Lisa Gibes is 50CAN’s vice president of strategy and external relations. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

News and Analysis:
Arne Duncan Picks 16 Race to Top District Winners

Sixteen winners—including three charter school organizations—will share $400 million in the Race to the Top district competition, the U.S. Department of Education announced today. Traditional districts such as Carson City, Nev., Guilford County, N.C., and New Haven Unified, Calif., also are sharing the prize, as are two large consortia of school districts in Kentucky and Washington state. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

State leaders react to right-to-work
“This is a major day in Michigan’s history. I don’t view this as anti-labor. I view this as pro-worker.”– Gov. Rick Snyder, at a news conference after he signed right-to-work legislation into law (Detroit Free Press) 

Strategies for Smarter Budgets and Smarter Schools
This policy brief by Nathan Levenson, Managing Director at the District Management Council and former superintendent of the Arlington (MA) Public Schools, offers informed advice to school districts seeking to provide a well-rounded, quality education to all children in a time of strained budgets. Levenson recommends three strategies. (Fordham Institute) 

Despite gains, U.S. students lag behind Asian peers
East Asian countries continued their dominance in international test results released Tuesday. The United States scored better than the majority of countries in all subjects, but failed to crack the top 10 in most subjects. Singapore was at or near the top of the pack in all the tests, while Finland slipped slightly from its performance on a different group of assessments given in 2010. (Hechinger Report) 

New York:
Brooklyn Charter Dials Back Discipline After Outcry

Rules and discipline play a large role in the culture of Achievement First Endeavor Middle School. There was a time in the school’s short history when its approach to discipline led almost one in five of its students to leave. The current principal says the school administration learned from its mistakes and although the rules are still central to Endeavor’s culture, the attrition rate has dropped. (SchoolBook) 

View Points:
David Coleman and Susan Pimentel: The Role of Fiction in the High School English Language Arts Classroom

Recently, there has been some confusion regarding the role of fiction and literature in the Common Core State Standards. The confusion stems from the fact that the Standards call for increasingly large amounts of informational text to be read, and the mistaken belief that this means that literature and fiction should take a back seat in the secondary ELA classroom. (Huffington Post) 

Walt Gardener: New Way to License Teachers
The head of the American Federation of Teachers has proposed that all prospective teachers pass a rigorous exam measuring subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical mastery before being licensed (“How About a Bar Exam for Teachers?” The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10). I find the proposal by Randi Weingarten not nearly as newsworthy as it initially seems. First, although it comes from the teachers union, which is supposed to be obstructionist, it is hardly the first time that teachers unions have broken with their reputation. Second, it echoes the suggestion made by Albert Shanker in the 1980s about how to make teaching a true profession. (Education Week – Reality Check) 



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