollege!

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