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.

Wakefield math teacher Brian Nelson and Warwick science teacher David Mather are this year’s local recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. They join 95 other teachers from around the country who were chosen for the awards.

Winners will be honored at a White House ceremony later this month and receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation, which they can spend however they want.

A panel of scientists, mathematicians, and educators chose the winners after a selection process at the state level.

The House budget approved early this morning does away with the State Office of Higher Education, although it keeps the position of Commissioner of Higher Education. The change takes effect in 2014.

The budget also consolidates the boards of higher education and elementary and secondary education into a single board to be known as the Rhode Island Board of Education, effective at the start of 2013.

The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is slated to vote today on new rules for obtaining teacher credentials in Rhode Island.

With a vote expected Thursday on the state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, here’s a look at some highlights for public schools and state colleges and universities.

Elementary and Secondary Education

17-year-old Celia Cabrera designs a tile for the senior wall at Providence’s E-Cubed Academy.

Two members of the state board of higher education are calling for a re-assessment of a tuition waiver program for state college and university employees.

Michael Tikoian, Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education and committee member Amy Beretta say the waiver system may be inappropriate in the current financial climate.

Providence could do a much better job teaching non-native English speakers, according to a new report from the Council of Great City Schools. The report finds expectations are not high enough in many of the city’s English language learning classrooms. It also says those students are not benefiting from broader efforts to improve Providence Public Schools.

Providence School officials say they will convene a task force to respond to the recommendations in the report, which was commissioned by the district.

Anyone who’s ever visited a classroom is familiar with the scenario: a quiet kid sits in the back of the room looking distant and not taking part in the discussion.

This presents a dilemma for teachers. Leave the student alone, or press for more classroom participation?

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo by Ralph Alswang.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s happy with the way Rhode Island is using its $75 million Race to the Top Grant. The state has been working on several major initiatives including annual teacher evaluations and curriculum reviews.

Duncan says his staff will sit down with state education officials next week to review their progress.

Ruth Simmons comes to the end of her tenure at Brown. Photo from Brown University.

Outgoing Brown President Ruth Simmons is preparing her final address to the campus community. She’s slated to speak tomorrow at a baccalaureate ceremony as part of Brown’s graduation weekend.

  • Mitt Romney details his plan for public education, which includes vouchers for parents who want to send their children to private schools.
  • The Feds propose rules for a third round of Race to the Top grants.

Economics has surpassed the biological sciences as the most popular field at Brown University. Roughly 220 members of the undergraduate class of 2012 will receive economics degrees during commencement exercises this weekend.

Biological sciences are the second most popular degree with 200 concentrators, while international relations comes in a distant third.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has sent another letter to Barrington school officials, warning them that a selective admissions program may violate the law.

Barrington has announced plans to admit up to 10 students from other towns. Under the proposal, those students would pay $13,000 a year to attend the highly ranked school district.

More children are living with grandparents and other relatives, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In Rhode Island, an estimated 6,000 children are in that situation. Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant says it’s not always easy for grandparents or aunts and uncles to become primary caretakers.

“It’s a hard job, it’s something that really strains resources in their own family structure,” Burke Bryant explains. “And yet they are stepping up in order to provide care during these periods of difficulty.”

The Rhode Island School of Design has a new leader for its governing board. The art school has elected Michael Spalter, a businessman with a vast personal collection of digital art, to chair its board of trustees.

Spalter replaces outgoing RISD Board Chair Merrill Sherman, who will stay on as a member of the board for three years. Sherman led the search for the school’s current president, John Maeda, who has proved unpopular with many faculty.

Spalter is married to the artist Anne Spalter, who has a studio in Pawtucket. She’s a graduate of both RISD and Brown University.