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

Students and teachers are returning to classrooms across Rhode Island, including Central Falls, where a new superintendent has just taken charge. 

Elisabeth Harrison

National education advocacy group Chiefs for Change has a new CEO, and he comes from the Ocean State. The group has tapped Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) CEO Mike Magee.

Magee, who co-founded RIMA with then-Cumberland Mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, will step down from the organization on September 1st.

Rhode Island's Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin plans to leave the state for a post in California. Benjamin will resign as of mid-January and take a teaching position at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Governor Gina Raimondo's office said the State Arts Council will begin to organize a search for a new state poet. 

Benjamin was appointed state poet in 2013 by then-Governor Lincoln Chafee. The five-year appointment made Benjamin the 5th state poet in Rhode Island history.

taylor.a/creative commons license

Rhode Island will get $45,248 in federal funding to help low-income students take Advanced Placement exams.

The U.S. Department of Education announced a round of grants for more than 30 states on Wednesday. Connecticut,  Massachusetts and New Hampshire were also among the states receiving funding.

The grant amounts were based on state estimates of how many AP tests would be taken by low-income students. Federal officials said the program is intended to pay for all but $12 of the cost of each test, although states can require students to pay more.

Elisabeth Harrison

Providence College has announced an unusual gift of more than $1 million from a donor who is not from Rhode Island and is not a PC grad.

Dr. Kevin C. O’Kane, who lives on Cape Cod, is a retired professor of computer science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has given PC a $1.3 million pledge that will be used to finance scholarships for students studying computer science, physics or chemistry.

O’Kane made the college a 100 percent beneficiary of his retirement fund because of the college’s faithfulness to its Dominican and Roman Catholic mission.

It might sound something like this spot-on satire from Key & Peele.

Keep watching for the car commercial at the end.

 

Elisabeth Harrison

Two experimental high schools scheduled to open in Providence this fall will be known as 360 High School and Evolutions High School.

Both schools will be located inside larger, existing high schools. Evolutions will be inside Mt. Pleasant High School, and 360 will be at Hope High School.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island officially has a new education commissioner after a vote Monday to confirm Governor Gina Raimondo’s nominee, Ken Wagner.

So far, reaction to Wagner has been optimistic, but some teachers have expressed reservations because he lacks experience in the classroom. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison sat down with Larry Purtill, a member of the State Board of Education and the president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, one of two teachers’ unions in the state.

John Bender / RIPR

Rhode Island lawmakers passed legislation requiring more music performance opportunities in public schools. The bill mandates that all public secondary schools offer performing ensembles such as band, chorus or orchestra.

Most public schools in Rhode Island have performance ensembles, but some are offered before or after school and sometimes for no credit.  Advocates say the new mandate is a step towards incorporating these ensembles into standard arts curricula.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Charter schools dodged a bullet, this month when Rhode Island lawmakers ended the legislative session without agreement between House and Senate bills that could have changed the way charter schools are funded and restricted their ability to grow. 

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison asked Tim Groves, the head of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, whether he thinks public opinion is turning against charter schools.

Elisabeth Harrison

After months of anticipation, the General Assembly failed to pass a single bill related to charter schools.

That's good news if you're in the charter school world. It means lawmakers failed to reach agreement on bills that would place new restrictions on the expansion of charter schools and reopen the state funding formula to reduce money for charter schools.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

One of Rhode Island’s most controversial school leaders is retiring. Fran Gallo, the superintendent of Central Falls public schools, steps down on Friday. Her tenure includes the firing and re-hiring of high school teachers, which thrust Rhode Island into the center of a national debate over public education. Gallo sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at her office in Central Falls to look back on the firings, and what she’s learned from Rhode Island’s smallest school district.

Elisabeth Harrison

Calling it "the most restrictive and punitive charter school bill in the entire country," the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies lobbied against the legislation, which would require local approval for new and expanding charter schools.

RIMA, one of several charter school and public education advocacy groups to raise concerns about the legislation, cites negative consequences, including a "fiscal catastrophe" for schools in the process of adding grades.

The group used Providence-based Achievement First, which has opened two elementary schools, as an example.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

A pair of bills that could make it harder to open more charter schools are again up for committee votes at the Statehouse.

The House bill would place a one-year pause on the creation of new charter schools. After a legislative committee found reasons to re-evaluate the way the state funds public charter schools and public school districts, the bill calls for more time for lawmakers to consider changes.

Governor Gina Raimondo has announced two businessmen to lead the State Council on Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Council on Post-Secondary Education. 

To chair the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees public schools, Raimondo picked Daniel McConaghy, an executive vice president at Gilbane Building Company.

McConaghy also serves on the board of trustees for LaSalle Academy, a private, Catholic school that counts Raimondo among its lengthy list of prominent graduates.

Pages