Deborah Gist

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Gov. Lincoln Chafee is pulling the plug on his embattled choice to become the state’s interim commissioner of higher education.

Chafee said Eva-Marie Mancuso is dropping her request for a state Ethics Commission waiver to move into the position. The waiver is needed since members of public boards are prohibited from accepting an appointment from a board of which they’re a member. Mancuso serves as chairwoman of the state Board of Education and will remain in that post.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said parents in schools receiving a low rating should seek answers into how those schools are going to improve.

Twenty-eight schools received the lowest ratings, many of them were in Providence. The education department said the rating system is designed to identify warning signs and to help schools improve. Gist said while it takes years to turn a school around, parents should be concerned about a low-performing school.

The State Board of Education will reconsider a graduation requirement that says students must score partially proficient or better on a state test to get a diploma. Several advocacy groups have filed a formal petition with the board asking it to rescind the testing policy. The petition triggers a 30-day deadline for the board to respond.

The groups joining the petition include the Providence Student Union and local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP. They argue that high stakes testing is unfair, putting some 4,000 students at risk of not graduating.

Welcome back to my weekly column. You can find me on Twitter. Let's head in.

Governor Lincoln Chafee is in Chicago Monday for a symposium on education. The event is hosted by James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, a group affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The institute says its goal is to strengthen public education by bringing politicians and policymakers together to discuss state-level education policy.

The start of June has done nothing, naturally, to stop the breakneck flow of news in the Land of The Gift That Keeps on Giving. So welcome back to my weekly column. You can reach me at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) com, and (please) follow me on Twitter. Let's head in.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Governor Lincoln Chafee is applauding the contract extension granted to state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist on Thursday. But the state’s largest teachers’ union remains upset about the decision to keep Gist as commissioner.

The state Board of Education voted, 7 to 3, to continue Gist’s contract for another two years. In a statement, Governor Chafee says he’s pleased by the agreement. The governor says he looks forward to continuing what he calls a productive and positive relationship with Gist.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

After hours of deliberation … and discussion with Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist … the state's education board approved a new 2-year contract for Gist. The vote was 7 -3 with one abstention. Rhode Island Public Radio's Catherine Welch was there and has this report.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Robert A. Walsh Jr., executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, joins the Roundtable this week to discuss state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist; conflicting views on economic development; the debate over defaulting on bonds for 38 Studios; and Council 94's hiring of a prominent critic of state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, joins Bonus Q+A for a discussion of pensions, President Obama, public education, and the Democratic field in next year's race for governor.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

The Rhode Island Board of Education is expected to vote tonight on a contract extension for State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. She’s been weathering heavy criticism over the last few months from some parents, students and teachers, who complain that she ignores their concerns about all of the changes happening in Rhode Island public schools. One of the most controversial issues has been a new policy of standardized testing as a requirement for a high school diploma.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

One day after releasing a report showing that African Americans in the state are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is out with a report showing a racial disparity in school suspensions. 

The civil rights group stopped short of calling it racial profiling, but says the issue is something education leaders need to study and correct.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Rhode Islanders should look at progress made in its schools while weighing the fate of state education commissioner Deborah Gist. Duncan made the comment on a conference call with Rhode Island reporters.

In a call of support for Gist, Duncan touted rising test scores and graduation rates as signs that the state is making progress. Teachers and parents have been outspoken in their opposition to Gist. But Duncan defends her, calling her collaborative.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is likely to learn Thursday whether her contract is being renewed and for how long.

Deborah Gist has been a target of criticism lately from some teachers and students who say they don’t like her leadership style and they disagree with her focus on test scores. Now that her contract is expiring, there’s speculation the State Board of Education will offer a one-year extension, instead of a three-year contract. Gist says that would be difficult to accept.

Members of the student advocacy group Providence Student Union have issued an apology to Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist for making comments about her reputation. The students said they regretted the tone of a press release that said they planned to mourn the “expected ‘death’ of Commissioner Gist’s reputation.”

The comments came after Gist refused the group’s invitation of a public debate about the state’s use of standardized test scores. The Providence Student Union called it a mistake to make the issue personal.

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