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Commissioner's Corner

Commissioner Ken Wagner invites you to join him in providing students with pathways to opportunity through partnerships.

Commissioner Wagner's vision for reimagining schooling is rooted in the Rhode Island Strategic Plan for Education 2015-2020 and the community voice and partnership that formed the plan. As stated in the plan, Rhode Island's vision is for Rhode Island schools to prepare every graduate to pursue a fulfilling career, and be a critical and creative thinker, a collaborative and self-motivated learner, and a culturally competent active citizen.

Strategic Priorities

Since his appointment, Commissioner Wagner has advocated for this vision by encouraging all Rhode Islanders to get involved, speak up, and make changes through these strategic priorities:

Empowerment (2015-16 School Year)

Empowerment gives neighborhood schools, teachers, and principals more authority to make decisions about things that directly affect their students – things such as textbooks, the school day, and personnel – and the flexibility to do what’s best for their students and help principals and teachers focus on teaching. For families, open enrollment would allow families to choose the school that has a teaching approach that best suits the needs of their children.

Equity of Opportunity (2016-17 School Year)

Creating personalized pathways to increase opportunity for all students is important. Students perform at their best when they are engaged in their learning and when they can see how the learning is relevant to their lives. We can work together to increase these opportunities by creating relevant curriculum and forging partnerships with businesses and community leaders to connect curriculum to career opportunities.

Ensure Rigor (2017-18 School Year)

We need to make learning relevant so that our kids are engaged, and rigorous so that they are resilient. It’s not enough to engage our kids – we have to challenge them, too. It is only when we take an approach that combines engagement and rigor that we will truly prepare our students for the future.

Opportunities to Outcomes (2018-19 School Year)

At the same time that we are expanding opportunities for students and making their educational experiences relevant, rigorous, and engaging, we must focus on equity of access and equity of outcomes. By making data transparency a priority, and through our updated system of school accountability under ESSA, the federal education law, we are tracking performance so that our strategic investments are directly tied to student outcomes.

Focus Areas for 2018-19

Together with all stakeholders, from districts and students, to families and communities, we will work to support students and set them up for success by focusing on the following key areas:

Strong Foundations

Strong Foundations

Robust public education requires a strong foundation, and for our kids, that means an early emphasis on literacy. At RIDE, we will continue to support high-quality literacy instruction, but helping children learn to read and instilling in them a love of reading isn’t a job for teachers alone. We all have a role to play.

  • Birth to 3rd grade reading
  • Curriculum
  • Fractions

Shared Responsibility

Shared Responsibility

As often as possible, education decisions should be made as close to the student as possible. We need to give principals and teachers more opportunities and flexibility to meet the needs of their students, because they know their kids best. And we need to hold ourselves accountable for results. To tap into our best talent, and ensure a strong and diverse talent pipeline in the future, we need to invest in educators and give them the support and professional learning opportunities they need to step into instructional leadership roles.

  • ESSA
  • Diversity pipeline
  • Teaching and leadership development

Career Pathways

Career Pathways

All students need a skills roadmap. The skills they build now will stay with them, even when the destination changes. We know that when students have hands-on, work-based, relevant learning opportunities, they can exceed all our expectations. And for employers currently in Rhode Island and those considering Rhode Island, it sends a message that we are creating high-skill, next-generation opportunities for our students and our economy. Vibrant, challenging, and relevant career pathways such as those below will help our students prepare for the future.

  • CTE
  • PrepareRI Early College
  • Diploma endorsements
  • Advanced Course Network

School Operations

School Operations

A successful school environment is one that is set in a clean, safe space, is efficiently operated, and is open and communicative with its school community. The physical condition of our school buildings can have a significant impact on school culture and, ultimately, on outcomes. We need to invest in our schools and make them the kinds of welcoming, supportive, and inspiring spaces where our students want to learn, explore, and play. And in all components of education – from school infrastructure to assessments to rates of chronic absence – we must be committed to data transparency so that families, in particular, can understand and make informed decisions about their school communities.

  • Investments in facilities
  • Data transparency
  • School finance

Commissioner's Conversations

The Commissioner wants to hear from Rhode Islanders all across the state. We will regularly update this Google map of the Commissioner's travel around Rhode Island with school visits, district meetings, honors or award ceremonies, public forums, educator meetings, and Golden Apple awards.

Commissioner's Conversations map key

Commissioner's Communications

Commissioner's Biography

Commissioner Ken Wagner began his education career when he was elected to his local school committee at age 18. He has since then worked as a school psychologist, an assistant principal, and a middle-school principal, and in 2009 he joined the New York State Department of Education, where he ultimately served as Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy. In August 2015, he began his tenure as the Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. He holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Hofstra University.