Educators can no longer wait for better parents or the end of poverty, she insists. They must persevere. They must do better. And here, you can see where Gist’s ideology and personal experience converge.

Gist, the teacher, faced down poverty and hunger in the classroom. And Gist, the commissioner, is doing the same. These are the nation’s most stubborn challenges. And Rhode Island’s schools chief seems to believe that the human will, properly channeled, can break them.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at dscharfenberg@phx.com.

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