Thursday, July 2, 2015

BVP High School, Part 4: Moving Beyond the Classroom Walls

Our last entry in a four part series on BVP High School and its partnership with Providence School District and Summit Public Schools is written by Jonathan Santos Silva, Founding Head of School, BVP High School

BVP High School's journey to building a truly personalized learning environment took an exciting turn when we announced our partnership with the Pawtucket Learning Academy (PLA) and Summit Public Schools in June. This collaboration will give scholars 24-hour access to course materials, engage teachers in next-generation professional learning opportunities, and provide families with unprecedented access to academic achievement data from anywhere they have internet access. Truly, we are talking about a revolution in the way our school community learns and grows together!

But why is this so important?

The world outside our school walls is evolving at a rapid pace. If you are an adult of a certain age, you have watched the transition from rotary phones all the way to touch screen cellphones. And whereas we used to rewind our VHS tapes, we can now pause, rewind, and record live television. In the early 2000s, the largest companies in the world produced actual "things," like cars (think GM). Today, the largest companies in the world do not sell anything to consumers; instead, the Googles and Facebooks of the world offer "free" services to the consumer and make money through advertising.

Even while all of this change has occurred, to a large extent, most American schools look eerily similar to the way they did decades ago. A child is lucky to enter a classroom with access to internet, and by extension, the world of information. Even in rooms where there are computers, the devices in our pockets (cell phones) are often more powerful than the ones collecting dust in the back of the room (desktop PCs). We learn more and more about scholars and their unique needs, yet we still overwhelmingly rely on a "factory model" in which scholars are expected to learn the same material in the same way at the same time, regardless of their unique learning profile.

In the introduction to Pure Genius, Dave Burgess puts it another way:

"We do our students a disservice when we prepare them for a world that no longer exists and fail to empower them with the skills and abilities they will need to navigate rough and shifting seas. We don't need students who can fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice test; we need students who can create, innovate, connect, and collaborate. We need students who can identify and solve complex, real-world problems. Changing the way we educate students is not only necessary... it's a moral imperative."

Next year, our scholars will have access to coursework at all times from anywhere. Learning will no longer be constrained by time or walls, and class time will be more heavily rooted in solving real-world problems through project-based learning. Our teachers will collaborate with our peers at the PLA to constantly improve their practice and scholar-level outcomes. Most importantly, scholars, teachers, and families will have real-time access to academic data. This will allow us to use our collective strength to support scholars when they struggle, challenge them when they are ready, and track progress to our ultimate goal: preparing each one of them for success in college and the world beyond.

We look forward to seeing our rising 9th and 10th graders when they return from summer break, and we are committed to continuing to build upon the work we started in our founding year!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BVP High School Part 3: Student Engagement, Ownership & Mastery

by Jessica Waters, BVP Board Member & 2013 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

I am as excited today as I was in June of 2013 to be part of the Blackstone Valley Prep Board of Directors. I am honored to be part of a team that is constantly striving to improve opportunities for all scholars, so it is not surprising  that BVP High School will be embarking on this unique journey, which I believe will even further skyrocket the success of scholars.

As a classroom teacher I struggled to truly differentiate learning for all students. On my best day I could reach and push 5 kids, admittedly leaving some kids either bored or too challenged to be engaged. In my last few years in the classroom it was only through experimenting with technology that I got to a place of bliss. I used technology to create a personalized learning environment where I was able to meet all kids where they were, pushing them to achieve at their personal best. It was not about the technology--it was about the personalization, likewise for BVP High School.

Partnering with Summit Public Schools allows BVP to use their best practices and collaborate with educators across the country and right here in RI with a high school part of  Pawtucket School District. The tools will support student engagement, ownership and mastery as well as real life learning experiences through project based learning. It also provides a way for learning to happen anytime and anyplace, not just within the walls of school.

Another beneficial quality about this model is the parent communication aspect.  As a parent of a high school student it has become increasingly hard to navigate the school experience and support my daughter in her academic life. Additional resources will be shared as a way for parents to stay involved and support their scholar in a meaningful way, including the chance for parents to access to class content and to track their scholar's progress through course content, projects and short and long term goals.

At BVP we truly want scholars to be prepared for college and beyond. We feel strongly about sending them off with not only the content they need, but also with the skills to be a learner in the ever changing world around them. To that end, I am truly excited for what this endeavor will bring to our scholars and families.