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John Maeda’s TED talk

December 21, 2012

RISD President John Maeda reveals the parent-teacher conference that marked him for life, how he came to see the computer as a spiritual space for thinking and what he learned from sitting in a sandbox for several hours a day. Read more…

Colleges scale back financial aid, need-blind admissions suffer

October 15, 2012

Wesleyan has ended its blanket need-blind admissions policy, saying it can no longer afford to admit every qualified student. Like Brown University, Wesleyan promises financial aid to any student who needs it. For a small number of applicants, that means they will not gain entrance to the college this year because they do not have enough money attend.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth says the decision is meant to avoid saddling students with unreasonable student loans.

“We could be ‘need-blind’ and spend less money on scholarships,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “Schools can also remain ‘need-blind’ by increasing loan levels or expected parental contribution. We have done this in the past. We will not do it now.”

According to the Hartford Courant, Wesleyan’s policy change will affect 15-20 applicants this year. The paper notes that Middlebury and Williams colleges have also scaled back their need-blind admissions policies, and Grinnell College plans to re-visit its financial aid policy.

At Brown University, the promise to meet the financial needs of all admitted students remains, but there is room to wonder how long it can last. In an interview with RIPR’s Scott Mackay, Brown’s new president, Christina Paxson, admitts that fundraising is a significant challenge.

Drugs instead of better schools?

October 10, 2012

A New York Times article published this week suggests a growing practice of prescribing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs to low-income children who struggle in school.

The drugs, like Adderoll and Risperdal, can increase focus and improve a child’s behavior, but they are also addictive stimulants that can have negative side effects, including psychotic episodes.

Still, some doctors and parents believe it’s worth the risk, according to the article, because the consequences of poor academic performance are so great.

Does anyone have experience with anything like this?

It’s no secret that diagnoses of A.D.H.D have been rising and that many more children are medicated today than in the past. But the idea of prescribing drugs to students who may not really have A.D.H.D. just because it’s cheaper than addressing their behavior problems seems questionable.

Any thoughts?

Last days of the Board of Governors

October 9, 2012

The Board of Governors for Higher Education has just three full meetings left before it ceases to exist, at least in its current form.

The state is dissolving both the Board of Governors and the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. Instead, a single board will oversee the state’s public schools and colleges and universities starting on January 1st, 2013. (No word yet, by the way, on when Governor Lincoln Chafee will announce his appointees for the new board)

Items the Board of Governors may address in its final days include:

  • Budget requests for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2013. Governor Lincoln Chafee has asked all departments to submit budgets with a 7 percent decrease in spending. Higher Education officials say they are concerned about how they will make good on a promise to freeze tuition rates while facing a funding cut.
  • Presidential Contracts. URI’s David Dooley has said he is planning to remain at the helm of the state’s flagship university but wants to resolve faculty contracts before finalizing his own. CCRI president Ray Di Pasquale does double duty as the head of both the community college system and the state’s Office of Higher Education. It’s not clear whether he will continue this dual role after the upcoming consolidation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Collective bargaining contracts for professors at URI. This contract has been a source of controversy due to a proposed increase in faculty salaries. The university says compensation must remain competitive to attract top quality profs. Also, the pay hike is supposed to be partly offset by an increase in employee health contributions. Critics, including Governor Lincoln Chafee, have questioned the increase, noting that personnel costs are the main driver in tuition bills.

The next Board of Governors meeting is scheduled for October 29th.

90 percent of teachers support charterization for Spaziano Elementary

October 8, 2012

School leaders say 90 percent of the faculty at Spaziano Elementary School in Providence support their plan to turn the public school into a charter school.

Spaziano has filed an early “prospectus” detailing its plans to the Providence School Department. District officials have asked all Providence schools to consider becoming charters, and so far two schools have shown an interest in taking them up on the proposal.

The plan for Spaziano includes partnering with the Highlander Charter School in Providence and the International Charter School in Pawtucket. Among other supports, Highlander will help the staff at Spaziano make better use of data to refine their lesson plans. The school is pledging to increase test scores by 5 points by 2014.

Spaziano enrolls a high percentage of Hispanic students and multi-lingual students. For that reason, the school is proposing to become a laboratory school for innovative practices with non-native English speakers. That’s where the International Charter School will help out.

The second school interested in becoming a charter school is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, located on Providence’s East Side. The school plans to work with The Learning Community Charter School in the hope of reproducing its success at increasing test scores and parent involvement, and combating absenteeism.

Both schools will have to have their plans approved by the state board of education and a majority of current parents and teachers.

Few Providence schools choose charterization

October 5, 2012

Two Providence elementary schools will apply to become charter schools. The first schools entering a new district initiative are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Spaziano Elementary School.

Martin Luther King school leaders say they plan to work the The Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls. Spaziano will partner with the Highlander Charter School in Providence.

More details to come!

Brown sets inauguration schedule

October 4, 2012

Brown will honor its new president, Christina H. Paxson, with an official inauguration ceremony on October 27th. The proceedings will be on the main college green at 2 p.m.

The evening prior to the inauguration, Brown is offering a free night of performances at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The university says the event will be hosted by actress and Brown alum Kate Burton, and it will include performances by artists from both the Brown and Rhode Island communities.