Former N.Y. K-12 Official Ken Wagner Picked to Be Rhode Island Chief

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 14, 2015 1 min read
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The Rhode Island school board has picked former New York state deputy education commissioner Ken Wagner to be its next schools superintendent.

Wagner was nominated to the post by first-year Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, but was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the state board on July 13. He replaces Deborah Gist as the state chief—Gist left the Ocean State earlier this year to take over as the superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Okla.

As a deputy commissioner in New York state, Wagner played a key role in overseeing how the state shifted to the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments beginning in 2010. My coworker Sean Cavanagh interviewed him for a story recently about the effort to create “open” educational resources for the common core that have become popular around the country. Those resources were developed through the EngageNY project. Wagner spoke with Sean about how the state’s approach to creating those open resources changed as it worked with vendors.

After former New York Commissioner of Education John King left the state to work as a senior adviser to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the start of this year, Wagner led the department as the senior deputy commissioner for education policy, along with the executive deputy commissioner Elizabeth Berlin. (Former Hillsborough County, Fla. superintendent MaryEllen Elia eventually took over as New York’s permanent chief.) Chalkbeat New York reported that throughout 2015, Wagner became “the face of the department” as he oversaw efforts to change teacher evaluations, once again, in the state.

Wagner, a former school psychologist and middle school principal, also spoke out against the robust opt-out movement in New York state earlier this year, warning that there could be significant consequences for the state, as well as districts with high opt-out rates, including the loss of federal funding.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.