The Education Blog

The Education Blog is written by Elisabeth Harrison, Education Reporter and Morning Edition Host for Rhode Island Public Radio. Harrison’s work ranges from reporting on institutions like Brown University and the University of Rhode Island to efforts to reform low performing public schools in Central Falls and Providence.

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation/Creative Commons License

Artist Nicole Eisenman, who received a BFA in painting from RISD in 1987 is part of the new class of MacArthur Grant recipients.

Eisenman works in a variety of media including painting, sculpture and printmaking.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

A year ago, Rhode Island agreed to find better opportunities for at least 2,000 people with developmental and learning disabilities. It was part of a settlement after a federal investigation uncovered a program that funneled people with disabilities into jobs doing menial labor for very little pay. 

Elisabeth Harrison

The Federal Department of Education has given the go ahead to Rhode Island's plan to address inequities in the distribution of highly-qualified teachers and principals.

In creating the plan, the State Department of Education conducted a study, which found that high poverty, high minority schools are the most likely to have inexperienced teachers and principals on staff. The study also found that middle schools have the highest percentage of inexperienced teachers. 

John Bender

Little information is available about what caused a steel structure to collapse Tuesday morning at Bryant University. But officials at Rhode Island Hospital say six workers transported there were all in good condition.

taylor.a/creative commons license

The University of Rhode Island has won $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to launch a graduate center focused on science writing.

The program will include workshops and classes to train students in the sciences  to write more clearly and persuasively. University officials said the program is part of a trend on college campuses, as researchers increasingly recognize the importance of communicating beyond academia.

In a unanimous vote, the Coventry School Committee has adopted a resolution calling for the reversal of a new HPV vaccine requirement.

The resolution asks Governor Gina Raimondo to reconsider the rule, which requires incoming seventh graders to be vaccinated against HPV.

The committee voted after several of its members commented that parents are angered by the mandate. In a video posted on YouTube, a member of the audience expressed similar sentiments.

Elisabeth Harrison

Students and teachers are returning to classrooms across Rhode Island, including Central Falls, where a new superintendent has just taken charge. 

Elisabeth Harrison

National education advocacy group Chiefs for Change has a new CEO, and he comes from the Ocean State. The group has tapped Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) CEO Mike Magee.

Magee, who co-founded RIMA with then-Cumberland Mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, will step down from the organization on September 1st.

Rhode Island's Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin plans to leave the state for a post in California. Benjamin will resign as of mid-January and take a teaching position at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Governor Gina Raimondo's office said the State Arts Council will begin to organize a search for a new state poet. 

Benjamin was appointed state poet in 2013 by then-Governor Lincoln Chafee. The five-year appointment made Benjamin the 5th state poet in Rhode Island history.

taylor.a/creative commons license

Rhode Island will get $45,248 in federal funding to help low-income students take Advanced Placement exams.

The U.S. Department of Education announced a round of grants for more than 30 states on Wednesday. Connecticut,  Massachusetts and New Hampshire were also among the states receiving funding.

The grant amounts were based on state estimates of how many AP tests would be taken by low-income students. Federal officials said the program is intended to pay for all but $12 of the cost of each test, although states can require students to pay more.

Elisabeth Harrison

Providence College has announced an unusual gift of more than $1 million from a donor who is not from Rhode Island and is not a PC grad.

Dr. Kevin C. O’Kane, who lives on Cape Cod, is a retired professor of computer science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has given PC a $1.3 million pledge that will be used to finance scholarships for students studying computer science, physics or chemistry.

O’Kane made the college a 100 percent beneficiary of his retirement fund because of the college’s faithfulness to its Dominican and Roman Catholic mission.

It might sound something like this spot-on satire from Key & Peele.

Keep watching for the car commercial at the end.


Elisabeth Harrison

Two experimental high schools scheduled to open in Providence this fall will be known as 360 High School and Evolutions High School.

Both schools will be located inside larger, existing high schools. Evolutions will be inside Mt. Pleasant High School, and 360 will be at Hope High School.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island officially has a new education commissioner after a vote Monday to confirm Governor Gina Raimondo’s nominee, Ken Wagner.

So far, reaction to Wagner has been optimistic, but some teachers have expressed reservations because he lacks experience in the classroom. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison sat down with Larry Purtill, a member of the State Board of Education and the president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, one of two teachers’ unions in the state.

John Bender / RIPR

Rhode Island lawmakers passed legislation requiring more music performance opportunities in public schools. The bill mandates that all public secondary schools offer performing ensembles such as band, chorus or orchestra.

Most public schools in Rhode Island have performance ensembles, but some are offered before or after school and sometimes for no credit.  Advocates say the new mandate is a step towards incorporating these ensembles into standard arts curricula.