There are entire industries built around teaching others the best practices for organizational improvement. One may have heard the term kaizen, a Japanese word that has become an Americanized business buzzword for continuous improvement. Indeed, how can one argue with the phrase continuous improvement? We are all human, and the last I checked I have yet to meet someone who is flawless. (I had hoped that maybe our third child, Mollie, might be the first perfect person. As every other parent before us has learned, however, once kids learn to talk all bets are off…even little Mollie isn’t perfect.)
As a public charter school, continuous improvement – or else, is probably a more apt way to describe our situation. By design, Rhode Island public charter schools are granted organizational flexibility, and, in exchange, we are held to a higher bar. Indeed, this week the RI Board of Regents voted to deny a five-year renewal to a Providence charter high school because of academic performance on NECAP. Instead, the school has the next two rounds of NECAPs to show significant improvement or be closed. This year Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy will be under the microscope as part of our own charter renewal process…and we will do everything we can to demonstrate that we are working hard to get better.
Unquestionably, continuous improvement at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy is a way of life. Elementary classrooms boast literacy growth trackers, grades 2-7 have regular data meetings to look at the Achievement Network interim assessment data, classrooms are regularly open to peers offering feedback, and we are launching our first network-wide Instructional Rounds next month. Even the elementary “Recorder Karate” and “Violin Karate” programs are built around self-monitoring of continuous improvement.
This coming week, BVP will host a team of educators from SchoolWorks who will provide a third-party, objective view of our work to help us identify our next key areas of improvement. The visiting team has experienced teachers and leaders who have conducted quality reviews for dozens, if not hundreds of schools around the country. We have asked that their focus be a hybrid of their School Quality Review Protocol and the RI Charter Renewal Site Visit Protocol.
I, for one, am really looking forward to the SchoolWorks feedback and push. One of my biggest challenges is that when I walk our schools, which I have done several times this week, I find lots and lots to celebrate. I am crazy proud of the BVP teachers, leaders, and staff for the amazing work that is happening at BVP. While I believe that they will what I see, which is inspiring and rigorous instruction, I am also hoping that they offer us many critiques – how else will we get better?