Last week, I sat down with Governor Chafee for an interview on several topics. I've written, in this space, about his comments on medical marijuana. But there were other quotes of note, too.
Last month in a story on organized labor I reported that reamortizing the state's pension obligation - refinancing and kicking some of the problem down the road - was still part of the behind-the-scenes conversation on pension reform, even if the idea had largely disappeared from the public discourse.
A fun cover story in this week's Phoenix. The University of Rhode Island's 49th Annual Honors Colloquium, a speakers series and class, is titled "Are You Ready for the Future?" And the speaker who kicked off the event was Ray Kurzweil, a brilliant inventor - and media favorite - who says exponential growth in technological sophistication means we'll all be having sex with robots, running at Olympic speeds and, achieving immortality in the very near future.
Interesting tableau in Washington, today, with Governor Lincoln Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who have clashed in the past, playing witness - together - to President Obama's announcement of changes to the No Child Left Behind regime.
The president is offering states waivers from from NCLB's 2014 deadline for meeting testing targets in exchange for a commitment to tougher teacher evaluation systems and overhauls of low-performing schools - central planks of the Obama education agenda.
The state's Board of Regents shot down a proposed Cranston charter school today, by a 7-1 vote, after a heated debate that pitted Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and the state's school reform movement against the Cranston school committee and teachers unions.
Fung and the reformers said the proposed school, a so-called "mayoral academy," was a vital step toward improving education for the most at-risk students.
Don't worry, I'm not talking about the Vancouver looters. No, I'm talking about Geoffrey Canada who is, to my mind, one of the most intriguing figures of our time.
Canada runs Harlem Children's Zone, which provides intense social and educational supports - "cradle-to-college" - for 10,000 children in a 100-block section of New York City's Harlem neighborhood.
Providence Superintendent Tom Brady's resignation has already ginned up all sorts of speculation over who may replace him. But if the "who" is important, so is the "what," as in what sort of philosophy can we expect - what sort of approach to teachers and education reform in a remarkably turbulent time in capital city education.
Amid all the debate here and across the country on education reform, the teacher's defense:
Steve Smith, president of the Providence Teachers Union, has been a pivotal figure in Rhode Island's education reform movement. He has joined with Providence Superintendent Tom Brady in a unique labor-management partnership to turn around failing schools - a model that has won national attention. And he provided a key bit of support in the state's successful, reform-minded application for $75 million in federal Race to the Top dollars.
Governor Chafee's nominee for chairman of the state school board, George Caruolo, did little to ease the anxiety of the school reform crowd with an interview that appeared on the front page of the Providence Journal today.
Caruolo's call for a pragmatic approach - for a slowing down of the relentless reform push of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist - puts him firmly in line with the governor who nominated him.
My cover story in this week's Phoenix on City Year, the urban peace corps, was an unusually personal project. I was a City Year corps member myself in Boston, fresh out of high school, in 1993-1994 - working in a day care center in a public housing project in the mornings and in an afterschool program in the afternoons.
It was an impactful experience - working with the kids, but also with my team - composed of 10 other people of enormously different backgrounds: a Wesleyan graduate from Hawaii, a high school dropout, a young man struggling with a drug problem.
I've spoken with some in the education reform crowd - all strong supporters of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist - about Chafee's picks for the Board of Regents. Their official posture is wait-and-see. And there is even a glimmer of hope that Caruolo, a supporter of charter schools in the past, will give the reform push a fair shake.
A new issue of the Phoenix hits the stands today. And I've got pieces on Teach for America, the controversial program that recruits top-tier college graduates to teach in some of the nation's toughest schools, and the outlook for the Rhode Island Congressional delegation - in Washington and back home.
Of particular interest, I think, will be watching the trajectory of Congressman James Langevin, now that he's out of the shadow of retiring Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Solving the nation's education challenges has proved enormously difficult. But researchers are coming to a consensus that the teacher at the front of the classroom is more important that any other factor. And improving the teaching corps has become a central focus of education reform.
With that as backdrop, an interesting initiative out of the Rhode Island Foundation and NPR affiliate WRNI.
An interesting partnership between the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and the Princeton Review. From the release:
The Princeton Review, Inc. (Nasdaq: REVU) and The
Rhode Island AFL-CIO and the Institute for Labor Studies and Research,
organized labor’s leading job training and educational program in Rhode
Island, announced today that they and The Princeton Review’s wholly
owned subsidiary, Penn Foster, Inc.
The Associated Press reports that Rhode Island is one of nine states, alongside Washington DC, that has won a second-round competition for federal education money through the "Race to the Top" program.
The victory, which could bring as much as $75 million to the state, does not come as a big surprise - Rhode Island has pursued the brand of aggressive reform the competition encouraged.