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.