Jeannine Dingus-Eason arrived in Providence in July, preceded by two reports that positioned her to have an immediate impact on the city’s schools. The first, issued by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) in 2017, found major deficiencies in Rhode Island College’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development (FSEHD). The second was the blistering Johns Hopkins report on Providence Public Schools in June.
Those two moments of reckoning have created a moment of opportunity for the new dean of the school that trains more local teachers than any institution in the state. (Full disclosure: this writer is an employee of Rhode Island College.)
Dingus-Eason’s first order of business was the launch of a new curriculum at FSEHD that has been in development since the RIDE review. It is both on the cutting edge of teacher education and designed to meet the specific needs of the state. Students will get classroom experience sooner – as early as freshman year – and graduate endorsed for either special education or English language learning, two of the most in-demand skill sets for schools statewide.
FSEHD will also directly address one of the specific challenges highlighted in the Johns Hopkins report: the lack of teachers of color in a district where 91 percent of students are non-white. “Research notes how teachers of color serve to motivate and yield positive learning outcomes for students of color,” Dingus-Eason explains. FSEHD received a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to “develop a four-year plan to recruit, retain, and graduate” more teachers of color and multilingual educators, and hopes to use Mt. Pleasant High School’s Teacher Academy as a feeder.
Dingus-Eason – formerly of St. John Fisher College in her hometown of Rochester, New York – comes to Rhode Island College at a moment when it’s expected to help solve one of the city’s most intractable challenges, but she believes the community is ready to work together. “In my meetings with Providence area leaders, I have expressed that now is the time for collective impact and a systemic approach to problem solving,” she says. “2020 is a transformational time. Let’s do this!”