Eva-Marie Mancuso

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Big changes are in the offing for Rhode Island public education policy. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay on what’s at stake.

After six years as Rhode Island’s top education guru, education commissioner Deborah Gist is headed to her native Tulsa to become school superintendent. Eva-Marie Mancuso, chairwoman of the state education board, is out. Barbara Cottam is slated to become the new leader of the board as Gov. Gina Raimondo puts her stamp on arguably the most important mission of government, educating  the young.

Chair of the state’s board of education said Tulsa is lucky to land Deborah Gist as its next superintendent of schools. Board chair Eva-Marie Mancuso calls Gist a forward thinker and someone easy to work with.

Elisabeth Harrison

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has gotten the votes to become Tulsa's superintendent of schools.

In a statement, Gist said it was a difficult decision, but she welcomed the opportunity to lead an urban school district.

She also noted that Tulsa is where her family lives.

"I know that Rhode Islanders can certainly recognize the attraction we have to our hometowns, and it would be a special honor for me to lead the district where I attended public school throughout my childhood," Gist wrote.

Average SAT scores are in for the class of 2014.

The good news is Rhode Island's average improved by 5 points in both reading and mathematics. The State Department of Education says this is the first time scores have improved significantly since 2009.

More than 6,000 public school students took the SAT in the 2013-2014 school year, scoring an average of 484 in mathematics and 483 in critical reading.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

It’s October, and that means students across Rhode Island are filling in bubbles on standardized tests. The annual use of testing in math and English has become a controversial tool for rating schools, and making decisions about high school diplomas, and it will soon be part of teacher evaluations too. One researcher who started out supporting standardized testing now says its part of the problem in public schools. Diane Ravitch has become one of the strongest voices in the national debate and she spoke at the University of Rhode Island last night.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The head of the state’s Board of Education says she can’t comment on legal action taken against the board by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso says she’s going to let the legal process move forward. The ACLU took legal action this week saying a the board violated the open meetings law last week when it voted behind closed doors to reject a petition urging reconsideration of the NECAP testing requirement. 

Flo Jonic / RIPR

The state Board of Education returns to Rhode Island College Monday for the second day of a two-day retreat.  The meeting is aimed at educating board members about key topics that will be surfacing over the coming months. Initially they didn’t want to hold it in public.

The Rhode Island Board of Education will address two recent controversies in a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

The board is planning to vote on Governor Lincoln Chafee’s pick for a new Interim Higher Education Commissioner. The candidate, Department of Education Chief of Staff Clark Greene, was named only after Education Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso stepped aside as a candidate herself, because of ethics questions.

A judge has ruled the Rhode Island Board of Education's plan to hold a closed-door retreat violates the state’s Open Meetings Act. The ruling, issued Tuesday, says the public must be allowed to attend a portion of the retreat which will address a controversial high school graduation policy.

At issue is the use of test scores from the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, as a requirement for a high school diploma. The board had planned to gather information about the rule behind closed doors, at a two-day retreat scheduled for later this month.

A judge has ordered the Rhode Island Board of Education to open up a portion of what was supposed to be a retreat closed to the public.

The board had planned to hear about requiring NECAP test scores for graduation at a closed retreat later this month.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued saying the closed retreat violated the Open Meetings Act.

After hearing arguments for almost two hours, Judge Daniel Procaccini issued a preliminary injunction, allowing the public to hear the portion of the retreat discussing NECAP testing.

Lawyers from the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will be in court Tuesday for a hearing as they try to block the State Board of Education from holding a retreat that’s closed to the public.

The ACLU claims the retreat violates the state’s open meetings act. The group has asked a judge for a temporary restraining order to stop the two-day retreat, scheduled for August 25th and 26th.

file / RIPR

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to keep the state’s Board of Education from holding a retreat that’s closed to the public.

The upcoming retreat will feature presentations on high stakes testing. It will be closed to both the media and the public. Rhode Island ACLU chapter executive director Steve Brown said that undermines the state’s open meetings laws.

Political Analyst Scott MacKay and Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison discuss leadership problems at the Rhode Island Office Higher Education, after Governor Lincoln Chafee announced he would rescind his pick for Higher Education Commissioner. The candidate, attorney Eva-Marie Mancuso, raised ethics questions because she chairs the State Board of Education, the same board that would have to vote on her nomination.

  Additional reporting for this story by Ian Donnis.

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

The American Civil Liberties Union claims Rhode Island’s Board of Education broke the law when it failed to consider a petition over high-stakes testing as a requirement for a high school diploma. The lawsuit has a narrow focus and is unlikely to settle controversy over the graduation policy.