Thursday, March 31, 2016

BVP's Chess Team: A Season to Have Pride in

BVP Scholars with their trophies!
By BVP Chess Coach, Stuart Pink.

       As you walk into a BVP school, you will probably start to notice a growing collection of chess trophies! That's because our chess teams and players have just had their most successful season ever. 2015-2016 marks the 4th year that we have fielded teams in the Rhode Island Scholastic League and we achieved our highest finishing positions yet!

       For the first time, we entered a middle school team and they finished very respectably as 8th in a tough league among outstanding chess players. The team of Liam Carroll, Sophia Lombardi, Will Barden, Jordi Lara, and newcomer Roderick Beaubrun all fought hard games and contributed many points to the team throughout the season.

       As our strength in depth increases at the Elementary School level, we had separate Elementary School 1 (ES1) and Elementary School 2 (ES2) teams this year that were very evenly matched. In fact, the individual match between ES1 and ES2 was a 2-2 tie! In the end, ES1 came 3rd in the league and ES2 came 4th in the league, just half a point behind.


Scholar Vaishnavi 
Vaijaeepay with her trophy!
       At the end of season state championships, our middle school team came in 3rd and a joint elementary team came 2nd in their respective competitions. Scholar Vaishnavi Vaijaeepay from ES2 also took an individual 1st in this event, too!

       Chess is a wonderfully inclusive activity that allows players of different ages, genders, and backgrounds to compete on a level playing field. It is exciting to bring scholars from 3 BVP schools together on a regular basis for coaching and chess events. Our tournament in December 2015 had 33 scholars from BVP participate! This year we have also started teaching chess at ES3, so we're looking forward to our BVP chess family continuing to grow.

As in past years, we have again been very fortunate to have parent volunteers (Lori Barden, Lisa Bowie, Melissa Lawson, and Erika Sanzi) who have invested an enormous amount of time and energy into chess at BVP. Our achievements would not have been possible without them.

If you or your scholar is interested in playing chess locally, click here for more information.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Win for Equitable Education

       At BVP, we believe that all scholars can achieve. But, while the aspirations of students throughout Rhode Island are high, opportunity can be harder to come by. Thanks to the new Advanced Course Network, the students of Rhode Island are getting greater access to the kinds of coursework that will prepare them for college and work in whatever field their aspirations lie.

       The program, pushed forward by the Rhode Island Department of Education, is a statewide initiative that will provide thousands of students with advanced courses, many at college level. Partnerships between private and public colleges, community partners, and among high schools throughout the state will make courses available online and in-person. For the first time, hurdles such as the size of schools, facilities, and resources available within a community will be removed. Opportunities that were available in the past based on zip code or a family’s ability to pay for extra enrichments will be open to all. Thanks to the Advanced Coursework Network, Rhode Island is one step closer to a system where education is equitable.

       As BVP High School enters its next year, we will have 11th graders for the first time. With a crop of students looking to expand their learning by integrating advanced and AP courses into their program of study, the timing of this program couldn’t have been better. We are excited to have our scholars join the thousands throughout the state who will now have the ability to enroll for free in any advanced coursework offered by participating schools and organizations around the state. This program will also provide our scholars with tuition-free access to dual enrollment courses at local colleges and universities.

       To prepare for our involvement with the program we recently surveyed our sophomore class to gather information about their interests. We plan to use this data along with support from our College and Career Counselors to provide each and every scholar with personalized counseling to match them with the opportunities available to achieve the best fit. Thinking long-term, we will also use this data to proactively seek new partnerships with members of the Advanced Coursework Network who can offer courses that our scholars are particularly excited about.



       Next year, there will be AP Chemistry and AP Spanish classes at Classical High School in Providence, Community Development courses with Roger Williams University for aspiring community leaders, Oceanography from West Bay Collaborative, and so much more. The potential for this program has us truly optimistic for the future of education in Rhode Island. Earlier today, an opinion piece co-written by Jeremy Chiappetta (our Executive Director) and Victor Capellan (Superintendent of Central Falls Schools) was published by The Providence Journal. To read more about their take on the Advanced Course Network, click here.

To read more about the Advanced Course Network from the Rhode Island Department of Education, click here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Music In Our Schools Month

By Piera Leone, Music Director and Elementary School 1 Music Teacher.

       As Music Director for Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy, I think March is a great month. All across America it’s Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM)! At BVP, in addition to making music with scholars multiple times per week through our regular curriculum, each campus celebrates MIOSM in different ways:

  • At Elementary School 1 and Elementary School 3, we’ve been opening our ears by listening to world music and parading around our schools with instruments. 
  • At Elementary School 2, teachers and scholars have been coming together to create and perform songs during their morning huddles and community circles. 
  • At the middle school, teachers were surveyed about what music means to them and what they listened to when they were in middle school. By diving into the results, scholars have able to connect to their teachers’ personal music experiences. 
       Let’s focus on those italicized words above: opening our ears, listening, coming together, create, perform, community, and connect. 

Elementary School 1 scholars during a violin lesson.

       These words are not only used during MIOSM and within our four National Core Music Standards (Creating, Performing, Responding, and Connecting), but they are also used daily when discussing relationships with one another, building strong communities, inspiring children to achieve their dreams, and uniting our nation. America formally recognized this in July of 2015 when the United States Senate passed its bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177). Since then, music and the arts have been core subjects via the Every Child Achieves Act. Fortunately for our scholars, BVP has recognized music and the arts as core subjects since beginning in 2009.

       For us, music and the arts are just as integral to our mission of preparing our scholars for success in college and the world beyond as academic subjects are. So while MIOSM is only 31 days long, our dedication to these programs is prioritized every other month of the year as well.

       Would you like to show your BVP Music Program Pride? For the remainder of the month you can support our music programs by purchasing a limited time BVP #gotmusic? t-shirt! Click here to purchase.

Happy Music in our Schools Month!
For more information on MIOSM, click here

Thursday, March 17, 2016

BVP Hosts Community Breakfast

Executive Director, Jeremy Chiappetta, addressing
guests at last week's community breakfast. 
       On Friday, March 11th, over 35 community stakeholders, including business owners and elected officials, joined parents, teachers, and scholars at Blackstone Valley Prep for a morning of networking, learning, and a taste of Elementary School 2's Community Circle!

       The majority of our guests were with us for the very first time. They had the opportunity to hear BVP's Executive Director tell our story as well as hear direct testimony from parents and scholars about their experience as members of the Blackstone Valley Prep family.

       While it was great to be able to share BVP's
BVP High School parent, Ruth Lincoln sharing her
personal experiences with BVP.
accomplishments, it was just as important to create a sense of urgency around the state of RI’s education and how critical it is that we all work together to improve Rhode Island's educational landscape, which is an important part of BVP's vision statement.


       Shortly after the breakfast, we received a note from one of our attendees, Paul Martineau of the Employers Association of the North East, 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and was inspired by all areas of the experience…the students are remarkable, the faculty conveys total dedication to success, and overall, Blackstone Valley Prep demonstrates how 'Great' education can be!”
Community Circle at Elementary School 2. 
       We hope this is the beginning of many more conversations and we value the willingness of any and all community stakeholders who engage with us in discussing the future of our small, but mighty state.

The Pawtucket Times published an article about this event on Tuesday, March 15th. Click here for an excerpt or see Tuesday's print edition for the complete story. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A New Outlook

By Michelle Turner, BVP Art Director & Middle School 1 Art Teacher
     
       Recently I had a lovely visit from a former art teacher colleague that I haven’t seen in close to 15 years. Naturally, we spent some time sharing our current teaching practices. As we talked we quickly realized that we’ve both made similar philosophical shifts in our teaching since we began our careers. (I’m talking about a shift so completely opposite from what we were taught in our undergraduate art education programs.) This shift to valuing process over product has made our work new and exciting for everyone!

       Simply put, we value the process (steps of thinking and planning) one goes through to get to the end result and understand that it is often more important than the product (art piece) itself. For our scholars at BVP, this is what the Artistic Process looks like:

A scholar's work plan in
progress.
1. First, scholars come up with an IDEA (teachers supply various types of inspiration - through books, artistic challenges, the art of others, current events, themes, etc.) and expand on it through written statements, practice sketches and media planning. These comprehensive work plans are created before scholars even utilize art material. This allows teachers to “get into their heads” a little bit and provide additional guidance and suggestions to their plan.





A work plan in use.
2. Once a plan is complete and approved, scholars can begin to MAKE the actual artwork. During Art class you’ll often see teachers providing mini lessons to support scholars trying new techniques or demonstrating new media to the whole class. Scholars even teach and coach one another! 





A scholar's Artist Statement.
3. Finally, when the project is complete, scholars gets the chance to REFLECT on their experience. This takes the form of writing Artist Statements that give scholars a chance to really think about and articulate the process of making their art. Here, they get to be honest about their effort, their design and media choices, and sometimes about what they would do differently if they were to do the same project over again. We teach them to accept that the artistic journey can sometimes be a struggle, but, with perseverance, they will grow to be innovative and critical thinkers. Whether a success or failure, we teach that each art piece is crucial to their journey of becoming a better artist, reflector, and thinker.

       This exciting shift in teaching art is sweeping through our nation’s art classrooms as we now understand that this process plays a critical role in preparing our students to become true THINKERS in the 21st century. We’re excited to be part of this shift and truly believe that it is part of the work we do to prepare our scholars for the world beyond.

       We will host our annual “For Art’s Sake” Art Show April 2nd and every BVP scholar will have a piece on display. Because we celebrate ideas and the process our scholars go through, this year we’re letting scholars choose work they feel best represents their artistic journey. As it has been in previous years, this event is free and open to the public, so we invite you to join us and embrace the Artistic Process with us. When you visit, if you come upon a scholar we invite you to ask them HOW they made their art, WHY they made it, and WHAT have they learned from their process. I promise, you’ll be impressed with what they can explain to you.

       On behalf of the BVP art team and our scholar artists, we invite you to join us on Saturday, April 2nd, for our free art show and creation stations, including one with guest artist, Joyce Kutty. We hope to see you there!

Our free scholar art show is made possible thanks, in part, to the proceeds donated at our art opening reception and silent auction. This year’s reception will be held at Mad Dog Art Studio & Gallery from 6-9 pm. Tickets are available with a minimum donation of $35/each and the evening includes food, wine, and a brief program. For tickets or inquiries as to how to donate to the auction, please e-mail Jen LoPiccolo at jlopiccolo@blackstonevalleyprep.org or purchase online.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Your Voice Matters

By Teague Shosh, BVP Parent

I am learning that my voice as a parent of a public charter school student matters.

My name is Teague Shosh and I am a mother of an Elementary School 2 scholar and an active participant in the Parent Advocacy Fellowship that was launched for parents who send their kids to BVP. Since September, the group of approximately 17 parents has been meeting to learn about the state of education in RI, the legislative process, and effective ways to advocate.

BVP Parents listening to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea
while visiting the Rhode Island State House
Most recently, I visited the State House for an intimate conversation with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mckee, and other elected officials. I’ve always known that government is complex--the legislative process is difficult to understand, the State House can feel like an intimidating place to be, and decisions made can sometimes make us feel defeated.

My biggest takeaway from the conversations with state leaders that night is that our work as parent advocates is ongoing and requires persistence. We must continue to show others why protecting high-quality schools like BVP matters to us as parents, to our scholars, and to our state.

I’d like to personally invite all BVP parents to get involved in advocating for our schools. Sometimes it feels like our advocacy efforts are not working, but if you’re feeling that way now, I invite you to reconsider and email me at teaguem1210@yahoo.com to learn more about how to get involved.