Bordered by Weybosset, Eddy, Middle, and Dorrance Streets, in downtown Providence; hidden in the shadows of the “Superman Building” (tallest building in Providence); and, just a stone’s throw from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE); 225 students with faculty and staff of the Village Green Virtual Charter High School (aka VGV) are pioneering the school of the future. Our mission statement:
The Village Green exists to advance individualized education and family choice by maximizing technology, creating community, reshaping teaching, and redefining school.
Opened in September 2013, VGV draws students statewide by a blind lottery. Since 2013, VGV has averaged above 85% urban population and averaged above 90% students qualifying for “free or reduced lunch. In spite of these challenging demographics, the data supports an innovative school model that is working. During the PARCC/NECAP Science era, VGV posted the highest gains of any RI high school in the assessed areas of ELA, math, and science; and, consistently outperformed its sending urban school districts. Since, 2019, VGV’s graduation rate has been the highest in the state at 100 percent and with a 100 percent college acceptance rate to schools including: Johns Hopkins, MIT, Xavier, Spelman, Sarah Lawrence, Wheaton and Savannah College of Art and Design. As part of VGV’s graduation requirements, every student must have an approved post-high school graduation plan. Further, built into every student’s program of study is the opportunity to take college courses on a local college campus in their senior year prior to graduating high school. In 2017, VGV introduced another first in Rhode Island high schools—a 3-year graduation pathway for those students capable of accelerating their learning (however, the criteria for qualifying for this pathway is purposely made extremely difficult to meet).
VGV is the “come-to-fruition” vision of Founder and Superintendent Dr. Robert Pilkington, Emeritus (retired) who was asked by RIDE in 2012 to create a “brick and mortar” charter high school with a fully virtualized curriculum using Edgenuity e-courseware. VGV was chartered to specifically develop Edgenuity for a full high school program of study as Edgenuity is primarily used by a vast majority of customers for credit recovery, home schooling, summer school, and medically fragile students. The Edgenuity Version 5 platform is crucial to VGV meeting students where they are at. The product allows for building courses from the bottom up including pulling lessons across content areas and changing order of lessons. For example, this flexibility enabled VGV to create four new science courses aligned exactly with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by pulling the lessons from a number of different science courses. Since 2016, The school has merged Edgenuity with Google G Suite for Education. Every teacher is required to maintain a Google Classroom for each course they teach.
VGV is the first Rhode Island school designed from Day 1 to be a competency- and equity-based, personalized blended learning model. “Competency-based” in that students can only
progress through their lessons after demonstrating proficiency; “equity-based” in that all students have access to the e-coursework that will prepare them for college and career. All students have the opportunity to take college courses for college credit on a local college campus for a true college readiness experience before graduating from VGV; “personalized” in that diagnostics along with historical student performance data are used for pathway/course placement decisions, pace of learning is optimized for the student’s needs, courses can be built lesson by lesson and can be customized for the individual student—providing remedial interventions to close skill gaps where needed and providing opportunities for motivated students to accelerate their learning. Students have a voice in selecting a portion of their coursework such as selecting career interest electives potentially earning a credential for completing a sequence of coursework in a career domain; and, blended learning, by definition, that students learn at least in part through online learning with some degree of control over time, place, path and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick and mortar location away from home.
Students attend VGV in person every day for face-to-face teaching and learning with Rhode Island certified teachers. And every day, students attend ELA, Math, Science, and History classes. Classes are 60 minutes long except on Wednesdays where they are reduced to 40 minutes to allow for schoolwide clubs to occur before the end of the school day.
Teaching and learning in VGV involves a combination of teacher-led and student paced learning (SPL), the VGV teacher’s role is part skill gap interventionist and part data analyst as they support students progressing through rigorous coursework. Students attend Chromebook-outfitted classrooms specifically designed hold a maximum of 16 students. Two large learning spaces referred to as Learning Centers each are designed with 32 partitioned workstations to simulate an adult office working environment.
In September of 2018, the school opened its Rhody Campus—Rhode Island’s first autonomous micro-school based on a co-working concept (think of “Starbucks like” open space with flexible seating and Internet access) located in a historic building adjacent to the VGV main campus. It’s the school’s senior campus where students have great autonomy in their learning experience in terms of s time, place, path, and pace such as leaving during the day to attend classes on a local college campus.
In the fall of 2022, VGV opened its “state-of-the-art” STEM/STEAM Lab. The lab is available to all content areas but primarily used for science labs and project-based learning including makerspace activities such as 3D printing, and art related projects.
The technology infrastructure and curriculum delivery system deployed in VGV is the most “hi-tech” of any school in this part of the country with system specs comparable to small regional banks or large-sized engineering or architectural firms. VGV has a 1.5 to 1 device-to-student ratio. Students have access to their coursework 24/7 – 365 days.
RIDE has awarded VGV a rating of “Exceeds Expectations” for Educational Research and Dissemination—justified by VGV’s publication of three unprecedented contributions to educational research literature: Inventing School; Knocking it Out of the PARCC; and, A Personalized Learning Framework for Non-Thematic Pathways. Taken in totality, the works comprise comprehensive insight into challenges faced, lessons learned, and numerous innovations. Since 2013, schools and school districts from around the country have visited to
see the VGV model in-person. A concise listing was published in VGV’s publication Lighting the Path.
RIDE recommended an unconditional 5-year charter renewal for VGV’s charter in 2018.