Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy is a growing network of tuition-free public charter schools in northern Rhode Island serving 1,800 scholars in grades K-12 across 6 schools. Its mission is to prepare scholars for success in college and the world beyond.
A unique part of BVP’s model is its focus on intentional diversity. BVP draws scholars from the two traditionally higher-income communities of Cumberland and Lincoln and the two predominantly lower-income communities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, facilitating connections across both racial and socioeconomic lines of difference.
Deanna Mayol, parent of BVP scholar Alydia Mayol, said:
“Intentional diversity is important because it gives our daughter the opportunity to learn and understand about different cultures and beliefs. We feel this will help her grow as a person, be open-minded, and give her the ability to work well with others.”
Research has shown that diversity enhances social and academic learning, and the results of the BVP network support this. Recently, the first class of BVP juniors scored 108 points above the state average on the SAT, ranking among the highest performing and most affluent districts in Rhode Island.
On the 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, 52% of BVP students scored proficient in ELA and 42% in math, compared to RI’s averages of 39% and 32%, respectively–a double-digit difference in achievement in both.
BVP’s first-ever graduating class will graduate in 2018.
- Serves two predominantly lower-income communities (Central Falls and Pawtucket) and two higher-income communities (Cumberland & Lincoln) in Rhode Island
- Number of schools: 6 (3 elementary, 2 middle, 1 high school)
- Grades: K-12
- Number of students: 1,800
- 63% of scholars qualify for free or reduced price lunch, a key indicator of poverty
- 12% of BVP scholars are English Language Learners (ELLs)
- 14% of BVP scholars have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- A Big Shine: In an issue brief from The Century Foundation, titled Charters Without Borders, BVP is featured (starting on page 7) as one example of how charter schools can leverage their greater flexibility to focus on diversity and integration
“I wanted my children to be in a school with a student body that was reflective of themselves.”
-Lisa Gomes, parent of BVP scholars Makenna and Elijah Gomes
While just 22% of students in Cumberland and 29% of students Lincoln receive free or reduced-price lunch, 86% in Central Falls and 75% in Pawtucket do so. Racial demographics across the four school districts are similarly varied: Lincoln and Cumberland have student populations that are 80–90% white, whereas Central Falls is roughly 75% Latino, and Pawtucket’s student body is roughly one-third white, one-third Latino, and one-third black.
Video: Why is BVP Different?
A Commitment to Diversity
BVP’s model is diverse by design. Inherent in BVP’s mission is the belief that all children can achieve at high academic levels, and those demographics do not, and more importantly should not, determine their level of success. Valuing diversity is an organizational priority and a core belief shared across the network by staff and scholars alike, and BVP’s vision and culture reflect this.
BVP’s Diversity Statement
Blackstone Valley Prep is committed to the academic success, social and emotional growth, and health and wellness of 100% of scholars in an intentionally diverse school that celebrates the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and sexual-orientation differences of our scholars, staff, and families by actively engaging in courageous conversations about the value of peoples’ differences; raising awareness of self and society’s structural inequities; and empowering all people to engage in an open and honest dialogue with an active voice.
“I have always wanted to work in a school that served those who needed the most support. I have also always wanted to be part of a school that is good enough for my own kids. Our model at BVP, with our intentionally diverse population, provides me the opportunity to do just that.”
– Jeremy Chiappetta, Executive Director
BVP’s Vision Statement
Blackstone Valley Prep will be a model of rigorous 21st-century college and career preparatory public education that serves an intentionally diverse scholar population by:
- Fostering scholar growth academically, socially and emotionally
- Engaging families, staff, and the greater community
- Nurturing supportive school communities that celebrate scholar achievement
And will improve the educational landscape by collaborating and sharing best practices with others and proving what is possible for all kids.
“I believe it reflects the world my children will live and work in. Recognizing individuals and their cultural and religious differences now will hopefully allow them to be more compassionate and understanding adults.”
– Lori Barden, Parent of William and Tanner Barden
One of the ways in which BVP instills its strong school culture is through its founding principles–Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, Enthusiasm, and Love, or PRIDE +1 for short. These principles are implemented into the culture by school leaders and shared across all of BVP’s schools.
Another important component of BVP’s culture is a focus on college preparation starting in kindergarten. Classrooms are named after universities and colleges, and every grade is referred to by the year scholars will graduate from college. So, instead of “12th graders,” scholars are referred to as the “College Class of 2022,” for example.
Video: Learn about BVP’s culture
Recognizing that the foundation of a strong culture starts with staff, every summer BVP holds a rigorous summer professional development program. Finally, BVP also purposefully collaborates and shares best practices with its traditional public school district counterparts as well as other charters.
Two key highlights of BVP’s academic program are:
- Its focus on culturally responsive teaching
- An emphasis on project-based learning
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culturally responsive teaching is a theoretical framework created by Geneva Gay that relies on “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them.”
This framework of teaching takes into account the diverse learning styles, perspectives, and backgrounds of students to help them learn and make connections. It also turns talk about diversity as a ‘nice-to-have’ on its head, treating it as a ‘must’ that legitimizes cultural heritage through a formal curriculum.
BVP Executive Director Jeremy Chiappetta said:
“Over the past few years, we have recognized the need to live the work of intentional diversity not just at our staff orientation and training but also, most importantly, with our scholars in our classrooms. Geneva Gay, along with some other great thought leaders, have inspired us to adopt Culturally Responsive Teaching as a focus for our work. By bringing intentional diversity as a focus in our classrooms, in our curriculum, we are making real strides to live this work to its fullest.”
BVP High School is the first school in its network to pilot a personalized learning model, which is characterized by a focus on individualized learning and a movement away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
Unique learning styles and needs require a unique and innovative teaching approach. Every scholar is provided with a ChromeBook, a self-paced personalized learning platform to track progress, and teachers and staff who provide the content expertise and supportive environment necessary for success. Through a partnership with California Summit Public Schools, BVP scholars use an online system that tracks individual progress through lessons, core content areas, and electives. Teachers, students, and families can use this system to continually assess progress and areas of growth.
As with any innovative approach, there are challenges. BVP High School has had the benefit of implementing a personalized learning model from its inception. As the BVP network grows, a challenge will be the continued implementation of the personalized learning model across all of its schools. BVP will continue to balance student autonomy with academic rigor across all levels, but perhaps will focus in particular at the middle and elementary level, where this program has not been the primary focus from day one.
“One of the things you will always hear from scholars at BVP is the amazing relationship we have with our teachers. Educators at BVP always give 110% for their scholars…”
– High School Scholar
Impact & Student Success
BVP student achievement is some of the highest in Rhode Island. On the 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, 52% of BVP students scored proficient in ELA and 42% in math, compared to RI’s averages of 39% and 32%, respectively–a double digit difference in achievement in both.
BVP is proving what is possible for all students. There were only three schools which serve a majority of low-income students that exceeded the state averages in both English language arts (ELA) and math. BVP was one of them– and all three were public charter schools.
“I barely read at a 4th grade reading level when I started BVP, but now I’m passing all of my classes reading at grade level. The things that these people have helped me accomplish are crazy, and I know that no one would have helped me in this way except them. I might just have a chance to go to college. This is the first time I have felt confident about myself.”
– High School Scholar
In addition to standard measures of academic achievement such as statewide assessments and school-level assessments such as STAR, there are other outcomes by which BVP has been able to measure impact.
100 days of learning
In June 2017, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report that compares student outcomes for traditional district schools, independent charter schools, Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), and Vendor Operated Schools (VOS). BVP is one of the schools highlighted for having a positive effect on student success. To put it into numbers, BVP’s impact was shown to be equivalent to 100 days of additional learning. Read more.
BVP also has a significant impact on college readiness. According to recent SAT results from BVP’s first class of juniors, BVP scholars were 91% more likely than a typical Rhode Island junior to be college and career ready in both literacy and math. In addition, BVP scholars had an average SAT score 108 points above the state average, ranking among the top performing districts in the state.
Other highlights from these results include:
- One perfect score on the math portion of the SAT
- About 10% of the class scored 1400 or higher
- Nearly everyone improved their PSAT results from a year prior
“This school gives me a lot of motivation to go to college and do amazing things in my lifetime. Also, this school takes in a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds.”
– Elementary School Scholar
Social and Cultural Outcomes
Finally, recognizing that learning is not just about getting high scores on tests, BVP’s focus on a positive and joyful classroom environment has led to significant social and cultural outcomes. This is best illustrated by testimonials of scholars, but the data shows this as well.
For example, BVP has:
- Low suspension rates: BVP has a third (or fewer) suspension incidences per 100 students than the state average
- High attendance rates and low chronic absenteeism rates
- Low student mobility: BVP is low on the mobility index
- Low student turnover: The rate of student turnover, or the percentage of students who moved into or out of the school during the school year, is <5% vs. the state average of 12-16%
“Something I like about this school is that this school is a team. If one person doesn’t understand a question, then a person or a peer helps them.”
– Middle School Scholar