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.

School districts are getting ready to notify students of their scores on the state’s standardized test, known as NECAP. The results will have a major impact on roughly 4,000 seniors, who need to improve their scores to earn a diploma.

Although the state has announced it will allow waivers for students who get into college, this is the first year that high school seniors are expected to use NECAP scores to earn a diploma. They also have to pass their classes and complete either a senior project or a portfolio demonstrating highlights from their high school career.

One part-time faculty member says,"I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.” Others describe turning to food stamps and earning salaries below the federal poverty level. The comments are detailed in a new report from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has completed a survey of school districts and their policies to grant waivers from a controversial test-based requirement for high school graduation.

The ACLU finds that some districts have no finalized waiver policy, while others are confusing or arbitrary.

Long an opponent of linking test scores to a high school diploma, the RIACLU has written a letter to the state board of education, renewing its call for a review of the test-based graduation requirement.

Philadelphia is firing principals in the latest scandal over cheating on standardized tests. As The New York Times reports, a large number of erasure marks in testing booklets raised red flags and led to the investigation that uncovered the cheating.

The scandal, one of the largest in the country, has implicated 137 educators at 27 different schools over a three-year period.

It's a Snow Day

Jan 22, 2014

Many public and private schools across Rhode Island cancelled classes for today, as the snow storm gathered steam on Tuesday afternoon. In a rare move, many colleges and universities also shut down, including the Rhode Island School of Design and Rhode Island College. One notable exception, Brown University, cancelled only those classes scheduled before 10 a.m.

The Providence City Council wants to delay a testing requirement for high school seniors, taking effect for the first time this year. The council unanimously passed a resolution last week requesting the pause, citing new advice from education officials that would exempt students accepted at competitive colleges.

Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier says the exemption seems unfair to most Providence students, who are more likely go to community college or straight to work.

The Barrington School Committee has overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting the Common Core standards, despite protests from some parents and teachers, who say the standards have serious flaws.

Pam Fuller, a Barrington resident whose husband is on the school committee, has been lobbying for a pause to consider concerns about the standards.

“This one cookie cutter fits everybody, I don’t think it meets the kids on the bottom and it certainly doesn’t meet the kids in the top,” Fuller said.

Governor Lincoln Chafee’s budget proposal includes thousands of dollars in new funding for public schools, colleges and universities. The $8.5 billion spending plan would increase funding for K-12 schools by roughly $38 million, and provide $10 million for public colleges and universities.

Chafee touted the power of education in his State of the State address, saying it should provide a pathway to a better life and a stronger state economy. He also made a strong argument for the role of government in growing the middle class.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Last week, Rhode Island education officials told districts they would recommend waiving a controversial part of the state’s high school graduation requirements for students who get into college.

Those students will be allowed to receive their diplomas, even if they don’t get the minimum score required on the state standardized test known as NECAP.

The change has touched off another round of questions about whether Rhode Island should use standardized testing at all as a requirement for a high school diploma.

First of all, I go away for a family emergency, and what happens? News, that’s what!

The Department of Education announced at the end of last week that some high school students will no longer have to pass the standardized test known as the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, to earn a high school diploma. The exception applies to students who get into colleges with non-open enrollment.  

So, in other words, if you get into a competitive college, the test-based part of the state’s graduation requirement will be waived.

The education blog will be offline for a few days, as I head to California to say a final farewell to my grandmother, Janet Harrison. She was a talented early childhood educator, one of many women in my family with teaching in their blood. She passed away late Friday in Los Angeles, where she lived for many years.

Providence school officials plan to start classes as scheduled Thursday, despite the first flakes of a major winter snowstorm. Like many public schools, Providence reopens for the first time Thursday after winter vacation.

District officials say they will watch for an afternoon weather update before finalizing a decision about Friday. Families and employees will likely receive notifications from the district on Thursday afternoon.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

For several years we’ve been following the struggling Central Falls School district.

The high school grabbed national headlines when it fired all of its teachers back in 2010.

The fired teachers were later rehired by the district, but the firings left Central Falls High School in an uproar.

Three years later, Rhode Island Public Radio's Education reporter Elisabeth Harrison found signs of progress at the school, but scars from the mass firings remain.

Rhode Island's Department of Education says it has reviewed school safety plans from every district in the state, after legislation passed in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings.

RIDE Spokesman Elliot Krieger says there was a fairly wide range of quality among the plans.

In the year since the Newtown tragedy, RIDE has worked with the State Department of Emergency Management on recommendations for school districts to beef up their security procedures. The Rhode Island Association of School Committees says they are reviewing the report.  

Update 12/18: Federal prosecutors are suing a Harvard student for causing the false alarm Monday, that led to an extensive search for explosives. They allege Eldo Kim sent emails to campus police and Harvard officials threatening that bombs would go off in buildings on Harvard Yard. According to prosecutors, Kim was trying to get out of taking an exam scheduled for Monday.

Pages