Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nathan Bishop renovation outside (and inside?)

Nathan Bishop Middle School in the midst of transformation was in the news today! Here's the article detailing Bishop's extensive renovation.

We're going to have a tremendous facility serving our students, and soon, I hope we can start discussing how we're going to make the plan for the school's academics and culture a reality. That plan, as outlined by a vision statement written by the Superintendent's Nathan Bishop Steering Committee, is online here (see pages 3-5), and more extensive documentation of the program design for Bishop as approved by former PPSD Superintendent Donnie Evans and the PPSD school board are here.

That program design calls for a site-based managed school with advisories, access to advanced academic offerings for all students, strong community partners, committed teachers and principal, and other features that will make it an exemplary middle school. Providence has the opportunity to implement what's working well in its other middle schools at Bishop when it reopens, and has the opportunity to share what's working with Bishop throughout the district. This is why all school children and their families have a stake in the school's success--it's a tremendous opportunity to assess the state of our city's middle schools, to capitalize on and share successful practices and to implement proven strategies (such as advisories) that have not gained traction in Providence. Doing so in a school that's new and site-based (with school-based control over schedule and roles for school staff) will help the entire district know more about what it takes to implement advisories successfully, and PPSD can develop systems and strategies for sharing that information.

(What's an advisory? It's a school based group of students and usually one staff member that meets regularly to ensure personalization, follow through, a space in school for interpersonal connection and relationship development, and the like. It's a home base that creates time and space to think about the "big picture" of academic and social issues and is an essential practice in schools that are student-centered and committed to engagement and student success. Here's a good description and links to research from the National Middle Schools Association.)