Education

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  The University of Rhode Island has tapped the first Hispanic woman Supreme Court justice to deliver the school's 2016 commencement speech. Sonia Sotomayor will receive an honorary doctorate of law from the institution. 

"She is a true champion for equal rights and social justice in the 21st Century and a magnificent role model for our graduates and the entire community," said URI President David M. Dooley in a release.

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Children are becoming more diverse in Rhode Island, but the number of babies born in withdrawal from opioids continues to grow. Those are just some of the statistics in this year’s Kids Count fact book, which comes out Monday. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison spoke with Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant about several of the highlights in the report.  

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

The Providence Public Schools have named a new superintendent. Chris Maher will lead the state capital’s school system, after serving as interim superintendent since last summer.

Maher took the helm following the abrupt departure of former city schools Superintendent Susan Lusi. The Providence School Board announced Monday it has voted unanimously to enter contract negotiations with Maher, to take on the position permanently.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Public schools across the state could open up to students from other districts, under a new bill from Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. 

Elisabeth Harrison

The city-led, early childhood education program Providence Talks has enrolled its 500th family. It’s been two years since the program’s pilot group was launched, under then-mayor Angel Taveras. Providence Talks aims to increase the number of words a child hears in the years leading up to kindergarten.

Parents receive in-home visits from coaches, who work to increase parent-child interactions. The kids involved periodically wear devices which measure the number of those interactions.

Katherine Doherty / RIPR

Thousands of Rhode Island high school students are now earning college credits without stepping foot onto a university campus. 

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March 14th is Pi day, honoring the ratio of a circle’s circumference and diameter: 3.14. To celebrate this unofficial holiday, 10 of the state’s top math students gathered in Providence for a competition hosted by the American Mathematical Society.

Barrington freshman Johnny Zhang won the top prize, earning $1,000 and a graphing calculator. Zhang said he plans to put some of the money towards college and tickets to the Broadway show Hamilton.

Weeks after students staged a sit-in over allegations of racism on campus, Providence College has detailed plans to address the students' concerns. In a letter, college officials outlined proposed changes to faculty training and the college curriculum.

John Bender / RIPR

Rhode Island’s four-year high school graduation rate has improved since last year. The 2015 graduation rate was 83 percent, up six points from 2014.

North Providence High School had the highest four-year graduation rate in the state, at 98 percent. The marching band played, and cheerleaders cheered as public officials spoke in the school auditorium.

State education commissioner Ken Wagner joined the celebration, but cautioned that graduating from high school and being prepared for college are two different things.

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As racial tensions continue to make headlines on college campuses across the country, Roger Williams University will host a symposium on current and past black activist movements Thursday.

The day-long conference will feature scholars, poets, and a prominent member of the current Black Lives Matter movement. Organizers said the purpose of the event is to open a conversation about black activism and its history.

Roger Williams senior Marquis Caesar, one of the conference organizers, said there aren’t enough opportunities to have campus-wide discussions about race.

After 9 o’clock Tuesday night, several dozen Providence College students left the office of President Reverend Brian Shanley, after protesting there for more than 12 hours. The students and the head of the private Catholic College came to an agreement over changes, demanded by the students, to address racism on campus.

RIPR file photo / CCRI

The community college of Rhode Island is partnering with submarine builder General Dynamics Electric Boat on a new satellite campus in Westerly. The facility will offer typical college classes as well as specialty technical training.

With the new partnership, Electric Boat will offer workforce development classes to its employees in fields including carpentry and pipefitting.  Electric Boat and CCRI will also begin a program for high schoolers, similar to vocational training, which could culminate in a job following graduation.

At Brown University, the second Monday of October will be known, at least on official campus calendars, as Indigenous People’s Day.

The decision moves the school one step further from the name found on most calendars, Columbus Day. Since 2009, the university has used the term "Fall Holiday Weekend."

This week’s decision is the most recent attempt at Brown to address criticism for a lack of inclusiveness and sensitivity to racial tensions, including contending with its own history in the slave trade.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo’s $9 billion budget proposal would increase funding for public schools and give a small bump to colleges and universities.


John Bender / RIPR

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has proposed major changes in the administration of the city’s public schools.The changes will include the creation of several new positions, transferring some current employees out of the central administration and eliminating some vacant posts.

Elorza's proposal comes months after the departure of former Providence Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi, and an audit that found inefficiencies in the central office.

Providence Interim Superintendent Chris Maher said the school system is looking to hire up to 10 new staff members.

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