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RIDE supports several blogs throughout our website where Rhode Islanders and RIDE staff share their thoughts.

On this page, we have collected all of the blogs on our site - many of which share posts from Rhode Island educators other than RIDE staff. Blogs are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Commissioner's Corner: Blog posts and messages from the Commissioner to the Rhode Island community.
  • District Teacher of the Year (DTOY): Posts from the Rhode Island District Teachers of the Year, past and present, who share about instructional successes and challenges they encounter in Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Equitable Access to Excellent Educators: Rhode Island educators and RIDE staff explore factors and perspectives on the importance of ensuring that all students are taught by high quality educators.
  • Leadership: Reflections and insights from RIDE’s Leadership Fellow and other district and school leaders on the challenges and opportunities of being a school leader.
  • Rhode Island Poet Laureate: Reflections and poetry focused on teaching, learning, and the experience of education from Tina Cane, Rhode Island Poet Laureate.
  • Rhode Island Science Education (R.I.S.E.): A communication blog to update stakeholders in education and in the community on important developments, events and accomplishments in science education in Rhode Island.
  • Student Voice: Because student voice is an essential component of our discussion on education, RIDE will post essays written by students from around Rhode Island.

Click on a category below to filter by a particular blog:

From Passion to Pathways: The 2018 State of Education in RI

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 3/20/2018
Commissioner Ken Wagner


Thank you for the introduction, Selena.

Good evening members of the General Assembly and other elected officials; Barbara Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education; Dan McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education; my partner in this work, Commissioner Dann-Messier; members of the Board; and distinguished guests.

Thank you to our hosts here in Pawtucket: Mayor Grebien, Superintendent DiCenso, the Pawtucket Teachers Association, Principal Mark Andrade, and Potter Burns Elementary School.

Thank you for joining us for the annual State of Education address, the third State of Education event since I became Commissioner.

Before we begin, let us first recognize the students who participated in our showcase. Thank you for sharing your incredible work. I ask that all students here tonight please stand to be recognized.

Tonight, we’ll talk about passion, opportunities, and pathways.

Anchoring our work in passion doesn’t make education easy. It makes education possible.

When our students and their passions are at the center, when their pathways are anchored in challenging and engaging opportunities, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

[Recognizing Educators]

Let’s start with the passion in our classrooms.

Rhode Island Teacher of the Year Kristin Hayes-Leite loves to explore how we engage with government, and this love of civics transforms her classes at Narragansett High School. Kristin’s students don’t just learn about democracy. They live it.

Donna Coderre of Savoie Elementary and Chris Savastano of Tolman High School, the Elementary and Secondary Principals of the Year, are local agents of change. Chris helped revive Tolman High School pride, and Donna has long been an advocate for early education.

And Karen Tarasevich of West Warwick, our Superintendent of the Year, helped raise their graduation rate by double digits. Karen never puts herself at the center of the story – she reserves the spotlight for her teachers and students.

To Kristin, Donna, Chris, and Karen, thank you for sharing your passion.

To each of you, and educators across the state who love and keep our children safe, especially following the recent school shooting in Florida, we say thank you.

When I see our educators in action, I am so proud of the ways they engage students, elevate their voices, and make sure each moment is an opportunity for more teaching and more learning.

This and every day, our superintendents, principals, teachers, and their school and district teams, in so many ways, protect, nurture, grow, and save lives.


I visit schools often and talk with members of the school community. I most enjoy talking with students.

Students like those on the Leadership Team at Cranston High School West, where Principal Tom Barbieri really listens to them, even including students in the interview process for new teachers.

Like Jeremy Torres at Curvin-McCabe Elementary School in Pawtucket, who was appointed to the national Student Voices Project, allowing him to influence how after-school programs across the country are designed.

And like Grace Mole at Barrington Middle School, who interviewed me for her school podcast. Grace continues to record podcasts as part of a Genius Hour project, which allows students to design and drive their own learning pathway.

These students are talented, hard-working, and passionate.

[A Thoughtful Approach]

When we quiet down the noise and stop to listen, we hear Rhode Island students and their teachers provide so many answers to the urgent questions we face in education.

We agree in so many ways on how to increase opportunities and close achievement gaps; we can focus on early literacy; on challenging and engaging curriculum; shared inclusive leadership; social and emotional learning; quality school facilities; and career pathways aligned to both the interests of our students and the needs of our economy.

We all know it. These things work. We just have to do it and stick to it.

Times change. But the focus on passion, opportunities, and challenging and engaging pathways shouldn’t change.

As Governor Raimondo said in her State of the State address, let’s keep going.

We need urgency. But we also need thoughtful steps toward a long-term strategy, because the challenges we face are significant.


Too few students read well by the third grade or understand fractions by middle school. Too many students pay college prices for learning that should have happened in high school, or go into debt without completing a college degree, or are left behind by a changing economy.

This is particularly true among Hispanic and Latino students. Theirs is the fastest growing segment of Rhode Island’s population, and yet the achievement gap for Hispanic/Latino students is wider in Rhode Island than anywhere else in the country.

We took a big step to close these gaps when the Governor and the General Assembly adjusted the funding formula to invest in new approaches that meet the needs of English Language Learners, including dual language programs, where students learn in English in the morning and Spanish or Portuguese or Mandarin Chinese in the afternoon.

We took another important step when the General Assembly created the Seal of Biliteracy, to be added to a student’s transcript and diploma when that student is multi-lingual.

Second language acquisition is an asset, not a deficiency, and we need to invest in it more.

To help support this work, the Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island College, the Learning Community charter school, Roger Williams University, and the Providence School Department are leading new efforts to provide English Learner certificates for more teachers.

And finally, the research is clear - a diverse teacher workforce produces better outcomes for kids.

We will never have a workforce that looks like the communities they serve until we first encourage more young people, including students of color, to become teachers. We are building this talent pipeline through teaching pathways that begin as early as middle school, including teaching apprenticeships for high school students.

A student's hometown, skin color, sexuality, gender expression, disability, or income bracket should not determine the opportunities they receive. Education is the civil rights work of our time.

But this isn't just a civil rights issue. Equity in education makes us stronger as an economy, as a state, and as a people.

I thank the Governor and General Assembly, particularly Representatives Amore and McNamara, and Senators DiPalma and Gallo, for keeping the pressure on all of us to address these issues.

[Leading and Lagging Indicators]

In order to close achievement gaps and move the needle on things like test scores, graduation rates, college completion, and gainful employment, which are lagging indicators of progress that take time to improve, we also need to focus on leading indicators of progress.

When we move leading indicators – things that show progress more quickly, like student and teacher attendance, quality curriculum, advanced coursework, and hands-on career-based learning – then and only then will achievement gaps improve.

Leading indicators move before lagging indicators. They tell us we are on the right track.

And when schools and districts show that they are on the right track, they will get credit in our new accountability system.

Rhode Island is one of only a handful of states to include student suspension rates, and both teacher and student absenteeism as factors in this accountability system. When large numbers of students and teachers are frequently absent or suspended, it signals that there is something wrong in the school that needs to be recognized and fixed.

[School Culture]

It’s time we gave school culture the attention it deserves.

We’ve provided a new tool to help schools work with families to increase school attendance. At Hennessey Elementary School in East Providence, when students start to show poor attendance, school leaders send letters and text messages to their families, and this has helped cut chronic absenteeism in half.

The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education endorsed social and emotional learning standards to help teach students life skills, not just academic skills. We need to do both.

At Broad Rock Elementary School in Wakefield, students, teachers, and families are coached in the principles of nonviolence. At Mount Hope High School in Bristol-Warren, the PASS program provides one-on-one mentoring to get students through the inevitable tough times.

Especially at this moment, we need to make sure that no child falls through the cracks, with potentially tragic consequences.

That is possible only when we engage and listen to the voices of students and their families. Last year, 80% of students and teachers, and 20% of families told us what was going well and not so well in their schools. SurveyWorks, our annual school culture survey, is open again this year until March 30, so please help us exceed last year's participation rate.

It’s time that we ask, and it’s also time that we listen.


Already this year, through extensive public engagement, we heard loud and clear that Rhode Islanders are concerned about the physical condition of their schools.

When you walk into this beautiful facility at Potter Burns, or if you walk into Blackstone Valley Prep’s new campus in Cumberland, you can see and feel the difference that a modern school environment can make.

But Rhode Island hasn't made a significant statewide investment in school facilities in more than two decades. The time to change that is now.

I’m grateful to Governor Raimondo and Treasurer Magaziner for facing this issue head on, to the General Assembly for kicking off the process, and to all of the school, district, and community leaders who stepped up, ready to take action on behalf of kids.

With the help of Rhode Island voters, we are on the verge of a once-in-a-generation investment in school facilities, so that students in every community have access to 21st century learning environments that are safe, secure, and inspire the best in our children and their teachers.

[Strong Foundations]

Every child needs a safe place to learn, and they also need a strong foundation.

In 2016, the Governor declared a bold goal: double the number of students reading proficiently in third grade by the year 2025.

The Children's Cabinet, comprised of the Governor’s leaders across state agencies, created a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal, because when kids can read fluently and joyfully by third grade, all of life’s opportunities are that much more achievable.

Teaching a child to read can save lives.

We now have three times as many pre-K classrooms as we did four years ago, and full-day kindergarten in every district in the state.

Last year, Rhode Island was one of only two states to meet all of the early learning quality standards of the National Institute for Early Education Research.

And we've implemented the acclaimed Boston Public Schools kindergarten curriculum in 42 Rhode Island classrooms, serving more than 700 children, with plans for expansion this fall.

High-quality curriculum, such as the Boston kindergarten model or EngageNY math, can be a game-changer when it comes to student equity.

Curriculum has long been a local decision, but without some level of consistency across schools, and a demand for quality, too much is left to chance.


When teachers have challenging and relevant curriculum at their fingertips, they can focus their time instead on teaching, sharing best practices with colleagues, and participating in school leadership.

We will soon release a comprehensive framework to help ensure all educators are ready for success on Day 1 of teaching, and have professional pathways that, just like student pathways, build upon their strengths, interests, and passions.

Ongoing professional learning is absolutely essential, but we can't afford to waste any more time on poorly designed offerings. And teachers have to be our partners in this effort.

In one of the most exciting examples of our work on shared leadership, we teamed up with the Partnership for Rhode Island - a coalition of the state's largest businesses - to create leadership development opportunities for educators at the state, district, and school levels. To date, almost 50 superintendents, principals, and RIDE staff have participated, with more to come.

Businesses invest in leadership because it improves the bottom line. We must learn this lesson from industry and continue to invest in education leadership.

[Career Pathways]

Now let’s talk about career pathways. Rhode Island is one of only 10 states across the country to receive New Skills for Youth funding from JP Morgan Chase and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Career education is where so much of our work comes together, and Rhode Island is leading the nation.

In the past, vocational education was viewed as an alternative to college. Today, it's not college OR career; it's preparation for both college AND career.

In today's career education, the same kids who are hands-on with shipbuilding and welding in the morning can take AP college prep classes in the afternoon.

Let's face it - the economy keeps changing, and opportunities keep changing. But 70% of jobs in Rhode Island will require something more than a high school diploma. We must prepare students for the jobs our economy needs through a range of postsecondary education opportunities that our learners – including adult learners – demand.

Let me be clear to all students: If you have the passion, we have a pathway.

But let me also be clear to our educators. If we only create pathways, without also challenging and preparing students for the real world they are about to enter, we will have wasted our time and their time. Rigor, challenge, and preparedness are the fuel that must power these pathways.

Since 2015, we’ve grown our career education portfolio to include 155 programs, an increase of 30 percent.

And in 2018, we received more than 50 additional applications for new career programs.

As these programs expand, we launched Innovation and Equity grants, designed to increase access for girls, kids of color, students with disabilities, and students who would be first generation college.

We've gone from zero to five P-TECH programs, which are unique opportunities for students to earn a high school diploma, an associate's degree, and a first-in-line job opportunity through partnerships between school districts, CCRI, and a growing number of industry partners. By this fall, we’ll have nearly 500 students enrolled in P-TECH, working alongside hundreds of mentors from small businesses and leading employers like CVS, Lifespan, SENEDIA, United Natural Foods, FM Global, Tech Collective, and General Dynamics.

Starting with this year's ninth graders, students will be recognized, not just when they earn a diploma, but when they earn a “Diploma Plus,” a diploma that’s personalized with pathway and other endorsements that signal their strengths, interests, and passions.

School districts all across Rhode Island are building these personalized pathways, sometimes starting as early as middle school, leveraging new technologies to allow kids to move at their own pace, in areas like STEM, public service, business, the arts, and teaching.

Our goal is for all students to graduate high school with a “Diploma Plus” by 2025.

And it’s happening.

Kids in every school in the state are learning computer science. They’re coding robots and apps through Computer Science for Rhode Island, an initiative that scaled up in under two years.

In the past four years, we’ve increased participation in AP courses by 38 percent. Rhode Island had the largest year-over-year increase of any state in the country.

Governor Raimondo and the legislature are providing funds so that all students can take the PSAT and SAT for free, and can also take college courses for free in while still enrolled in high school.

College enrollment during high school has increased by more than 150 percent, with more than 24,000 college credits earned during high school last year. We have more than 5,000 students taking advantage of these course choice opportunities through the dual and concurrent early college enrollment program and the Advanced Course Network.

We just launched a partnership with Skills for Rhode Island Future, an organization that will connect students and businesses with summer internship opportunities. The Summer 2018 application is open now.

And the Governor's RI Promise program, approved by the legislature to include two years tuition-free at CCRI, is inspiring and enabling a record number of Rhode Islanders to pursue that college degree. In its first year, enrollment at CCRI increased by 43 percent.

[Equity of Opportunity]

Let’s keep going.

These opportunities, from early career exploration, to advanced course pathways, to college access, are available to all of our students, at no charge, no matter where they live.

Any Rhode Island student can attend any career education program in the state.

Career pathways are no longer controlled by your zip code.

That’s equity in action.

In every community, and in every program, there are countless examples of real students doing amazing work.

Students at the Academy of Engineering at Scituate High School got national attention when they built a prosthetic arm for the 9-year-old son of their math teacher.

Edward Forero graduated from the Machine Technology program at Davies and was hired by Hope Valley Industries as an apprentice. The company continued to invest in Edward by paying for his postsecondary education at New England Tech.

Tatyana Frost, the 2017 Computer Science for Rhode Island award winner, who also interns at SENEDIA, developed her own computer science course and is teaching it to her classmates at East Bay Met.

This upcoming Saturday, at the second Prepare Rhode Island Summit, hundreds of educators, students, and industry partners will join us to celebrate career education programs.


We’ve talked a lot tonight about passion. Passion can be elusive. It’s hard to define, and it is even harder to hold.

But our students get it. They understand the things that excite them and inspire them.

Who are we to get in their way?

By giving students the opportunities, confidence, and skills they need to follow their passion today, we set them on their path for tomorrow.

Let’s work together to innovate, lead, and go all-in, because when we do, our students will take care of the rest.

When we spark a student’s passion, when we provide a strong foundation and a safe, 21st century learning environment, when we support them with a positive school culture, challenge them with rigorous learning opportunities, and offer them personalized career pathways, our students will take the lead.

They will find their passion. And they will forge their pathway.

Thank you.


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