We’ve been contacted by a parent who had a number of questions about the academic programs at Nathan Bishop.
We’ve heard about the “word on the street”, and this post is intended to clarify, to the best of our ability, the state of academics at Nathan Bishop. Ultimately, we would strongly advocate that parents come to the building, talk to the Principal, Guidance staff, and teachers, and form their own opinions.
Nathan Bishop just graduated its first full three year class of students since reopening. To say this was a pioneering group of students is an understatement. They entered a building that had just been extensively remodeled, with a teaching and support staff that was only 33% hired, and into a program that had not existed several months earlier. Readers of this blog will note that extensive administrative and community involvement went into formulating what the “new” Nathan Bishop would be. Again, if there are questions, talk to the parents of recent graduates… Most everyone left the building on “promotion day” with wide smiles on their faces.
Providence Public Schools at this time continues to only designate Nathanael Greene as having an “Advanced Academic Program”. For years, this was the best public middle school option for parents with motivated, academically talented children. There are 104 seats per year, and your child is either “all in” or “all out” of the advanced core classrooms. Over the years discussions were held at the School Department about expanding the Advanced Academic programming to other middle schools, but entropy prevailed.
The opportunity to re-open Nathan Bishop allowed the planners of the academic programming to come up with an “a la carte” advanced programming concept. Unlike Nathanael Greene, your child might be advanced in math and average in English, and would participate in classes geared to their academic level.
There never was “tracking” at Nathan Bishop (except for a separate Math track that parallels the Math program at Nathanael Greene (7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry)). Instead, the school administrators and guidance counselors made an effort to group students by ability, such that the teachers could differentiate instruction between the stronger and weaker students. Core concepts were taught, and enriched material or advanced goals were provided to the kids that could benefit from them. This coming year, another option for an enriched core math program is being discussed, which won’t shortchange kids by jumping ahead too quickly.
Over the past two years more and more high performing kids have been coming into the school. The administrators and faculty at Bishop see this as an opportunity to expand advanced level instruction to a larger group of students. Their goal is to meet the school department standards and mandates, and then to supplement and exceed them for appropriate students.
Nathan Bishop benefits from the involvement of a number of community organizations, including the Gamm Theater, and PASA, the Providence After School Alliance. Dedicated teachers have organized theatrical presentations (including Shakespeare), talent shows, and a Science Olympiad team. In fact, the Nathan Bishop team placed 2nd in the state-wide Science Olympiad 2 years ago, and 4th this past year… not bad for a school new to the competition!
And don’t forget the beauty of having this dedicated faculty in your own neighborhood school. While many of our children attended Nathanael Greene, and had great experiences, there was something wonderful about our kids at Bishop being able to walk or ride their bikes to school, and develop a large cadre of friends in the neighborhood, with whom they could spontaneously get together with after school, rather than having to rely on “play dates” to get back and forth across town. The value is outstanding. You have paid for it. What is private school tuition this year? $26K? More?
Every school has a few “warts”, and Bishop is no exception. The strength of any public school comes from a principal, faculty, parents, and students that are strong supporters of the academic mission, the student body, and the school culture. Nathan Bishop has this, and will benefit from further investment by East Side parents.
Many of the ESPEC steering committee members have had, have, or will have students in the building. We’re happy to answer any questions we can, but feel that the best information will come from taking a tour of the building and talking to the Principal and other faculty members. You can call the school about a tour, or attend the Open House in the Fall (see links below). You have to take that first step though. Many of your neighbors have, and with few exceptions, were happy they did.
A few pertinent links: