Thursday, January 28, 2016

National School Choice Week Series Part 4: Who We Serve

       Every child is different. We think everyone can easily agree with that statement. Every child is a unique combination of traits including heritage, likes and dislikes, learning styles, and so much more. It is our belief that truly embracing diversity means not only building a community that is racially and socioeconomically diverse, but also building one that allows scholars to grow into their individuality, take in information in the way most natural to them, and supporting social and emotional growth along the way.

       So when we are asked who our scholars are and we broadly answer “all kids,” we truly mean it. Finding innovative ways to support every child’s education is a top priority for us, including those with clearly defined special needs as well as those who may need additional supports from time to time. BVP's dedicated team of educators is deeply committed to 100%.

*Graphics reflect statistics for the 2014-2015 school year.

       One of our parents had this to share:
I have an older son that has Autism and has been in the Public School system. I fought with special education programs for too many years. That's why school choice is so important to me, I have two children in BVP and I had the opportunity to choose them as the best option for my children’s needs. One of my younger children is now being tested and may be on the spectrum. I find comfort in knowing that whatever happens, I have the right to find a program that will fit him and choose where he will go to school.” - Kelly Foley
       Long after National School Choice Week is over, we hope that parents throughout Rhode Island and the U.S. remember that it is their right to seek out the best school environment for their child. In the end, that’s what school choice is all about.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

National School Choice Week Series Part 3: Parent Satisfaction

      School choice has enabled families to consider their options and ultimately decide if one school environment will suit their child’s specific needs better than another.

       Current BVP families take it upon themselves to do informal outreach and share their testimonial with family and friends, and we are immensely grateful to our families for doing so. Year after year, families who attend open houses and tour BVP for the first time tell us they first heard about our schools through a neighbor or friend whose children already attend BVP. Truly, it has been families who are our biggest cheerleaders. 

       Family voice is also a critical piece to BVP's desire to constantly reflect and improve our practice.  We survey families up to three times yearly and take feedback very seriously. Happily, we found that 93% of families who completed the survey shared that they were “extremely” or “quite likely” to recommend BVP to a friend. We’re proud of this statistic and even more proud that this result has never been below 90% in all the years we have conducted surveys.

       It means the world to us that so many parents have so many fantastic things to share. As we celebrate National School Choice week, and we are reminded of the decision our families made to choose BVP and entrust us with their children, we would like to share some of these anonymous comments with you.
“I think the teachers and faculty at BVP are doing an amazing job. The school has exceeded my expectations and I consider my child very lucky to be able to be a student here.”
“BVP is doing great on every aspect, [I] could not have ask for a better school. BVP meets all the expectations a parent could [ask] for. Thankful for having my kids enrolled in such a great school.” 
“Love the school, love the teachers, and the expectations they have towards the students. I don't see my daughter in any other school.”
“My child has learned so many new things since starting BVP and he is only in kindergarten. I am amazed at how wonderfully his teachers work. I really like how they teach students current events because in today’s world, it's very important. I am excited to find out what else my child will learn in his upcoming years at BVP.”
“I feel the school does an exceptional job at preparing my children academically!! Both of my scholar's grades always exceed my expectations and I am so grateful to the teachers and staff for that!!!! Wonderful job BVP keep up the great work!!!!”
“My scholar has learned so much in such a short period of time everything she does at school she practices at home on her own! Love all the great communication and family involvement.”
“The PLP (Personalized Learning Platform) has been a blessing. Our daughter frequently got bored in school. Now she likes school. Motivated and excited about college.”
“I feel as though the PRIDE values are the core of BVP. We talk about those values at home. Not only are my children becoming prepared for the world intellectually, they are learning how to become good citizens through those PRIDE values. Thank you BVP!”
       While we still believe there are more innovations to make and even more goals to reach, these comments and others like them reaffirm for us that what we’re doing at BVP is making a difference. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts as part of the trimester 1 family survey. Please know that your words have been heard and you have motivated us to keep moving forward.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

National School Choice Week Series Part 2: Our Results

       At BVP, we work hard. Families, scholars, and staff - everyone here puts in 100% (cien por ciento!) We believe that when you set high expectations and provide supports where they are needed, people rise to the occasion. Time and time again our results demonstrate this belief holds true.

We see it in our attendance* which is consistently higher than state averages:
*yellow denotes elementary, white - middle school and, grey - high school
       We also see it in how much lower our chronic absenteeism is than the state averages:

*yellow denotes elementary, white - middle school and, grey - high school
       More than anything, we see it in our scholar’s academic success. Recent PARCC test data showed that BVP scholars outperformed Rhode Island PARCC test averages in both Math & English Language Arts (ELA.)

       Even more poignant, data showed that BVP low-income scholars outperformed non low-income students attending traditional public schools in Rhode Island. BVP scholars also exceeded the weighted sending district average of the four communities we serve. 

       But, why? We believe that these results are achieved through a combination of rigor, high expectations, and innovative curriculum. One example of this is the Personalized Learning Model that is the foundation of our high school.

       Personalized learning is a model for learning created to provide an individualized environment designed to provide scholars the time they need to be academically successful while providing the support they need to get there. At BVP, we implement personalized learning with the use of one-to-one ChromeBooks assigned to every scholar, a self-paced personalized learning platform, and a team of dedicated teachers and staff who provide the content expertise and supportive environment necessary for success in this rigorous program.

       At California’s Summit Public Schools, the Personalized Learning Platform (PLP) was created with the help of developers from Facebook allowing students to visibly see the progress they make on their required coursework. Our scholars use this online system to track their individual progress through lessons, core content areas, and electives.

       Personalized learning is, without a doubt, different in comparison to the traditional high school model and, we believe, pivotal to achieving our goal of preparing every scholar for success in college and the world beyond. To share why that is, we asked a BVP High School parent and scholar to share their perspective on how the PLP helps prepare scholars for their future.

My son Elija previously attended a traditional public school and frequently tells me how much more he enjoys classes at BVP. With the Personalized Learning Platform he feels much more prepared for his future and is confident that having the opportunity to personalize his learning is helping him discover what type of a learner he is - a skill he will need to be a successful, independent college student. He feels that the dynamic, community learning experience he takes part in keeps him more engaged and interested in his academic progress. Knowing that this is the experience he is having in high school, and how inspired he has become to learn, I couldn’t be more confident that he will be poised to rise to the expectations of university life.” - Lisa Gomes

       Considering the numbers and what our parents have to say, we feel that thinking outside the box to achieve results has been the right approach. So, we’re going to keep pushing - because we’ve just gotten started

*All Graphs reflect data from the 2014-2015 school year.

Monday, January 25, 2016

National School Choice Week and the Next Generation of Learning

       Every year, one week in January has become known as National School Choice Week (NSCW). It’s goal is to “raise public awareness” for all educational options available to families including online learning, private schools, homeschooling, public school, and public charter schools.

       School choice is about parents having the opportunity to consider their options and seek out the best fit for their child. We know one size does not fit all, which is why schools offering unique methods and innovative approaches are so important. It is our responsibility as educators to step up to the challenge and develop methods for serving all children.

       This week we will be sharing a series of musings and perspectives from our community. As we move through the week, please also know that your voice is important to the school choice conversation. We invite you to join us on Twitter to share your thoughts by using #SchoolChoiceWeek all week long.
BVP High School Head of School,
Jonathan Santos Silva, with
high school scholars.

       To kick off the week, we invite you to read this opinion piece written by Richard Whitmire, author of several books on education and reform, after he visited BVP High School last fall. Published in The Seventy Four, Mr Whitmire highlights the next generation of high schools and his hope for the future of learning.

Monday, January 18, 2016

BVP Scholar Reflects on the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is an important day. Today, we remember the legacy of a man whose impact on diversity and equal rights has a clear connection to BVP's mission. Here, we strive for intentional diversity and we often wonder about the perspectives of our scholars and how that mission resonates with them. So, we asked. Maggie Rodrigues is a 6th grade scholar at Middle School 1 who started at BVP this year. When we asked her to tell us what makes BVP different from her last school, this is what she had to share. 

By Maggie Rodrigues, College Class of 2026, Age 11

       See, I’m new to BVP and they were very welcoming to me. 

       It took me time to notice the wide variety of difference among scholars. We are white, black, Latino, new to this country, from different towns, and so much more. You might think I would notice this immediately, but one thing is for sure--it took me awhile because everyone treats each other equally, and that is a great thing. That is exactly the same thing that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted for our country. At BVP though, it’s not just with white and black students, but with every race and ethnicity you can think of.

       I feel like Dr. King would be so proud if he were alive to see our school and to know a place like this exists.

       Some benefits of attending this school are not being judged by your race, or ethnicity, or where you’re from. Also, there is a uniform to prevent any bullying because of what you wear or don’t wear. So, I think it’s safe to say that I, as a new student at this school, am so happy and proud to be a part of this judgement-free zone.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adam's Journey

By Jill Klitzner, BVP Elementary School 1 parent. 

       Like most parents, my days are busy. With four children at four different schools, our day starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends...well it never seems to end. Two of my four children are BVP scholars with my oldest in 8th grade in middle school and my youngest at Elementary School 1. While he is still young, my son Adam’s long journey to Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy is one of growth and perseverance. (Find a comfy chair, sit down, and grab a tissue.)

       Our journey with Adam started in September 2009 when we received a call from our social worker telling us about an 18 day old newborn that needed a home. Without hesitation my husband and I cancelled an upcoming vacation and immediately began the process of bringing Adam home. He had already had a rough start, having been born addicted to drugs and alcohol. We knew he might have some challenges ahead of him, but when the nurse wheeled him around the corner and I caught my first glimpse of little Adam, I knew he would be my forever baby.

       Adam met many milestones, with the exception of talking and walking. Because he was in state custody as a foster child, getting services for him was never an issue. With the resources available, we made sure he got to every appointment and took the time to work with him. But as Adam got older, more was demanded of him and he began to get frustrated. It wasn’t long before my calm baby became a tantrum-driven toddler. By the time Adam was three he was no longer receiving services from outside agencies, so he was turned over to our town’s school department. Adam struggled. We, as his parents, struggled. The next two years were a long and bumpy road. I kept looking for a fork in the road, but I couldn't find one. Before I knew it, he was five and it was time for kindergarten.

       His first week of school I was in the principal's office 3 times and almost every week we would receive a call about Adam’s behavior. Nothing seemed positive and it felt like we were failing our son. After an emergency IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting, we knew the next step was to find Adam a program more equipped to handle his needs. My husband and I decided to admit him to Bradley’s 8 week Pedi-Partial program. When Adam was finished he was on a new path. He temporarily transitioned to Bradley School in Providence and for the first time in years, Adam went to school with a smile and came home with even a bigger one.

       At the end of the school year, we as a team decided that Adam would benefit from repeating kindergarten. Having one child already extremely successful at BVP, I knew it was an opportunity to consider for Adam. I entered him into the lottery and, to our delight, Adam was selected to attend BVP. With that, countless meetings between Bradley, BVP, my husband, and myself ensued over many months. After much deliberation, the team agreed that Adam would benefit from moving into the Transitional Learning Center (TLC) at ES1. I’ll admit, I was hesitant. At Bradley Adam was safe, happy, comfortable, and growing rapidly. I was comfortable, too. I questioned whether he was ready and worried if he would take a step backwards. I worried about the length of the day and if the homework would be too overwhelming.

       Through the worry and concern a calm, sweet voice began to speak.“I used to teach your son Jack when I was a student teacher and now I get to teach your Adam.” Like the moment I first laid eyes on my son, I knew when I heard Casey Rainha speak that she was the right teacher for Adam. For weeks after our first meeting, Casey continued to stay in touch, even visiting Adam at Bradley to meet his friends. Before we knew it, January 4th, Adam’s first day at BVP, had come and Casey made sure everything was perfect.

       At 7:02 a.m. he got on the bus and started his journey at BVP. Ms. Rainha was there to greet him as his bus arrived and took him by the hand to lead him into his new school - to lead him into the next part of his journey. Adam is safe, happy, and will continue to grow at a rapid pace. We all feel at peace with the road ahead for Adam and it’s all because we had the right to choose where he would go to school. We had the right to choose BVP. It’s only been a week and a half, but Adam is already at home at BVP. I can only imagine where week three will take him, and four, and all the rest . . . . .

       Adam’s journey has just begun and I’m thrilled with where he’s headed.

For more on BVP’s TLC program, click here to view our annual report. (Navigate to page 8)

For more on Casey Rainha, click here for our recent blog post on her becoming a recipient of the Golden Apple Award.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Golden Apple for a Golden Teacher

       At BVP, we are proud of our teachers. They are dedicated, hard-working, and passionate people with a love for education. Every single one of them is special. So, it is especially uplifting for us when one of our teachers is recognized for the impact they have made. Earlier today, one such teacher, Casey Rainha of Elementary School 1, was recognized with The Golden Apple Award, an honor sponsored by NBC10, Hasbro and the Rhode Island Department of Education recognizing outstanding teachers who exhibit the "true spirit of teaching."

       Casey is a graduate of Rhode Island College and has a B.S. in Special Education. Originally from Cumberland, she formerly served as a substitute teacher at the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative working with children ages 3-21 with severe developmental disabilities. Casey was selected for The Golden Apple as the result of a parent nomination for her work in the Transitional Learning Center (TLC).

(left to right) BVP Executive Director Jeremy Chiappetta,
nominating parent Krystal Vasquez, teacher Casey Rainha,
NBC10 anchor Patrice Wood, and ES1 Head of School
Kyle Quadros
       TLC is a program at BVP offering specialized instruction to children needing social and emotional support. In small classroom environments teachers guide scholars on how to identify their feelings, utilize coping strategies, recognize the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, and how to self-regulate. Teaching these strategies allows scholars to be successful when engaging in general classroom settings and allows them to academically thrive while also giving special attention to their social, emotional and behavioral needs. Scholars who successfully complete their time with TLC become role models for their peers who are able to share and teach the strategies they learned while in the program.

       Earlier this year we interviewed Casey for a feature in our annual report (which can be viewed here on page 8) and asked her what she loved about her job the most. "One of the best parts of our job is when families report that their scholar’s behavior has improved at home. The connection between home and school is vital in supporting the development of the whole child, which is truly BVP’s goal for the classroom."

A video of the award presentation will be featured on NBC10's 6pm news on Thursday, January 21st.

Congratulations Casey! We’re so proud to have you on our team!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Children We Serve

By Ronald Vincent, Elementary School 1 Dean of Culture

This past fall, I became the newest Dean of Culture at BVP Elementary School 1 (ES1). While I understood and shared the mantras and core values of BVP when I became a part of the community, there was nothing like seeing it come to life when our classrooms filled with scholars. In that first month, the staff came together to diligently create systems and procedures within each classroom to help support scholars academically. It’s in those first weeks that we lay the groundwork for the academics our scholars will experience throughout the year.

ES1 Dean of Culture, Ron Vincent, enjoying a friendly race
with scholars at recess.
We could just stop there. We could focus on academics alone, but our mission is to prepare our scholars for “the world beyond,” so we push further. With that in mind, at BVP we celebrate diversity, but that “diversity” goes much deeper than what most people would expect. Beyond our work to celebrate cultural and socioeconomic diversity is our work to support social and emotional growth.

In that first month, I also watched and joined ES1 teachers and leaders come together to help scholars apply skills learned from morning community circle, community breakfast, and social skills group into all aspects of their day. Instruction continuously focused on encouraging scholars to embrace each other’s differences and learn from one another. In the real world, people are diverse beyond race, creed, and economic status. People also have varying degrees of social skills, emotional awareness, various learning skills, and ways of absorbing information. Being diverse and encouraging scholars to embrace difference in the real world means preparing them for all this and 100% academic success.

When we say we’re preparing our scholars for the world beyond, we mean it and more so, we mean it for all scholars – those of every race, creed, gender, economic status, academic history, spoken language, learning style, emotional state, physical ability, and interest (including artistic and athletic).

That is the real world beyond the classroom. That is what makes up a community.