August 27, 2008

Top Stories and Commentary for Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Other states study California for lessons.
By Sharon Noguchi/San Jose Mercury News

Latinos make up nearly half of California’s K-12 public school students, and their numbers are surging across the country, underscoring a growing challenge for educators who are looking to the Golden State for ways to adapt to the changing face of America’s classrooms. Almost one in three of the country’s Latino students go to school in California. But the numbers, revealed Tuesday in one of the first comprehensive looks at Latinos in public schools, show Latinos now make up the largest minority student group in 22 states. Since 1990, the number of Latino school-age children nationwide almost doubled and now is projected to swell another 166 percent through 2050. By contrast, whites, blacks, Asians and other non-Hispanics in K-12 edged up just 9 percent in the same 16 years, and will slow to 4 percent growth through 2050, according to the report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Also Noted for Wednesday, August 27, 2008:

Blog by Katy Murphy/Oakland Tribune

Eight of Oakland’s elementary schools could really use some elbow room, according to the Oakland school district’s space formula. But what to do about the increasingly popular Chabot, Hillcrest, Kaiser, Lincoln, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Thornhill and Peralta? Most of those schools have already added portables in recent years to expand their capacity, and they still don’t guarantee neighborhood families a slot. At 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, the school board’s Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance and Boundaries returns from summer vacation to discuss the problem. Should certain schools move to half-day kindergarten to make more space? Should they make class sizes bigger in the fourth and fifth grades?

By Jill Tucker/San Francisco Chronicle

For the first time in more than a decade, San Francisco’s public kindergarten classes had filled up by the first day of school - a sign that the district’s long slide in enrollment might be nearing an end. As of Monday, 4,539 were registered for kindergarten, up from 4,317 the year before, when 100 seats were still open at the start of school. These are preliminary numbers, showing those registered rather than those who will actually show up, but San Francisco Unified School District officials said Tuesday that they are cautiously optimistic they might see a gain in overall enrollment this year. "That would be great news for our district," said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Los Angeles Daily News

Los Angeles Unified School District students’ college application scores continue to lag behind national and state averages, according to results released today. While the number of Los Angeles Unified students taking the SAT Reasoning Test has grown by about 1,000 students each year for the past five years, not quite half of last year’s 36,000 high school seniors took the test. Reading scores held steady at 438, but math and writing scores dropped from last year’s levels.

By Carla Rivera/Los Angeles Times

With classes in Mandarin, overseas trips to China and France, bus transportation for commuters and individualized fitness instruction that includes salsa and tai chi, new students at St. Genevieve High School quickly come to realize that things are a bit different at this Panorama City campus. A recent daylong pep rally celebrating 157 incoming freshmen that featured singing, dance routines, speeches and a pancake breakfast served by upper classmen sealed the deal. The school has gained a reputation as one of the most innovative high schools in Los Angeles — one that is bucking the trend of many other urban Catholic schools that have closed or are teetering on the brink due to crumbling facilities and declining enrollments.

By Greg Toppo/USA Today

In a makeshift waiting room of the warehouse that serves as the headquarters for public schools, three young prospective teachers sit. As superintendent, Paul Vallas could someday be their boss. As he passes through the room, he stops to shake hands. Then he tries to persuade them to teach someplace else. He has more than enough teachers for the new school year, which began last week, he explains. Have they considered Baton Rouge? "I know Baton Rouge doesn’t have the French Quarter," he says. "That’s OK. It’s OK to be far from the French Quarter — keep you out of trouble."

by Margot Adler/NPR

In much of the debate over immigration, there is an underlying question: Are today’s immigrants assimilating into the mainstream as easily as past generations? The answer, at least in New York City, is an unqualified "yes," according to the results of a 10-year study involving more than 3,000 young men and women, most of them in their 20s. John Mollenkopf, a professor at City University of New York and an author of the study, says that if you look at the children of immigrants, "the kids are doing well compared to their parents and also doing well compared to the native-born comparison groups."

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