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.

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