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R.I. Foundation puts its money where its mouth is on education

Roger Williams Middle School.
Roger Williams Middle School.Ryan T. Conaty

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Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I promise to never spell “Del’s” wrong again for the rest of my life. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

The Rhode Island Foundation will provide $1 million in education grants over the next year to projects designed to improve the state’s struggling public schools, with a focus on raising standards, supporting educators, investing in students and fixing governance models.


Thursday’s funding announcement coincides with the foundation’s release of its long anticipated report on education in Rhode Island, titled “Chart a Course, Stay the Course.”

The report, prepared by a committee of stakeholders that have been meeting for more than a year, offers a theme that is familiar to anyone who follows education in the state: If you want to have a world-class school system like the one in Massachusetts, you have to establish a plan and stick to it.

Neil Steinberg, the foundation’s president and CEO, said the organization is willing to spend $1 million to support new programs that will help accomplish that goal. He said the foundation expects to award multiple grants, but he has no specific projects in mind.

While $1 million is hardly enough to fund every good idea for turning around schools in the state, Steinberg said he’s hopeful that individuals and organizations will be able to use foundation grants to leverage other money. For example, if a group of teachers have an idea for supporting English learners, they might be able to secure a national grant along with the money being provided by the foundation.


The challenges are real: While the state takeover of Providence schools has gulped up a lot of attention, 70 percent of students in grades three through eight across the state aren’t proficient in math, and the numbers aren’t much better in reading.

But Steinberg said he believes there’s a newfound urgency in place, thanks to a new education commissioner, a business community with renewed commitment to schools, and parents and teachers who are committed to turning things around.


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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.