Commissioner Wagner Announces Departure from RIDE

Commissioner Will Join Annenberg Institute as Senior Fellow for Education Policy and Practice

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Ken Wagner, the state’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, today announced his transition from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). Wagner will be joining the Annenberg Institute at Brown University as a Senior Fellow for Education Policy and Practice.

His last day leading RIDE is anticipated to be April 26, and an announcement on a recommendation for his successor will be made by the Governor’s office later this morning. Wagner will be available throughout the transition process to help onboard and support the next Commissioner.

“Ken came to Rhode Island at a time when our most important education stakeholders felt disconnected from one another, and the state lacked a clear understanding of the road ahead. Through a thoughtful approach to elevate student voices, empower families, and collaborate with educators, Ken brought stakeholders to the table to work together in meaningful ways,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Ken helped us all to understand the levers we need to push on to improve teaching and learning, and his leadership positioned us to move forward on a long-term, comprehensive education strategy.”

Wagner came to Rhode Island in August of 2015, and oversaw significant investments and improvements in early childhood education, school facilities, career pathways for students, and professional learning for educators.

“I have been fortunate to work with an incredible team of people over the last three and a half years. Together, we have been able to create exciting new opportunities for students, to better support and invest in our teachers, and to distribute leadership so that each of us can understand the role we play in improving schools,” said Wagner. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and most of all I’m excited about the work that lies ahead. To dramatically improve education in our state, Rhode Island must stay the course on a long-haul journey, and I believe we will rise to the occasion to do just that.”

Under Wagner’s leadership, RIDE embarked on a comprehensive statewide facilities assessment that laid the foundation for a successful $250 million bond referendum to invest in the quality of our schools. The agency has also tripled enrollment in statewide pre-K and is an integral part of Governor Raimondo’s proposal for universal pre-K expansion.

Wagner led the cross-agency team charged with implementing the Prepare Rhode Island (PrepareRI) initiative, through which a record number of high school students are taking advantage of advanced coursework, career and technical education (CTE), early college programming, and work-based learning and internship opportunities. And just last week, Rhode Island kicked off the XQ+RI challenge, a partnership with a national high school design organization, XQ, that was attracted to Rhode Island, in part, because of the state’s leadership on career education.

Working with the Partnership for Rhode Island, he launched the LeadRI Partnership, an executive development program for superintendents, principals, and other administrators as the state moves to build leadership capacity at the local level. He also directed extensive public engagement and planning around a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s teacher certification regulations, which went into effect in December 2018 and, among other things, increase practical experience for teacher candidates and require ongoing professional learning for all teachers.

“Ken has been an extraordinary partner to the Board and a strong, thoughtful leader for the students of Rhode Island. When he arrived in Rhode Island,  we lacked the trust of and credibility with the field in many ways, and he changed the conversation. He got us on the same page, rowing in the same direction, with a clear, consistent pathway forward,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education.

«I want to thank Ken for his leadership, particularly in setting up the Council for success. From updating the charter approval process to allow for more transparency and engagement, to bringing Providence Public Schools to the table for ongoing discussion on school performance, to extensive collaboration around teacher certification, he has been transparent and accessible to us and always willing to work together with all stakeholders on behalf of Rhode Island students,» said Daniel P. McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Additionally, Rhode Island completed its ESSA Plan and overhauled its system of assessments during Wagner’s tenure, now providing free PSAT and SAT for all students and giving the state an apples-to-apples comparison with Massachusetts for the first time through the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS). The RICAS results, quickly followed by a nationally-acclaimed system of school accountability and a new, data-rich Report Card platform, captured the attention of Rhode Islanders and sparked a renewed, energized statewide conversation on student and school performance.

Next week, on Monday, March 25, Wagner will continue this conversation at his annual State of Education address, alongside parent and student speakers. The event, which will be at Edward R. Martin Middle School in East Providence, starts at 5:30 p.m. with a Student Showcase, followed by remarks at 6 p.m. and concluding with a student-led question and answer session.

In his new role, Wagner will help lead emerging research at the Annenberg Institute, and will explore education policy and practice with Brown University students.