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.

Massachusetts lawmakers have swiftly passed a bill calling for all school districts to use new teacher evaluations and reduce the role of seniority in personnel decisions.

An estimated 40,000 Rhode Island students will face rising loan bills without action this week from Congress. Senate Democrats and Republicans are looking for a way to avoid the increase, but if they fail to reach a compromise, interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans will double on July 1st, rising from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is calling for the closure of the Academy for Career Exploration (ACE), formerly known as Textron/Chamber of Commerce Providence Public Charter School, citing poor academic results and leadership failures.

Outgoing Brown University President Ruth Simmons will take a seat on the board of trustees at Princeton University next month. Simmons is stepping down on June 30th as head of Brown, ending an 11-year tenure at the Providence institution.

Simmons is no stranger to Princeton. She held several positions at the New Jersey school, including that of vice provost, before becoming president of Smith University. When she became president at Brown University, Simmons was the first African-American to lead an Ivy League school.

The American Bar Association has granted preliminary accreditation to the law school at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, clearing the way for students to take the bar exam in any state.

Prior to the preliminary accreditation, UMass law school students could only take the bar in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says her plan for improving Rhode Island’s public schools will not change, even if she is reporting to a new board of education.

The leadership change is part of the state budget that won approval last night from Senate lawmakers. It has already gotten a green light from the House of Representatives.

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.

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