Wednesday, December 30, 2015

These are just a few of the many reasons we are celebrating another successful year!  Thank you for joining us on this journey.

As we look ahead to 2016, we also know we have more work to do.  Together with our team, our families, and our partners, we are resolved to putting all scholars on a path to success in college and the world beyond. 

Here's to the adventure that awaits in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Collaboration Actualized - Murals at our Middle School

By Michelle Turner, BVP Art Director and Middle School 1 Art Teacher.

Collaboration: "working with others to do a task and achieve shared goals."
Seems to be a pretty straightforward definition, right?

As an adult, how often do you collaborate with others? Were you prepared to work with others in the “real world?”  For many of us, we didn't have many (or any) opportunities in school to learn how to work with others, leaving us to figure it out as working adults. Collaboration, or group work, plays such a large role in today’s workplace that it is essential we teach it in school, even in kindergarten. Here at BVP, we focus a fair amount of teaching and learning on collaboration as part of our mission to prepare scholars for college and the workplace.

Perhaps author Terri Tempest Williams pushes our thinking about the true benefits of collaboration best by saying, “Imaginations shared create collaboration, and collaboration creates community, and community inspires social change.”

So if through a connected chain of events, collaboration can lead to social change, then it takes on an even more important role for our BVP community! If our scholars are taught how to work together, what’s to stop them from changing the world, one imaginative, collaborative idea at a time?

Recently, sixth grade scholars at Middle School 1 demonstrated this very idea through a collaborative art-making journey. Under the direction of Rhode Island College student teacher in art, Kayleigh Smith, they were introduced to Street Art, which is art created for public spaces that typically convey a social message or idea. Their task was to design and create a set of murals that express an idea, message or a life event.  Scholars worked in small groups to generate and combine ideas, plan details of their mural, and choose media that best helped communicate their message.

The most powerful piece of this task, however, was giving them the autonomy to create goals and Artistic Habits of Mind. Scholars discussed next steps, decided who should own each piece of the work, and participated in small and whole group critiques.
Middle School Art Teacher and BVP Art Director, Michelle
Turner and Student Art Teacher, Kayleigh Smith with
BVP Middle School scholars and their murals. 

We saw them make mistakes, disagree, and get frustrated, but we also saw them eventually figure it out, make revisions to their plan when necessary, and keep each other focused and engaged. This was collaboration at its purest and finest, resulting in truly one-of-a-kind murals that will soon adorn the transoms over our classroom doors, inviting viewers to pause and think about the visual messages that collaboration actualized.  

If you ever needed an excuse to visit, here's your chance! I would be happy to show you our scholar's artwork myself.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Preparing for the World Beyond: BVP High School Career Day

       There are many things we all remember from high school. Things like cheerleaders at homecoming games and the SAT's just to name a few. This week our high school scholars took part in yet another traditional high school event, career day. Part of our mission is preparing our scholars for "the world beyond" and that includes what their career paths will be after college. Scholars welcomed over 20 professionals, including some BVP parents, with various careers in fields including engineering, computer science and hospitality.

       Scholars had the opportunity to hear from guest speakers about the path they took to their career and ask them questions in small groups. As always, we were impressed by the depth of the questions our scholars asked! After rotating through several small groups our scholars also had the opportunity to ask one-on-one questions.

       As our high school continues to evolve, we look forward to many more firsts and future opportunities to prepare our scholars for the "world beyond".

       A big thank you to our guest speakers for making our first ever career day a success!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why an Intentionally Diverse School Model Matters

It has been over sixty years since the Supreme Court concluded in Brown v. Board of Education “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal…” Today however, the promise of desegregated schools, and more broadly society, has been largely unrealized. Both nationally and locally, kids are regularly segregated by race and poverty via zip code and schools are as “inherently unequal” as the de jour segregation struck down in Brown. As a white man who attended New England public schools from Kindergarten through the twelfth grade this segregation is not surprising because public schools in the Northeast have been some of the most perniciously segregated in the country over the past thirty years. In contrast, Blackstone Valley Prep proactively addresses this segregation and brings rich, poor, black, white, and brown kids together in a public education setting where they can be even more successful because of our intentionally diverse model.

Recently Rhode Island released student achievement data that tells a story many could have predicted. The state’s urban districts that largely serve kids of color from lower socioeconomic means performed much lower than the state’s wealthiest and whitest districts. Blackstone Valley Prep was an exception to this. Our scholars exceeded statewide averages and those of our weighted sending districts, making BVP one of the highest achieving districts in the state. These results illustrate many benefits of an intentionally diverse school model, but two that are connected make it easy for me to work here.

First, the results highlight a fact largely ignored since the late 1980’s – concentrated poverty affects student outcomes. This is evident when comparing BVP’s scholars with peers from their traditional sending districts that sort kids by race and class. People typically ignore this because it is simpler to point to an individual kid’s family circumstances or an individual school rather than talk about the fact that our society is highly segregated by means. Second, but more importantly, these results prove that all kids can learn and be academically successful, regardless of zip code.

We must consider these facts and outcomes while reflecting on the broader landscape of education policy to develop appropriate, equal, and most importantly, inclusive education opportunities for all our kids. As a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools Governing Board, I am excited about the opportunity to leverage lessons from BVP’s work while advocating for integrated public schools nationally. Ultimately, when more schools like BVP are truly successful, our kids can demonstrate that not only do they learn better together but also they can live better together too.

Michael DeMatteo is a resident of Pawtucket and the Chief Operations Officer for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy. Mr. DeMatteo was recently named as a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools Governing Board.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Why I Work at BVP

             Close to a year ago, after spending the majority of my career in hospitality, small business and communications, I found myself reevaluating where I wanted my career to go. As I delved into what my skills were and what I felt passion for, I kept coming back to the same thought - whatever I decided to do, I needed to know that I would be contributing to real, positive change. The reality of a career is that most of us spend the majority of our lives doing it. So, for me that meant that I needed to connect with the driving mission behind any company I would consider working for. I networked, volunteered, soul searched and looked online. A few months into my search at the suggestion of a friend volunteering with me, I learned about Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) and everything came into focus.
Elementary School 2 scholars in art class.

       "Lead. Succeed. Transform."

       When you visit the career page for BVP that's the first thing you read and since my first day with BVP, I've found it to be true. BVP is a place for professionals, leaders and educators to lead the way with groundbreaking curriculum, succeed by expanding their horizons with ongoing professional development and transform the world with a company culture centered around intentional diversity.

       At BVP I am surrounded by people who believe that 100% of scholars are capable of achieving great success, who teach the value of equity, and who constantly re-imagine what education looks like. Every single person here is wholeheartedly dedicated to our mission, and I couldn't be more proud to be one of them. 

Elementary School 1 scholars enjoying a guest reader.
       As an organization growing to serve our overwhelming demand, we are looking for people to join our team. If you are also someone who wants to make an impact, believes in the potential of every child and shares our passion for diversity, I invite you to explore what BVP has to offer. With an array of positions ranging from immediate openings to positions starting in August, there are many opportunities for like-minded professionals to become part of BVP.

       For more information about BVP or to see our full listing of open positions, click here.

Sabrina Solares-Hand is part of BVP's Network Support Team as External Affairs Associate and is also part of Education Pioneer's Greater Boston Cohort as a Visiting Fellow. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BVP is Thankful For...

       At BVP, we have so much to be thankful for. Not only do we have a hardworking, dedicated team, but our scholars are truly an inspiration. As we close out 2015 and look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving, we asked our staff to reflect and tell us what they're thankful for at BVP.

  • "I'm thankful for being able to teach and share my love of music with over 400 kids every week!" -Piera Leone, Network Music Director & ES1 K-5 Music Teacher
  • "I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such wonderful scholars. They are the reason I do what I do everyday. We grow and learn so much from each other, for that I am truly thankful." -Subrina Luzzi, 3rd Grade Special Educator & Interventionist ES2
  • "I am thankful for the amount of support and positive encouragement I've received during my first year of teaching from everyone around me!" -Lindsey Brown, Middle School 1, 5th grade English Language Arts
  • "I'm thankful for handshakes. No matter the weather or my mood, handshakes from scholars at the start of the day give me energy and enthusiasm to begin each day. They also allow me to gauge how scholars are feeling, and lift their spirits if they need it. It's my personal challenge to put a smile on each of their faces. They fill my bucket; I fill their buckets." -Joy Souza, Middle School 1 Head of School
  • "I am thankful to be surrounded by colleagues with a passion for equity." -Michelle Grimaldi, High School Special Educator & Aspiring Principal
  • "I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in a career that I enjoy and in a position where I feel like I can make a difference." - Carlon Howard, 5th Grade Math Teacher
  • "I am thankful to be working with such wonderful and caring people on the Kindergarten team!" -Jamie Nunes, Elementary School 2 Kindergarten Teacher
  • "I'm mostly thankful for our scholars. They are the heart and soul of our work and make it so much fun to come to work every single day!" -Osvaldo Jose Marti, Head of School Middle School 2
  • "At BVP, I am thankful for being a part of an organization where everyone works hard and that hard work is paying off! Great job, BVP!" -Christine Losea, Accounting Manager
  • "I'm thankful for the opportunity to be at the forefront of the the education reform movement by teaching at an intentionally diverse school." -Neethu Putta, 3rd Grade Teacher & Diversity Chair
  • "I am thankful to be part of an almost 200-person organization, all of whom are completely committed to the success of the 1,400 scholars that we serve." -David Lauck, Finance Team

From all of us at Blackstone Valley Prep,
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

2015 PARCC Assessment: Reflecting on the Work Ahead

"I am at once really excited about the performance of our scholars and, at the same time, as urgent as ever to do more to prepare every one for success. Overall, the scores in Rhode Island are sadly what we thought they'd be. Hopefully, it's a wake-up call for all of us. We can either continue a mindset that this isn't a good test or the scores don't matter or we can say, 'Let's do everything we can to help every one of our kids meet their fullest potential.'" - Jeremy Chiappetta, Executive Director      

       Earlier this week the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) released the results for the first ever PARCC assessment. BVP Scholars in grades 3-9, just like other public school students across the state, took both the math and ELA (English Language Arts) assessments last spring. We are eager to report BVP has several wins within this year's data, including exceeding the state average in almost every grade level in both math and ELA with a population that is more than sixty percent low-income and about sixty percent students of color.

       We know that tests such as PARCC align strongly with college and career success, and it is our commitment that we will prepare every scholar for success in college and the world beyond. We also know our scholars are much more than a test score. Our scholars are artists, athletes, and musicians (just to name a few), yet it is our responsibility to teach our young people how to read, write, calculate, and think.

       As we begin to examine even more closely our own practices, we will continue to shine a light on what is working and make the necessary decisions to improve upon the pieces that need to change. We are excited to use this data to drive improvement in order to fulfill our mission to prepare every scholar for success in college and the world beyond. To accomplish this, we prioritize fully communicating scholar progress and action plans with families. We understand that in order to achieve our goals, we must work together in the best interest of every scholar. 

     For more information, families can join us for one of the following important information sessions where they will be provided with their scholar's PARCC results.
  • Monday, November 30, 6:30 pm: PARCC Overview and Special Scholar Recognition at the BVP Board Meeting, Elementary School 2 (52 Broad Street, Cumberland), open to the public.
  • Wednesday, December 2, 4:30-6:00 pm: BVP High School families: Come and see your scholar's progress using the Personalized Learning Platform (PLP). While there, receive your scholar's individual scores in advance of when they will otherwise go home.
  • Monday, December 7, 7 pm: BVP Middle School (ALL 4th-8th grade families welcome).
  • Saturday, December 12, 12pm: Elementary School 1 (ALL 4th-8th grade families welcome).
For families unable to join us for these sessions, individual PARCC results will be sent home in backpacks on Friday, December 14.

For the full Providence Journal article that Jeremy Chiappetta was quoted in click here.
For the full report from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When Parents Come Together

By Stephanie Gonzalez, External Affairs Associate - Advocacy and Outreach for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.

Do you know what happens when parents come together?

Since the beginning of the school year, I have had the privilege of seeing the commitment parents have to learning about their child's school and the ways in which they can become stakeholders and advocates.

Our first workshop was in September. We came together to outline the group’s goals and aspirations as well as to give parents the opportunity to learn a bit more about each other. It was wonderful to see how aligned parents were in their goals. Some echoed that they wanted to become learners of our school’s model, education policy, and legislation. Others wanted to find ways to engage the broader parent community. Most had already approached me separately with creative ideas for us to tackle and implement. Every single question, conversation, and idea was unique and encouraging.

In October, we learned about the power of each of our stories. We welcomed Jen Silbert, Co-Founder of Learning401, an organization with a focused “effort to engage the masses and revamp RI’s education ecosystems.” Through inspiring and thought-provoking discussion, Ms. Silbert introduced the fellows to the power of appreciative inquiry, ladders of inference, and the tree of opportunity. Sometimes people--parents--need to be given the space and freedom to share their story in a room full of people whose eyes and gestures will say, “I know the feeling. I get it. I’ve been there.” I am grateful to Ms. Silbert for creating that opportunity for our parents to define their place in the dynamic, often politicized, education world.

Our most recent workshop was held last Saturday. Yes, on a beautiful Saturday morning a group of 19 BVP parents came together for a content-heavy workshop that focused on BVP’s education model, a breakdown of the education funding formula, and an introduction to the inner workings of bills and legislation. We were happy to be joined by friends from RI-CAN and RIMA to help us lead small group discussions about the topics. One of the stations, the “Brainstorm” station, allowed for a parent-led discussion on what steps this group could and should take when the new year begins.

So I ask you again, do you know what happens when parents come together? They inquire and believe wholeheartedly in the power of affecting change through knowledge and organization. They express their thoughts about education through a lens that is not always present or even considered. They motivate each other and people like me to continue creating spaces that allow for stories and parent leadership to unfold.

Stay tuned for more on BVP’s Parent Advocacy Fellows.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Application Season

It's that time of year again. We are in the midst of our annual lottery application season for the 2016-2017 school year. Aspiring scholars from the four Blackstone Valley communities of Cumberland, Lincoln, Pawtucket and Central Falls are eligible to apply from now until our February 19th deadline.

We know that choosing where your child will receive their education is an important decision. As you consider whether BVP is a good fit for you, below is one parent's account of what it meant to for her daughter:

"Summer for my family is already synonymous with happiness, but it was an especially happy time when we received a message in July about a spot becoming available for my daughter. After applying for many years, I am happy to say that my daughter is now a 2nd grader at Blackstone Valley Prep. When we had the opportunity to meet the school’s Head of School we were impressed with his charisma and intelligence. We also can’t say enough about the teachers who took the time to visit our home to meet us in preparation for the school year. I am grateful everyday that at BVP my daughter is exposed to such high academic rigor, homework, activities, and a team of motivated teachers. Don’t think about it twice. Apply for your child to be a BVP scholar."

To learn more about our lottery or to apply, click here to visit our enroll page.
For frequently asked questions, click here.

We also invite you to stop in during an open house as early as next month--details are below:

2015-16 BVP Open House Schedule
  • BVP High School: Saturday, December 12th, 9-11 a.m. 
  • ALL Schools: Tuesday, January 26th, 9-11 a.m. 
  • Elementary Open House (52 Broad Street, Cumberland, RI): Saturday, January 30, 9-11 a.m.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mixing it Up

This past Tuesday we asked our scholars to move out of their comfort zone at lunch and meet someone new. It may seem like a small act, but in surveys conducted by Teaching Tolerance, students identified the cafeteria as the place where divisions between social circles are most clearly drawn. At BVP, diversity is an organizational priority and we take pride in having built an educational environment where peers can come together across lines of difference. So, when we learned about Teaching Tolerance's national campaign for Mix it Up at Lunch Day we were excited to participate. 

After having scholars participate, we asked them to share what they thought of the experience and why they thought it was important. Here's what they had to share: 

"It's good because we are making new friends." -Janiya, 2nd grader

"I really liked how you get to make new friends! You don't get a chance to play with different scholars and it's good to meet new people." -Jolina, 4th grader

"It was great because I got to meet someone from UConn who was shy, like me, and we got to talk about what kind of DoJo party she was going to have." -Maria, 1st grader

"I really liked it! I was excited to sit with scholars I went to kindergarten and first grade with and haven't gotten to talk to in a while. It was important because if you only know scholars in your classroom you don't get to know scholars in other rooms or get to spend time together." -Kayden, 2nd grader

"I really like Mix It Up Day because you get to sit next to a friend. Well, not actually a friend. You get to sit next to scholars you don't know and get to make new friends and stuff.  You get to know who they are and what they like to do." -Daniel, 3rd grader

Our scholars truly had a great time expanding upon their circle of friends. To learn more about Teaching Tolerance and their Mix it Up at Lunch Day national campaign, click here

Friday, October 23, 2015

Community Leaders Celebrate Literacy with BVP Scholars!

In honor of Read for the Record Day October 22nd, we decided to make the whole week about celebrating literacy and invited community leaders to be part of the first ever Community Leaders & Literacy Week!
Our celebration was kicked off with Central Falls Mayor and BVP Board Chair James Diossa in Elementary School 2’s Providence College classroom.  The Mayor left scholars with a really important fun fact to remember: Reading is exercise for our brains.  Our scholars agreed!
At the very same time, but a little ways down the street at Elementary School 1, The Northern RI Chamber of Commerce joined Providence College, Texas A&M, and Salve Regina University scholars for a fun literacy experience.  After reading his book, John Gregory, decided to pose criss-cross apple sauce with scholars for a photo!
Tuesday’s guests hail from two of our sending districts, Central Falls and Pawtucket. Police Chief James Mendonca and Senator Elizabeth Crowley started their work day with Stonehill College and University of Florida scholars. After he read, “Where the Wild Things Are”, it was hard to stop Chief Mendonca from smiling as scholars posed for a silly faces picture!
Second grade scholars from Bryant University were excited to host our Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea! Secretary Gorbea was a natural in the classroom engaging scholars in a short, but lively civics discussion. The highlight of the visit was when she read a bilingual book in English and in Spanish and had every single scholar hooked.  Some scholars demonstrated excitement in hearing their home language spoken by a community leader, others hung on to every word even if it wasn’t their first language. What an experience! Que experiencia!
The next morning, State Representative Shelby Maldonado was pleasantly surprised to walk into University of Tennessee to learn that scholars had her general assembly page pulled up as they got acquainted with her work! Representative Maldonado had some help from scholar Gabriella as she read the book, “Not Norman” in honor of Read for the Record Day!
Our literacy week celebration ended with a group of visitors from Collette, our generous partner who has committed to helping instill a love of reading throughout the year.  This is one of many initiatives that they will support and we are very grateful for that.
What a great week it was for scholars, teachers, and guests in our schools as we celebrated our love for books, literacy, and community leaders!

Friday, October 16, 2015

BVP High School Spirit Week

This fall BVP High School doubled in size. Now with 9th and 10th graders roaming the halls, they are continuing to build and grow into the school that our K-8 scholars will one day grow into. If you talk to any of our scholars about their school, one of the first things many will share is just how proud they are to be part of the BVP community.

As many of us experienced when we were in high school, this week our high school scholars had the opportunity to show off that pride and celebrate the community they've become by having a Spirit Week. The Scholar Council at BVP High got together and developed a plan for a week full of BVP Pride! Each day of the week had a different theme (minus Monday because of a school holiday):

  • Tuesday - Culture Day - An opportunity for scholars to wear clothing inspired by their culture. 
  • Wednesday - Jersey Day - Scholars were invited to represent their favorite teams and celebrated by hosting a Scholar vs. Staff soccer game!
  • Thursday - Blue & Yellow Day - Scholars and Staff showed their pride by wearing blue and yellow, homecoming t-shirts. The day ended with the homecoming soccer game where our team was victorious! 
  • Friday - Pajama Day

Tonight, our scholars will bring their week to a close with yet another High School tradition - their Homecoming Dance. Congratulations on a great week scholars! We can't wait to see what the future has in store for future Spirit Weeks and our High School community!

For more photos of Spirit Week click here. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Science at Elementary School 1

By Sophia Lambertsen, Science Chair and Teacher at Elementary School 1 (ES1)

Miss Lambertsen grew up in Philadelphia and is psyched to b​e part of the team teaching the scholar-scientists at ​Elementary School ​1. She loves telling jokes with her friends, coming up with wacky outfits to excite elementary fashionistas, using her imagination to think about her favorite animal the brown bear, and trying science experiments at home. Each year she learns as much from her scholars as they learn for her​.

Earlier this week I had an amazing day. It was especially memorable because I got to spend time in all five of our science classrooms at Elementary School 1 (mine included) and see some awesome stuff. Having spent that time, I wanted to share everyone’s hard work with our BVP community. Here’s what’s going on in science:
  • Kindergarten: Scholars are learning about types of weather and engaging in argument using evidence to explain what the weather is like outside. Scholars had a seriously evidence-based debate about whether the day was windy or sunny. Their teacher supported instruction by having a scholar use his breath to move a tissue, getting into the degrees of windiness possible here on earth.
  • First Grade: Scholars are using observational evidence to compare “Gastropod Structures” (the body parts of slimy slugs and snails) in order to ascertain the differences and similarities between snails and slugs. Their teacher had them synthesizing information gathered from multiple sources to make claims about organism bodies.
  • Second Grade: Scholars are collecting data related to weather so they went on an adventure outside where they got some time to check in with themselves and nature. As we all know, scholar-collected data is wildly engaging for our kids, and is going to allow them to go to great lengths as they move into making evidence-based arguments and analyzing weather trends.
  • Third Grade: Scholars are mastering density as it relates to water temperature and different materials. Kids in this class took part in a density demonstration as they watched items of the same size behave very differently when dropped in a tub of water. Their teacher took it to the next level in terms of critical thinking by tying this sinking and floating in water to a helium balloon’s sinking and floating in air.
  • Fourth grade: In this grade scholars are wrapping up their plant unit and getting into animals. They welcomed crayfish into the classroom that day, but to give their new friends a moment to adjust to the magic of their lives as elementary school pets, scholars spent the day working on Fossweb and Google Docs.
The teachers leading science instruction at Elementary School 1 work really hard everyday, as they do in our other schools. I am so proud to share that science K-4th grade is going amazingly in our building and feel that our scholars are getting access to teaching and learning that they would not get elsewhere. We are grateful to have such wonderful staff and couldn't possibly thank them enough for their amazing work!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Parents Come Together in the Name of Advocacy

By Stephanie Gonzalez, External Affairs Associate - Advocacy and Outreach for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.

For almost a year, I’ve been engaging with families to talk about the importance of their voice and story being present when advocating for the schools that serve their children. The reasons families choose BVP are multifaceted. Whatever those reasons are, all of the parents I’ve worked with agree on one thing - high-quality public school choice is worth protecting.

Last Saturday, September 26th, a group of parents from all four of our sending districts came together for three hours to indulge in each other’s stories, aspirations, and begin an important journey of advocacy juntos - together.

The Parent Advocacy Fellowship will consist of a 5-part series of workshops where parents will come together to learn how to effectively tell their stories, become informed about the legislative session, and advocate proactively for their and other people’s children. In addition to workshops, fellows will support family engagement throughout the academic year to build awareness and community among the group and share in this journey together.

The importance of why we do this work was  summarized quite perfectly by someone who didn’t attend the workshop, but became part of our morning through a story. When parent fellows were asked to share one of their proudest moments as a parent, one fellow chose to share an interaction with her children from that morning. Her youngest son was complaining to his older brother about her having to go off to yet another meeting. Her older son was quick to interject. He told his little brother that mom was heading to a meeting with other parents “because someone has to fight for us.”

Everyone in the room paused after that story. We smiled, put our hands over our heart, and were reminded why we decided to come to school on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bridging the Home to School Connection

What family means to one BVP Family at ES1.
As a school that strives for and celebrates intentional diversity, culture is very important to us. At the start of every year, schools host a variety of academic and culture nights. These are events designed to bring together schools and families to celebrate our differences, unite as one and support the home to school connection. 

Last night Elementary School 3 (ES3) and Elementary School 1 (ES1) held their culture nights and had a great turnout! At ES3 families and scholars were asked to draw a picture of their families and at ES1 attendees were asked to bring in a family photo and illustrate or write what family meant to them. Staff was on site at ES1 to also share scholar data with families using the STAR assessment results as a forum to discuss progress and how families can continue to support learning at home.

Scholar Maribella Londono with Teacher Hannah 
Goodwin-Brown at ES3's first Culture Night. 
One outcome from the night at both sites was a beautiful mural showing what culture and family at BVP is all about.

To see more photos from ES1 and ES3's culture night follow these links:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New School! New City!

By MacKenzie Pawson, a 5th grade scholar in Washington University advisory, a perfect attendance record-holder and an aspiring veterinarian.

On September 10th, I was one of the lucky scholars nominated to welcome guests to my new middle school building in Central Falls. I greeted Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, Mayor James Diossa, and even the City’s Police Chief, James Mendonca. Everyone gathered to celebrate the opening of Blackstone Valley Prep’s new middle school location!
Scholar MacKenzie Pawson & Colonel
James Mendonca, Central Falls Police at the
Middle School Ribbon Cutting.

I can’t believe how much BVP has grown since I started six years ago as a Kindergarten scholar at Elementary School 1 in Cumberland. I’m really proud to say that I haven’t missed one day of school! It’s easy to want to come to school every day.

As I start my first year of middle school, I am especially happy that the new middle school is in Central Falls. I live in Lincoln, RI and will now have the opportunity to spend time in and experience a new community where some of my classmates live.

I’m learning in the first few days that scholars have a lot more freedom at the middle school and we get to participate in different after school clubs. I joined track with Ms. Volpe and get to walk down the street to Higginson, the sports complex in the city.

In addition to the after school clubs, I’m really enjoying social studies with Ms. Wright and Math with Mr. Howard and Mrs. Moscarelli.

I look forward to greeting and touring many more guests throughout the year. If you’ve never visited our school, please come soon and ask that I be your tour guide!

MacKenzie Pawson
Washington University, College Class of 2027

Friday, September 11, 2015

Commemorating a New Home

Scholar MacKenzie Pawson & Colonel
James Mendonca, Central Falls Police.
It was a beautiful morning. Yes, the skies were threatening rain. Yes, it was humid. Yesterday morning felt like a typical New England September morning, somewhere between Summer heat and crisp Autumn. It didn't matter because we were too happy to notice.

After months of preparation and planning, the permanent location for Middle School 1 (MS1) in Central Falls is full of scholars excited about their new home, including renovated classrooms and yes, lockers!

The ribbon cutting ceremony which took place yesterday morning was a wonderful way to celebrate this new beginning.  Balloons flanked the school's stage and colorful decorations crafted by scholars surrounded the room. Friends, family, staff, elected officials and partners came to celebrate and tour MS1's new building - a place BVP is proud to call home - and share in this milestone emceed by Central Falls Mayor and BVP Board Chairman James Diossa.

From left to right: Civic Builders CEO David Umansky, Father
Otoniel Gomez of Holy Spirit Parish and Central Falls
Mayor James Diossa.
From all of us here at BVP, thank you for sharing this happy occasion with us! A special thanks to Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Dr. Ken Wagner for joining in our celebration and of course to our partner, Civic Builders, for making this renovated space a reality.

To see our full album of photos click here.

To read our official press release click here. 

A video will soon be posted on our website for those who wish to hear and see more.

Pictured from left to right: Senator Edward O'Neil, Scholar Anika Stager, Head of School Joy Souza, Civic Builders CEO David Umansky, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee, Scholar Dillan Fontalvo, Lincoln Town Administrator Joe Almond and Cumberland Mayor Bill Murray.-->

Friday, September 4, 2015

Building the Foundation

By Josh Falk, Founding Head of School - Elementary School 3

One Head of School's reflection on the start of the school year. 
For more photos from our first couple days of school click here.

This week marked the first day of a new school year for scholars, teachers and families. For kindergarten scholars and their families it was especially exciting as the first day of their school careers. For the BVP Elementary School 3 community, it was an extremely exciting “first day,” as it marked the first day of the founding year of a brand new school.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a founding head of school at BVP – to build a new addition to the BVP network with the support of a talented and successful school and network team. Of course, along with excitement, I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility – for each tiny detail of the day-to-day workings, but also for setting direction and communicating the fundamentals of a vision of top quality education. So in this First Week (ever) for ES3, I share my humble vision of what I hope will be the foundations of our school community – the type of community we must be in order to achieve our mission of preparing every scholar for success in college and the world beyond:

Academic Rigor and Top Quality Teaching. Our curriculum must be robust and demanding, pushing scholars’ critical thinking and developing core skills that can be applied to any discipline. We must emphasize the importance of communicating: reading and listening thoughtfully and critically, as well as speaking and writing articulately. We must explore the "why" and "how," not just practice rote memorization and algorithms. And we must challenge scholars to think creatively in applying what they learn to solve real-world problems.
Teachers are integral to this process. The Latin roots of the word “educate” mean “to lead out” or “draw out,” implying that educators do not simply fill scholars with information, but rather draw out the knowledge and understanding that lives within each scholar. It is essential to have dedicated educators--the kind we have at ES3 and throughout our BVP community.

Differentiation and Intentional Diversity. To meet the needs of all scholars, our educational approach must be thoroughly differentiated. Whatever our scholars’ individual needs, whatever their strengths, whatever their background, our program must meet them where they are and build a program that sets high expectations for their personal success.

We must also intentionally acknowledge and celebrate the rich diversity of our community (and our world). As educators, we must be able to respond to the diverse backgrounds of our scholars and to prepare them to interact with a global community that grows more interconnected with each generation. As citizens, we must also commit to understanding different perspectives and addressing our own biases, sharpening our cultural consciousness and competence.

Community Partnership. To be successful, the vision must extend beyond the walls

of the school. We must establish a robust partnership with our families and build a school community in which we are all fully engaged and committed to the mission. This means continually communicating and collaborating with families. It also means building and strengthening ties among our four neighboring and diverse communities, uniting families and communities around a common mission of providing our children with the best possible education.

During this first week, we’ve been sweating the small stuff – the routine yet very important operational details of starting a school year, like making sure scholars get on the right bus, or finding enough trash cans to hold the breakfast trash. But as the first week stretches into the second, and the third, and into next year we must focus our attention on the foundations of the school we’re building. And if we commit to breathing life into these core foundational elements – academic rigor, top quality teaching, differentiation and intentional diversity, and community partnership – I believe we will set our scholars on a path to success for years to come.

About Mr. Josh Falk:

Josh Falk has been an educator in innovative, high-expectations charter schools for eight years and is proud to be a founding head of school at BVP ES3. Mr. Falk previously taught grades 2 through 4 with Achievement First in New York and New Haven, and was a member of the founding 4th Grade team at ES1. A former attorney, Mr. Falk was drawn to the powerful idea of educational equity for all and made a career change. He has been a dedicated educator ever since, committed to the idea that all children can be successful students and are entitled to a high-quality public education.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

“It” is the Day Before the First Day of School

The day before the first day of school is such an incredibly exciting, awesome, and terrifying time.  As BVP prepares to open our doors to about 1,400 scholars tomorrow, just like the day before my first day of teaching back in 1995, I am full of butterflies. Even more so, as a parent of 3 scholars, those butterflies are front and center.

I thrilled that as we enter YEAR SEVEN at BVP we have taken lessons learned along the way to improve “It” - everything that is BVP.  Even more exciting is that we haven’t yet learned all there is to know. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities for growth. At BVP we value this opportunity, and we know that it means each successive year will be better than the last.  

As an example, one of our most recent and exciting advances was the inclusion of #BVPHighSchool scholars as Summer Academy Teaching Assistants (TAs). Some of us were looking to provide our teachers with extra support in their classrooms. Some of us were looking for authentic ways to provide real employment experiences to our scholars. Some of us were brainstorming ways to improve our teacher-talent pipeline. Despite the variety of motivating factors, the result was clear: our TAs received extraordinarily high ratings from their teaching supervisors, and we hope to continue some version of “It” for a long time to come.

If there is anything that I’ve learned in my time at BVP, it is that “It” is not going to look exactly like I think it’s going to look. “It” is not going to go according to plan.  Yet I have deep confidence in the flexibility and commitment to our scholars that will drive the entire staff at BVP to make whatever changes are required when “It” doesn’t go according to plan. This is one of the many reasons that “It” IS going to be AWESOME!

I wish all scholars, teachers, support staff, and families best of skill (and a little luck, too) as we enter this most exciting 2015-16 school year.  Now let’s go do “It”!

Flor Ardon Cante, a rising sophomore at #BVPHighSchool and Summer Academy Teaching Assistant, working with three BVP rising kindergarten scholars

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Teacher of the Year - Andrew D'Avanzo

For his outstanding work at Blackstone Valley Prep,  Andrew (Andy) D'Avanzo was the most recent recipient of our Teacher of the Year award. As we look towards the start of a new school year, we took a moment to ask him some questions about his work. 

Mr. D'Avanzo is a 3rd grade teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep's (BVP) Elementary School 2. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Spanish and International Relations from Brown University in 2011 and is a former member of their soccer team. He still enjoys playing in his free time. In the fall of 2009, Mr. D'Avanzo studied abroad in Havana, Cuba, where he taught English to adults in his community. 


What inspired you to teach?

I actually never planned on getting into teaching. I come from a family of educators and most of my childhood was spent on the campus of a private boarding school in Massachusetts. I went to college thinking about law school and I thought about going into finance for a while. Even though I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, I was convinced that I wanted to be in a lucrative line of work. During the summer before my junior year, I enrolled in study abroad program in Havana, Cuba through Brown University. It was a very eye opening experience. I met so many amazing people who were so content with so little. It really changed the way that I thought about my future and made me realize that my personal experience had been so limited and my world view was so narrow and self-serving. In the summer after my junior year, I stumbled across BVP. They were in their first year and looking for interns and teaching assistants for their summer academy. Desperate for a summer job and figuring it would be something like a summer camp, I inquired and set up a time to visit the school to meet with Jeremy, the Executive Director, and the staff. I quickly realized that this was not an ordinary school. I was so impressed and intrigued by the things kindergartners were capable of. After 3 weeks of summer academy I returned in the fall as an intern and became more interested in public education. With guidance, and a gentle nudge from Jeremy, I applied to Teach for America, got placed in Rhode Island and haven't looked back since. The same realization that first struck me has always guided my development and inspired me to continue working in education - when kids are given a fair chance and the tools to succeed, they are capable of amazing things.

What is your "why" for being at BVP? 

My "why" is very simple. It's all about the relationships I've made with kids and their families. I get so much joy from the opportunity to have an impact on the lives of my students, and getting to be part of their stories is humbling. I've been able to develop real connections with so many amazing young people and wonderful families. Teaching at BVP presents a truly unique opportunity to engage with and learn from so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds. I learn something new every day and I have a lot of fun doing it. 

What is the experience like in your classroom? 

Hmmm....this one is a bit more difficult to describe. I hope I'm not inaccurate in saying that
my classroom is a balance of fun, craziness, silliness, hard work and determination. I've been lucky to work alongside some amazing teachers, so everything I'm about to describe is indicative of all teachers at BVP and not just me. We try to embody the motto "work hard, play hard." Learning should be fun and I want my students to know that it's okay to let loose and be crazy sometimes. But we're also here to learn and grow together, so we set very clear and ambitious goals for ourselves and our class as a whole. We also strive to build a supportive community and create an environment where everyone is comfortable being themselves, taking risks, and knowing they're part of a team.  On any given day, you could walk into our classroom and see everyone smiling, scholars leading discussions or working in groups, defending their opinions, correcting mistakes and having fun. 

What have you encountered that has helped you grow into the educator you are today? 

The most important thing I've realized is to be authentic. The teachers that I've learned the most from are the ones who allow their real personality through in everything. I always thought that it was important to develop my own "teaching persona." I would hear people say things like "teacher voice" and " teacher stare." I thought for a time that maybe I had to act differently in order to teach successfully. I'm not saying that those things aren't important, because I absolutely have developed my own repertoire of teacher tricks, but I've also realized that being your authentic self is the best way to make your teaching accessible to kids. It's so important to build trust and mutual respect with my students and the only way to do that is to treat each scholar as an individual. I strive to get to know all of my students as people. Sure it's important to know their academic strengths and weaknesses, but that's just a small part of who they are. They come through our doors as scholars, but they were people first. 

Congratulations Andy! BVP is proud to have you as a member of our team!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Parents as Partners, Stakeholders and Agents of Change

By Stephanie Gonzalez, External Affairs Associate - Advocacy and Outreach for Blackstone Valley Prep.

Para EspaƱol, haga clic AQUI

On July 18th, we hosted a family day for incoming kindergarten scholars and families. As I was walking around, I noticed a young woman whom I had met while doing outreach for the lottery earlier this year. I was really excited to see her because when we last spoke, she shared that she had been applying for 5 years with no luck.  I approached her and told her I was excited to see that she had been accepted and she responded, “I know! I got very emotional when I received the letter. After so many years of trying, we’re finally in!” She is one example of thousands of mothers who year after year are hopeful for a call with someone on the other end saying, “Your daughter has been accepted to Blackstone Valley Prep!”

Hers is a happy ending. Unfortunately, the stories without happy endings far outweigh the happy ones. It’s those stories, the close to 2,000 kids on our waiting list, and our mission that inspires me to advocate strongly for high-quality public school choice options.  I invite you to join me in taking this work to the next level as we enter the new school year.

I am excited to announce that next month we are launching Blackstone Valley Prep’s first Parent Advocacy Fellowship, a leadership opportunity consisting of a series of workshops to engage and empower parents to be leaders in advocacy for their child and school. As I continue to do this work, I am reminded that it is most powerful when parents become our partners and leaders in this movement.  Will you join me? #parentsaspartners

We need your voice, your truth, and your leadership to be at the forefront of that work.

Please click HERE for a flyer describing the fellowship and click HERE for the application form. Interested BVP families should submit the form OR email me at by Thursday, September 3rd, 2015.