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 & analysis:
Is It Better to Have a Great Teacher or a Small Class?

When it comes to student success, “smaller is better” has been the conventional wisdom on class size, despite a less-than-persuasive body of research. But what if that concept were turned on its head, with more students per classroom – provided they’re being taught by the most effective teachers? (The Atlantic) 

‘White moms’ remark hurts fight for better schools
Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education, set off a firestorm last week when he suggested that most of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards for education was coming from “white suburban moms” who have suddenly discovered from standardized test results that their children aren’t as “brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good” as they thought it was. (CNN) 

Ed. Dept. Names 31 Finalists for Race to the Top District Contest
The U.S. Department of Education today named 31 finalists for the second Race to the Top district competition, worth $120 million. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Making Americans: Civic education and the Common Core
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.” It was his strong belief in education as the bedrock of democracy that made Jefferson one of our earliest and strongest champions of public education. (Fordham Institute – Gadfly) 

With New Law in Place, Minn. Schools Prepare for Full-Day Kindergarten

Thanks to a law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May, all Minnesota families will have the option of sending their young children to all-day kindergarten free of charge. Now, the question becomes where to find space for the added sections of all-day kindergarten, reports the Star Tribune. (Education Week – Time and Learning) 

New Jersey:
Major Changes on Way for New Jersey High School Tests

For the first time since 1989, New Jersey will next year suspend its requirement that high school graduates pass a state test in language arts and math to receive their diplomas. (NJ Spotlight) 

In The Best Interest Of Students: Blended Learning In Newark Charter Schools
For a number of years, educators in both district and charter settings around the country have been leveraging advances in online-learning technologies to move toward blended-learning environments in their brick-and-mortar classrooms and schools to improve the educational opportunities for all children. An ongoing lawsuit in New Jersey, however, is attempting to reverse this trend by shutting down blended-learning programs in two charter schools, Newark Prep and Merit Prep. (Education Next) 

New York:
New York Makes State Tests Shorter

The math and English exams for third through eighth grade students will be slightly shorter this spring. New York State Education Commissioner John King made the announcement at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Regents in Albany. (WNYC) 

Differing opinions on how to improve schools

The numbers don’t lie, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said: Most Philadelphia School District students aren’t in “good” schools, if “good” is defined as half of all students reading and doing math at grade level. (Philadelphia Inquirer) 

Rhode Island:
The Mayors’ Charter Schools

In 2007, the case could be made that Rhode Island had, dollar for dollar, the worst-performing public education system in the United States. Despite per-pupil expenditures ranking in the top 10 nationally, the state’s 8th graders fared no better than 40th in reading and 33rd in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Only three other states ranked above the national average in dollars spent but below the national average in student outcomes. Rhode Island’s Latino 8th graders, the state’s largest and most rapidly growing minority population, were the lowest-performing in the nation, and the achievement gap between Latino and white students in the state was among the nation’s largest. (Education Next) 

RI Experts on the Biggest Challenges Facing Public Education
This Friday, education experts, along with leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors will convene at the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University for a symposium on what is being billed as “the civil rights issue of the 21st century — adequacy and equity and the State of Education in Rhode Island.” ( 


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