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

Providence Superintendent of Schools Susan Lusi has announced she will not return for another school year. 

The announcement comes with only about two months left in the current school year. Superintendent Lusi declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a press release, says she wants to pursue other professional opportunities.

After four years leading Providence schools, Lusi touts improvements in the high school graduation rate and reading scores.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza says the school board will begin an immediate search for her successor. 

Brown To Confer Six Honorary Degrees

Apr 28, 2015
Brown University

Brown University has announced its list of honorary doctorate recipients, and the majority are women.

One recipient, Kathryn Sullivan, was the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan also helped launch the Hubble Telescope.

Anthropologist Louise Lamphere will also be honored. Lamphere challenged Brown with a sexual discrimination suit when the university denied her tenure in the 1970’s. The lawsuit led Brown to establish new hiring procedures for women.

Elisabeth Harrison

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is praising the state’s Board of Education for approving new regulations that allow qualified students to do college-level coursework while they are still in high school.

The Governor had sought that approval, saying it is a step toward creating Prepare RI, the jobs plan initiative Raimondo has proposed to allow students to finish professional certifications or college degrees more quickly.

$1.3 million for this program is included in the governor’s proposed budget.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island is looking for a new leader for K-12 public schools as controversy grows over standardized testing and charter schools. So what do students want from the next commissioner of education?

Rhode Island Public Radio education reporter Elisabeth Harrison asked that question of three Providence students: 16-year-old Kendall Hall, 16-year-old Diane Gonzales and 15-year-old Xilian Sansoucy. They are members of the student advocacy groups Young Voices and the Providence Student Union.

Rhode Island House leaders say they plan to restore more than $2 million taken out of the governor’s budget to pay for private school bussing and text books.

House Finance Committee Chair Raymond Gallison Jr., recalls the funding was helpful to his family when his two sons were in private school.

“They got the bus. I went one way, my wife went another way and getting to the private school that they were going to, this certainly was something that was of great assistance to us,” said Gallison.


A Brown task force on sexual assault has completed its recommendations for the university. They’re aimed at improving the way the university responds to complaints of sexual violence.

The task force urges Brown to adopt a single policy on sexual assault, dating violence, harassment and stalking. The group says the university should centralize the process for handling complaints in a single office.

Catherine Welch

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has appointed a parent and a history professor to the school board. The mayor also re-appointed board member Keith Oliveira.

Mark Santow, a Providence resident, is an associate professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Muyideen Ibiyemi has children in Providence public schools, serves on the Highlander Charter School Parent Teacher Organization and is the president of a Nigerian community group.


RISD has announced that filmmaker John Waters will address this year's graduating class.

Waters, a quirky, independent filmmaker who successfully crossed over to mainstream Hollywood, has written and directed more than a dozen movies, including the cult classic Pink Flamingos. Some of his other credits include the 1980's hit Hairspray and Cry Baby, starring Johnny Depp.

Elisabeth Harrison

High School students in the Bristol-Warren Regional School District were unable to begin PARCC testing as scheduled on Monday. The district says a technical problem led them to delay testing by one day.

A spokeswoman from the superintendent's office said she was unaware of the specifics of the problem, but described it as a technical glitch. She said the district had scheduled an extra day for testing, just in case such a problem arose.

Providence will offer free classes for parents under a new initiative aimed at improving city schools. The district is partnering with the Paul Cuffee Charter School on the project, which is called the Parent Academy.  

The idea is to teach parents to be better partners in their children’s education. Maria Monteiro from the Paul Cuffee School said multiple workshops will be offered, including one with a focus on social media.  

Elisabeth Harrison

Governor Gina Raimondo’s pick to lead the State Board of Education faces a hearing Wednesday. Barbara Cottam is scheduled to appear before the Senate Education Committee. 

Cottam, who currently works as an executive vice president for Citizens Bank Financial Group, has a background in politics. She worked for governors Bruce Sundlun and Joseph Garrahy, and she’s married to Garrahy’s son, John Garrahy. The couple has two daughters, who attend a private school in Providence.

In the absence of opt-out numbers from the state, I'm keeping an unofficial tally. Here's what district leaders have reported so far.

Portsmouth: 4-5 percent going into testing; may be slightly higher or lower when they tally the final participation rates after testing window closes.

Cumberland: 4 percent (or slightly less).

Middletown: 12 refusals.

Bristol-Warren: 50 opt outs, just under 2.5 percent.

Providence: Scattered opt outs, specific numbers expected later this week.


State officials say the first day of PARCC testing passed with no major problems, although some students have refused to take the test. 

As of 3:30 Monday afternoon, a total of 18,910 tests had been started in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Department of Education reported isolated glitches, but no school-wide or class-wide problems with the new computerized exam, which is replacing NECAP as the state's annual standardized test of Math and English. 

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

PARCC testing begins Monday for thousands of Rhode Island students, who are taking the test on computers.

Critics say the test fails to accommodate students who need extra time and students with learning disabilities. But Education officials say students will have ample time to complete PARCC, whether they take it online or on paper.

Elisabeth Harrison

Governor Raimondo gave a sneak peak of several programs Wednesday that will be part of her budget proposal.

She's proposing $1.3 million dollars to help high school students get college credit, and $1.75 million to provide some loan forgiveness for college graduates. The idea of that program is to encourage more recent grads to stay in the state.