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.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is about to step down to become superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. Before she leaves, she reflected on her tenure with Rhode Island Public Radio’s education reporter Elisabeth Harrison. Gist says she made the right move delaying test scores for teacher evaluations. But she was disappointed lawmakers voted to delay using test scores for a high school diploma.


Charter school advocates packed the statehouse rotunda Wednesday to urge lawmakers to continue their support for charter schools. 


A statehouse panel is considering changes that could decrease funding for charter schools. Jeremy Chiappetta from Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy said families should have choices when it comes to public school.

“We are looking to continue to grow a high quality public school sector that includes charter schools, state run schools, independent schools and certainly traditional public schools,.” Chiappetta said.

Catherine Welch

Governor Gina Raimondo began a series of what her office is calling "listening sessions" as part of the search for a new state commissioner of education.

Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison reports the governor convened a group of teachers, principals, charter school leaders and district leaders for an invitiation-only event.

About 20 people gathered around tables in a Providence elementary school classroom to give feedback on the search for a new education commissioner.

The event was by invitation only, with guests hand-picked by the governor’s office.


On of the state's two teachers' unions is calling for parents to get better information about how to opt out of standardized tests.

In a resolution, the executive committee of the National Education Association Rhode Island says the state and local districts should provide written information to parents about their right to remove children from testing.

The resolution stresses that teachers have a free speech right to talk to parents about opting out of testing, including the new multi-state test known as PARCC.

A series of education bills on the agenda at the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday range from a tax credit for college graduates to funding for charter schools.

One bill would give recent college graduates a break on their state income taxes. The idea is to stem the so-called “brain drain,” when local graduates put their newly-minted degrees to work in other states.

The measure would give a maximum $5,000 credit for a worker who received a bachelor’s degree from a local college or university within the last 10 years.

Elisabeth Harrison

The second Providence elementary school operated by charter school network Achievement First will share a building with its first elementary school, which opened in 2013.

The building on Hartford Avenue was formerly home to a public middle school, but the city shut down the school, citing the cost of rehabilitating an aging facility.

Achievement First says it plans to eventually re-located the new school, "Iluminar Academy," but the co-location is likely to last about two years. The two schools will offer similar programs.

Rhode Island education officials have submitted their final report to the federal government, tracking the state's $75 million federal Race to the Top Grant.

According to the report, the grant paid for nearly half of Rhode Island educators to receive training in the Common Core standards. It also paid for a data system that is supposed to help teachers get feedback on how their students are doing.

The Providence School Board has voted to ask  for a one-day reprieve from the state-mandated school year. Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison has details.

State law requires 180 days in the school year, but that may prove difficult for Providence, which has already taken six snow days.

Without leniency from state officials, the district may have to extend classes into the week that includes the July 4th holiday. That's less than ideal because many families and employees had planned to head out of town by then.

Courtesty U.S. Department of Education

Congress is hammering out new requirements for public schools and federal school funding. The current bill, commonly known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," has been controversial because of the way it uses standardized test scores to measure public schools. Changes to the bill have been proposed in both houses of Congress.  

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio's education reporter Elisabeth Harrison from Washington, D.C. to explain what these proposals could mean for Rhode Island.

Courtesy RISD

After an international search, the Rhode Island School of Design has settled on one of its own to take over as president. RISD has tapped Rosanne Somerson, a RISD graduate who’s been serving as interim president since December 2013.

Former president John Maeda stepped down suddenly, after a rocky relationship with RISD faculty. Maeda surprised many at RISD when he announced he had taken a job at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.

The Rhode Island School of Design has selected Interim President Rosanne Somerson to takeover the position permanently. The RISD Board announced the decision to faculty and students on Wednesday morning.

“President Somerson is a gifted, inspiring leader with great integrity, humility and vision, and is the perfect fit for RISD,” said Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter in the official announcement.

A portion of the roof at Brown University's Pizzitola Sports Center has collapsed under the weight of heavy snow.

The roof was made out of fabric, and the collapse affected the tennis facility at the complex.

Brown officials say no one was injured in the collapse, which happened in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

According to Brown, this is the second time the Pizzitola roof has given way under snow. The first time was in 2011.

The company that designed and installed the new roof is looking into the problem.

Elisabeth Harrison

The first Providence College student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis has been released from a Boston-area hospital. Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison has details.

A spokesman from PC could not provide information about whether the student suffered lasting effects from meningitis, which attacks tissue around the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis can have serious long-term consequences, including brain damage.

Some school children in Rhode Island may find the school year extending almost into July because of all the snowy weather.

According to the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, districts across the state have taken at least six snow days so far, and some have taken more.

School officials are looking for ways to extend the school year to meet a state requirement for 180 days in the school year.

The prospect of extending classes into late June presents a dilemma for school committees.

Brown University has raised tuition for the coming school year by 4.4 percent. A year of undergraduate tuition and fees at Brown will now top $62,000.

The Brown Corporation made the decision at its annual winter meeting over the weekend. The corporation also approved an 8 percent increase in financial aid spending to help offset the tuition increase.

Brown's 2016 budget includes a $4.4 million dollar operating deficit, which will be covered by university reserves. This is the third year in a row that Brown has operated with a deficit.