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District : State of Rhode Island

State : Rhode Island

Level : P-12, Postsecondary

District Enrollment : 40,001+ students

Community Type : Rural, Suburban, Urban

Related Tags : 1:1 Initiative, professional learning

Fuse Fellows of Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island supports approximately 142,000 public school students across 300 schools. Sixty-six distinct local education agencies operate within the 1,214 square miles of RI, including 32 school district municipalities, 4 regional school districts, 4 state-operated schools, 1 regional collaborative LEA and 25 charter schools. If the entire state was run as a single district, it would represent the 20th largest district in the country in terms of students served.

The Challenge

As administrators across Rhode Island continue to invest in and roll-out devices, they often operate in isolation – without the benefit of understanding lessons learned or best practices taking place in surrounding districts. Often, state-level guidance and support offered to LEA leaders is one-size-fits-all, offering relevant, “just right” information to only a fraction of administrators. Simultaneously, state conversations are dominated by procurement, roll-outs and state testing protocols. Implementation guidance that supports student-centered, personalized instruction remains largely elusive. Finally, as district leaders realize the shift in administrative roles and competencies that are necessary to support personalization, there is a dearth of innovative, tech-savvy candidates to fill new roles.

The Solution

Funded by The Learning Accelerator and launched in June 2014, the Highlander Institute designed Fuse RI as an open source model for increasing district collaboration, building tailored resources to support district implementation, and developing a state pipeline of next generation education leaders. The project seeks to build state efficiencies around communication, collaboration and policy development that ease implementation challenges and support the scaling of best practices.

The project is led by Fuse Fellows – talented, early-adopter, in-service teachers and administrators at the forefront of educational innovation in Rhode Island. The initial cohort of 26 Fuse RI fellows were trained and matched with one of 13 partner districts to provide tailored implementation support over the course of two years. Over the course of year 1, Fuse Fellows collected and reported on district data, observed district classrooms, developed district playlists and Menus of Service, and supported district priorities through a variety of projects. Fellows ran pilot projects, assessed 1:1 device rollouts, developed blended professional learning models, designed playlists for district leaders, supported building and district leadership teams, and performed needs assessments (depending on the priorities outlined by each district). Simultaneously, the Highlander Institute team identified and showcased classroom, school and district best practices – and sought out models, policies and systems that could benefit other districts. For example, teacher teams crossed district lines to observe blended learning models, tech directors from around the state communicated about policy, and curriculum leaders consulted peers around training models.

The second cohort of Fuse Fellows and partner districts will launch in September 2015.


  • Leverage early adopter educators who have potential as change-agents in their schools and districts.
  • Offer training and support that allows educators to experience blended, personalized and asynchronous learning.
  • Personalize supports and guidance to schools and districts.

Additional Resources

From Rhode Island:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

Point of Contact

Shawn Rubin
Director of Blended Learning
The Highlander Institute