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Education Leaders Go Back to School for Shadow a Student

25 Department of Education Staff and 38 Statewide Educators Participate in National Challenge

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Next week, 25 team members from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and 38 educators and district leaders from around the state, will participate in the Shadow a Student Challenge, a global initiative to allow education leaders and policymakers to experience school through the eyes of a student. In 15 different communities, in traditional public schools, charter schools, and even an adult education provider, RIDE staff will each follow one student for a full day, attending classes, eating lunch with them, and even participating in after-school activities.

RIDE is the first State Education Agency to participate in the challenge at this scale.

“Every single day, we discuss, create, and implement policies to support and improve public education. But policymaking isn’t an academic exercise – it has real impacts on our students, and we cannot lose sight of that,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “The Shadow a Student Challenge is a way for education leaders to experience the implications of our work firsthand and to consider new ideas that ensure the student is at the center of everything we do.”

Wagner will shadow a student attending the Newport P-TECH program out of Rogers High School. Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Snider will shadow a student from West Broadway Middle School in Providence.

“Many of our team members started their careers in the classroom, myself included, but as any teacher will tell you, the experiences of our students and the challenges they face continue to change and evolve, and this exercise will allow each of us to view our work with a fresh perspective,” said Snider. “I’m really looking forward to going back to school and learning more about what our students today go through in their pursuit of an education.”

The Shadow a Student Challenge is part of an initiative called School Retool, a collaboration between the Stanford d.school and IDEO, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The challenge, which is designed to build empathy and give policymakers a better understanding of the student experience, is open to all school leaders worldwide. Last year, 2,104 educators signed up in 50 states and 56 countries.

"Having lived in Rhode Island for almost 20 years, I know that small packages can hold big rewards. Shadowing a student for a day can seem like a small thing, but it can be a particularly impactful step on a journey to changing the educational experiences we provide for students,” said Sam Seidel, Director of K12 Strategy and Research for the Stanford d.school. “It only takes one day and it can completely shift our perspective. I am inspired that the Rhode Island Department of Education has stepped up to be a national leader in committing to the Shadow a Student challenge at a state level. I hope that all educators--including the many that I have had the privilege of knowing and working with--in Rhode Island will participate and share their stories.”

The press is invited to cover this initiative, but should coordinate with Communications Officer Meg Geoghegan to schedule an appropriate time to interview participants.