Wednesday, January 28, 2015

National School Choice Week & Empowering Scholars

A guest blog by Sydney Menzin, Generation Citizen Democracy Coach

Scholars posing at the State House with Generation Citizen’s Ms. Menzin on Civics Day, December 8, 2014.  

In light of National School Choice Week, I want to touch on the connection between the advocacy skills promoted by the Generation Citizen program and the decisions made by BVP families to send their children to a charter school. 

The idea of having agency is reflected in the mission of GC, which strives to teach students about the power of their own voices and to motivate them to create change. Being a Democracy Coach for Generation Citizen has been a wonderful learning experience for me. 

In addition to developing my skills for leading a classroom, I had the opportunity to witness the empowerment of my students. In my sixth grade class at Blackstone Valley Prep this past semester, I enjoyed watching the students as they changed their mindset from one of doubt to one of confidence in their ability to create change. 

They came up with original ideas to raise awareness about their goal, which was to amend the Safe School Act to include a clause about anti-bullying training for teachers, by organizing assemblies and polling faculty members. They even motivated several teachers to undergo such training and invited state legislators to their classroom to hear their ideas for reform. Five students went on to represent their class at Civics Day, where they demonstrated passion and knowledge about their project and won the Systemic Impact award for their work. 

This special BVP class has affirmed my faith in the ambition of young students and the influence they can have on their communities. By attending BVP, scholars were already making their voices heard in the community, using skills that they strengthened through their work in the Generation Citizen program. I know that these students will continue to speak out about matters they think are important.

Special thanks to our Generation Citizen volunteers for coaching our scholars and giving them this experience! 

Join us in taking action:
  • Check out more photos from Civics Day on the BVP Facebook Page
  • Watch BVP's National School Choice Week video.
  • Advocate for choice, save the date for the annual RIMA Day at the State House on March 4, 2015! RSVP and learn more here

Sunday, January 25, 2015

BVP Prepares for Likely Nor'easter

Just when many started to wonder what had happened to all the snow, we get our answer.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning in effect for our area calling for a “major nor’easter” to begin to cause some trouble late Monday evening and all day Tuesday.  They’re currently predicting 20-30 inches.

So you might be wondering what Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) plans are for school this week.  Here’s what we know so far:

1. We look forward to seeing our scholars at school tomorrow (Monday, January 26) ready for a full day of learning.

2. Team Operations will be monitoring the storm this evening and into tomorrow just to see whether there are any favorable changes in the forecast. That said, there will be a decision about Tuesday’s cancellation by Monday afternoon, so stay tuned.  Obviously, if the warning continues as is, we will likely cancel school Tuesday (January 27).

3.  Presuming the storm hits as planned, a decision about Wednesday (January 28) may have to be made fairly close to the start of the school day. We will be working closely with town officials and our snow removal company to get back to school as quickly as possible, so please continue to check weather updates through Wednesday morning through public media alerts from the RI Broadcasters Association.  

As you make preparations to be safe and warm, and stock up on food essentials, don’t forget to also stock up on some good books too!  

ON SCHOOL CANCELLATIONS & DELAYS (taken from the BVP Handbook)
Blackstone Valley Prep will announce school closings on public media, identified as “Rhode Island Mayoral Academy-Blackstone Valley” or “Blackstone Valley Prep.” When possible, the school will communicate through the automated call system, our website, and through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Please note that busses for Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Lincoln will follow the delay or cancellation schedule for those districts. For example, if Blackstone Valley Prep has a regular day, but Lincoln cancels, there will be no Lincoln bussing, but Blackstone Valley Prep will still have school.
To sign up for text alerts on weather updates through RI Broadcasters Association, use the link here: or sign up for a text through RIBA at

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Site Visits and School Choice

by Jen LoPiccolo

Site visits to other schools have been a practice at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy since our founding ES1 staff spent one of their first training days at Brooke Charter Schools.  To this day, I still hear team members talk about how formative that opportunity was as BVP prepared to open its doors a few days later.  

Having previously visited schools in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, members of the network support team traveled to the Big Apple to see a variety of schools, including fellow members of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools.

What we found reinforced what we know to be true about children--that one size does not fit all.  We observed small learning groups, large learning groups, project based learning, scripted curriculums, music and movement, and much much more.  We  learned a ton and are incredibly grateful for the chance to build our network of colleagues in this work.  A couple of  highlights include:

  • Seeing students focused on reading and writing in kindergarten classrooms across several schools reminded us just how critical it is to build in as much time as possible for both.
  • Reaffirming that families are invaluable partners and building community that promotes diversity also means making time for families to learn together. Family cooking classes, book clubs and ESL classes are just some of the ways other schools are bringing families together.
  • Seeing first hand that school culture can look different school to school.  That said,  what makes those environments successful is when every team member agrees on what elements to reinforce and then does so rigorously.   

Here in Rhode Island, approximately 4% of public school students attend charter schools. There are a variety of models and approaches even within the 19 charters in RI, but our goal is universal -- to provide public school choices to families that foster student learning.

Next week is National School Choice Week during which families and schools across the country celebrate and raise awareness for school choice.  At BVP, we will be hosting school tours and open houses.  If you are interested in learning more (or if you’re a current BVP family who would like to lead the tours), you can learn more here.  

In the meantime, I’m so grateful to those who open their doors allowing BVP and others the chance to soak it all up and find ways to build and improve on our own practice.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In case you missed it...

Last night, Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy hosted a Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) information session for families to learn more about the state's transition to the PARCC assessment.  

The following resources were shared as a way to stay connected and learn more:


Additionally, RIDE also shared some tips for ways that families can support their children for success on the new assessment.  

  • Talk regularly with your child and his/her teacher(s) about class or homework assignment.
  • Involve your child in day-to-day practical math problem solving practice, like estimating time, counting change, or figuring out costs for things. 
  • Read with them and ask questions about it that help them think about what was read.
  • Learn more about the CCSS and PARCC through the many available resources.
  • Take the practice test and view sample items with your child.

Thank you to the RIDE team for making these information sessions available.  Please look for more details in the coming weeks around specific PARCC testing dates at BVP. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scholars Reflect on Selma

BVP scholars have been learning what it truly means to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day through discussion and reflection with their peers, teachers and community members.

On Saturday, January 10, middle school scholars had the opportunity to see a special screening of Selma, sponsored by the NAACP Providence Branch, as well as the RI Coalition of 100 Black Women. High School scholars also attended a special screening last Wednesday, followed by a panel of local leaders who led a discussion at the high school about how the Civil Rights Movement has impacted our lives today.

Special guests included:
  • Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls
  • Jim Vincent, NAACP President, Providence Chapter
  • Juan Carter and Andre Benton of the Institute of the Study & Practice of Non-Violence
  • Joshua Giraldo, Central Falls Director of Parks & Recreation
  • Detective Sergeant Terrence Green and Detective Anthony Roberson of the Providence Police Department.

Moderated by ninth grader Gladys N.,  scholars had the opportunity to ask the panelists important questions about racism, prejudice, the power of diversity, and the impact of the Civil Rights movement. You can check out our top tweets from the discussion here.

Continuing their reflections, scholars also shared their takeaways as part of a school writing competition. Other scholars plan to submit essays as part of a contest hosted by the National Liberty Museum in honor of the the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.

A few excerpts from these reflections are below:

“As a leader (because I’m a leader: I have a little sister and I want to do the best so she as my little sister would follow my steps), I’m inspired to improve the way we do things.” -Bessy R.

“After watching [Selma], it made me think long and hard about what I have and the community around me... even some of the smallest things you do could make a huge difference. In the movie, the African Americans did small things to get noticed or to make their problems aware to the world and that really inspired me. I may be young, but you're never too young to do something that could change the face of the world.” -Ariel T.

“As the great Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ To this day, I stand by these words. How will I peacefully advance these rights? I will get an education. Intelligence is key and the amount of doors it is able to open is a great quantity.” -Gladys N.

It is meaningful discussions like these with our scholars that make us proud to be educators on MLK day and every day, and we encourage you to engage with us as we continue the dialogue throughout the year.  

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy MLK Day!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Join us in January

Happy New Year! 

We're excited to dive head first into a month jam-packed with exciting opportunities and events, and we hope you will join us.  

This post will highlight two events happening on the evening of January 20, but be sure to also check out our snapshot of the month linked here. As always, you can stay engaged with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!


You may remember that last year the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) hosted an informational session about Common Core for families

On Tuesday, January 20, BVP will host another RIDE informational session, this time about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC). Save the date and come learn more about the assessment that complements the Common Core State Standards.

More information is below: 

When: Tuesday, January 20, 2015   6:00-8:00PM
What: Starting in 2015, BVP scholars grades 3-9 will be taking the new PARCC assessments in math and ELA/literacy. These assessments will replace the NECAP math, reading, and writing.
PARCC's goal is to increase the number of scholars graduating from high school college and career-ready by creating a next generation assessment system to help meet that goal. RIDE representatives will present an overview of PARCC and you will hear about what BVP is doing to prepare. 
Who: Families of scholars grades 3-9 (families of scholars in other grades are welcome to attend). Childcare will be provided. 

Where: 52 Broad Street, Cumberland (Elementary School 2) 
Parking: ES2 and ES1 parking lots and street parking only. Please avoid all other lots.

Please join BVP’s Family Advocacy and Outreach Associate, Stephanie Gonzalez, immediately before the RIDE PARCC info. session for a 30-minute introduction to advocacy at BVP! Please contact Stephanie at or 401-649-1622 to RSVP.

When: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 5:30-6:00PM (Directly before the RIDE PARCC info. session)
What: Come learn about the many ways in which you can get involved in advocating for great schools and school choice.
Who: All BVP Families
Where: 52 Broad Street, Cumberland (Elementary School 2) 
Parking: ES2 and ES1 parking lots and street parking only. Please avoid all other lots

In addition to these opportunities, there are many other ways to connect with the BVP community in January, including visitor days, tours during National School Choice Week, school events, and more! Click here to learn more.