Exclusive Report RALEIGH, N.C. – The sprawling Wake County School District has long been a rarity. Some of its best, most diverse schools are in the poorest sections of this capital city. And its suburban schools, rather than being exclusive enclaves, include children whose parents cannot afford a house in the neighborhood.
But over the past year, a new majority-Republican school board backed by national tea party conservatives has set the district on a strikingly different course. Pledging to “say no to the social engineers!” it has abolished the policy behind one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.
And as the board moves toward a system in which students attend neighborhood schools, some members are embracing the provocative idea that concentrating poor children, who are usually minorities, in a few schools could have merits – logic that critics are blasting as a 21st-century case for segregation.
The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a first foray of tea party conservatives into the business of shaping a public school system, and it has made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand.
The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy – which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools – for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools.
“This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated,” said John Tedesco, a new board member. “We need new paradigms.”
But critics accuse the new board of pursuing an ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding the official death knell of government-sponsored integration in one of the last places to promote it. Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the county will inevitably slip into the pattern that defines most districts across the country, where schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle.
The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes. In recent weeks, federal education officials visited the county, the first step toward a possible investigation.
“So far, all the chatter we heard from tea partyers has not manifested in actually putting in place retrograde policies. But this is one place where they have literally attempted to turn back the clock,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.
School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta referred questions on the matter to the district’s attorney, who declined to comment. Tedesco, who has emerged as the most vocal among the new majority on the nine-member board, said he and his colleagues are only seeking a simpler system in which children attend the schools closest to them. If the result is a handful of high-poverty schools, he said, perhaps that will better serve the most challenged students.
“If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful,” he said. “Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it.”
So far, the board shows few signs of shifting course. Last month, it announced that Anthony J. Tata, former chief operating officer of the D.C. schools, will replace a superintendent who resigned to protest the new board’s intentions. Tata, a retired general, names conservative commentator Glenn Beck and the Tea Party Patriots among his “likes” on his Facebook page.
Tata did not return calls seeking comment, but he said in a recent news conference in Raleigh that he supports the direction the new board is taking, and cited the District as an example of a place where neighborhood schools are “working.”
Beyond ‘your little world’
The story unfolding here is striking because of the school district’s unusual history. It sprawls 800 square miles and includes public housing in Raleigh, wealthy enclaves near town, and the booming suburbs beyond, home to newcomers that include many new school board members. The county is about 72 percent white, 20 percent black and 9 percent Latino. About 10 percent live in poverty.
Usually, such large territory is divided into smaller districts with students assigned to the nearest schools. And because neighborhoods are still mostly defined by race and socioeconomic status, poor and minority kids wind up in high-poverty schools that struggle with problems such as retaining the best teachers.
Officials in Raleigh tried to head off that scenario. As white flight hit in the 1970s, civic leaders merged the city and county into a single district. And in 2000, they shifted from racial to economic integration, adopting a goal that no school should have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the proxy for poverty.
The district tried to strike this balance through student assignments and choice, establishing magnet programs in poor areas to draw middle-class kids. Although most students here ride buses to school, officials said fewer than 10 percent are bused to a school to maintain diversity, and most bus rides are less than five miles.
“We knew that over time, high-poverty schools tend to lose high-quality teachers, leadership, key students – you see an erosion,” said Bill McNeal, a former superintendent who instituted the goal as part of a broad academic plan. “But we never expected economic diversity to solve all our problems.”
Over the years, both Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system. A study of 2007 graduation rates by EdWeek magazine ranked Wake County 17th among the nation’s 50 largest districts, with a rate of 64 percent, just below Virginia’s Prince William County. While most students posted gains in state reading and math tests last year – more than three-quarters passed – the stubborn achievement gap that separates minority students from their white peers has persisted, though it has narrowed by some measures. And many parents see benefits beyond test scores.
“I want these kids to be culturally diverse,” said Clarence McClain, who is African American and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well in county schools. “If they’re with kids who are all the same way, to break out of that is impossible. You’ve got to step outside your little world.”
But as the county has boomed in recent years – adding as many as 6,000 students a year – poverty levels at some schools have exceeded 70 percent. And many suburban parents have complained that their children are being reassigned from one school to the next. Officials blame this on the unprecedented growth, but parents blame the diversity goal.
“Basically, all the problems have roots in the diversity policy,” said Kathleen Brennan, who formed a parent group to challenge the system. “There was just this constant shuffling every year.” She added: “These people are patting themselves on the back and only 54 percent of [poor] kids are graduating. And I’m being painted a racist. But isn’t it racist to have low expectations?”
As she and others have delved deeper, they’ve found that qualified minority students are underenrolled in advanced math classes, for instance, a problem that school officials said they’ve known about for years, but that strikes many parents as revelatory. Some have even come to see the diversity policy as a kind of profiling that assumes poor kids are more likely to struggle.
“I don’t want us to go back to racially isolated schools,” said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. “But right now, it’s as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don’t cause problems. It sickens me.”
In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope.
Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against “forced busing.” The nation’s largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity – on whose national board Pope sits – cast the old school board members as arrogant “leftists.” Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.
“We are losing sight of the educational mission of schools to make them into some socially acceptable melting pot,” said Terry Stoops, a researcher at the libertarian John Locke Foundation. “Those who support these policies are imposing their vision on everyone else.”
Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority’s own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.
Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.
“If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them,” he said. “Hypothetically, we should consider that as well.”
The NAACP and others have criticized that as separate-but-equal logic.
“It’s not as if this is a new idea, ‘Let’s experiment and see what happens when poor kids are put together in one school,’ ” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that advocates for economic integration. “We know. The results are almost always disastrous.”
Many local leaders see another irony in the possible balkanization of the county’s schools at a time when society is becoming more interconnected than ever.
“People want schools that mirror their neighborhood, but the bigger picture is my kid in the suburbs is connected to kids in Raleigh,” said the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. “We’re trying to connect to the world but we’re separating locally? There is something wrong.”…Read more
Here at OSM we’ve reported many times on the growing use of social media marketing and businesses using social media to promote their brands. Recently we’ve reported that some U.K. businesses though, have been slow to use social media, and also about some Facebook Apps to improve business productivity.
We’ve also taken a look at sites that benefit most from social media marketing. Now our attention has been drawn to a report by PRWeb over on Yahoo which looks at the growing acceptance and usage of retail brands on social networking sites. It reports that some retailers have more than doubled their following using social media sites during the last 6 months alone.
A study from eDigital Research tells us that the most popular social media site used by retailers to push their brands online, is Facebook and amazingly one brand, Topshop now has over 1 million customers following its news on Facebook. It seems that fashion retailers are still predominant across social media sites, over other retail categories. On Facebook the top 5 spots for retailers are Topshop, River Island, New Look, Next and Amazon, in that order, with only Amazon not being a fashion retailer.
For information on Twitter and retailers and further details of retailing and social media presence check out the full article on the Yahoo link above. For more on the future of retailing and social media you may like to look at an article on HitSearch by Andrew Redfern, which looks into the Facebook usage of Asos. What are your thoughts on the growing uptake of retailers engaging in social media? Why not let us know with your comments.
SYDNEY: Australia said it will impose sanctions on the Libyan regime of Moamer Kadhafi, as it urged the United Nations to take “strong and decisive” action against the administration.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the Libyan regime”s use of violence against its people was “deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable”.
“The time has come for Australia to reflect its grave concern by enacting these practical measures,” he said in a statement released from Cairo late Saturday.
The travel and financial sanctions imposed by Australia will cover 22 figures in the Libyan regime, including Kadhafi and members of his family as well as senior military and security personnel.
The sanctions will prohibit these 22 from visiting or transiting in Australia or engaging in financial transactions with Australians. Australia will also impose an arms embargo on Libya.
Australia has pressed the UN Security Council to act against Tripoli.
“We are urging that the Security Council pass resolutions which enable the world to speak with one voice and to further isolate the Kadhafi regime,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Sunday.
“Kadhafi is set on a murderous and violent path and the world does need to speak with one voice in absolute condemnation of this conduct.”
Australia”s consular staff have been withdrawn from Tripoli and the government has concerns about one Australian who is being detained by Libyan security forces, Gillard said.…Read more
CNews World NEW YORK: While it remains rare for a woman in the U.S. to die from pregnancy complications, the national rate of pregnancy-related deaths appears to be on the upswing, a new government study finds.
Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 1998 and 2005, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths was 14.5 per 100,000 live births. And while that rate is low, it is higher than what has been seen in the past few decades.
The researchers caution that the extent to which the rise reflects a true elevation in women”s risk of dying is unclear. Recent changes in how causes of death are officially reported by states to the federal government may be at least partially responsible for the findings.
However, it is also possible that part of the increase is “real.” According to the new data, deaths from chronic medical conditions that are exacerbated by pregnancy, including heart disease, appear to account for a growing number of pregnancy-related deaths.
In contrast, deaths from actual obstetric complications — namely, hemorrhaging and pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorders — are declining.
The absolute risk of a U.S. woman dying from pregnancy-related problems is still “very small,” lead researcher Dr. Cynthia J. Berg, of the CDC”s division of reproductive health, said in an interview.
But, she added, the new findings do underscore the importance of women “making sure they are in the best possible health before pregnancy.”
All women, Berg said, should try to have a pre-pregnancy visit with their ob-gyn and, if needed, get their weight and any chronic medical conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, under control before becoming pregnant.
For their study, Berg and her colleagues looked at data on 4,693 pregnancy-related deaths reported to the CDC between 1998 and 2005. Pregnancy-related death was any death occurring during or within one year of pregnancy that was attributed to a pregnancy complication.
The researchers estimate that for that eight-year period, the national rate of pregnancy-related death was 14.5 for every 100,000 live births.
In contrast, in 1979, there were just under 11 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. — a rate that fell to as far as 7.4 per 100,000 in 1986, before beginning a gradual increase.
In addition, the racial gap that has long been seen in pregnancy-related deaths shows no signs of narrowing. Between 1998 and 2005, the death rate among black women was 37.5 per 100,000 live births, versus 10.2 per 100,000 among white women and 13.4 per 100,000 for all other racial groups combined.
The reasons for the upward trend in the overall rate of pregnancy-related deaths are not certain, and more studies are needed to tease apart the contributing factors, Berg said.
One factor, according to the researchers, could be two technical changes in how causes of death are officially reported. In 1999, the U.S. adopted an updated system for coding causes of death — one that allowed more deaths to be classified as “maternal.”
Then in 2003, the standard death certificate was revised to include a “pregnancy checkbox,” which increased the number of deaths that could be linked, in timing, to pregnancy.
However, recent years have seen not only a change in the rate of pregnancy-related deaths, but in the specific causes.
Berg explained that the proportion of deaths from “direct causes” — obstetrical complications like hemorrhaging — is going down, while the proportion attributed to indirect causes — that is, medical conditions worsened by pregnancy — is increasing.
Hemorrhaging, for example, accounted for just under 30 percent of pregnancy-related deaths between 1987 and 1990, but only 12 percent between 1998 and 2005. High blood pressure disorders (mainly pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) also accounted for about 12 percent of deaths in 1998-2005 — down from around 18 percent in 1987-1990.
On the other hand, there was a sharp increase in the proportion of deaths attributed to heart problems. In the most recent time period, just over 12 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were attributed to “cardiovascular conditions,” while just under 12 percent were attributed to cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart.
In 1987-1990, only about five percent of deaths were linked to cardiomyopathy, and a smaller percentage to cardiovascular conditions.
This study cannot weed out the precise reasons for these patterns. But Berg pointed out that “our population is changing.”
More women of childbearing age today are obese or have chronic health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes than in years past. So that could help explain the shifting pattern in the causes of pregnancy-related deaths, according to Berg.
The bottom line for women, she said, is that while the odds of dying from pregnancy-related problems remains quite low, it is important to go into pregnancy in the best possible health.…Read more
CNews World ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday stressed upon the need for the United States’ support to Pakistan in pleading its case for assistance and market access before the international community.
“We need preferential market access to support our economy from the dire impacts of ongoing struggle against militancy, on one hand, and to rehabilitate and reconstruct damaged infrastructure due to devastating floods, on the other,” he added.
The President expressed these views in a meeting with a US congressional delegation, which called on him here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Monday.
The delegation included Representatives Darell El Issa, Todd R. Platts, Jason Chaffetz, Stephen F. Lynch, Brian M. Higgins and Raul L. Labrador.
Stephen Engelken, Charge d’ Affairs, Thomas A. Alexander, Senior Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, Adam Pl. Fromm, Counsel (Majority) Director of Member Services and Scott Lindsay, Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight were also present.
Pakistan side included Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Finance Minister, M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, Chairman National Commission for Government Reforms, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani and Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar besides Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and other senior officials.
Briefing media Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that matters relating to Pak-US bilateral relations, mutual cooperation, fight against militancy, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) and security situation in the region among other related issues were discussed during the meeting.
Babar said that the President highlighted economic situation of the country during the meeting and focused upon the need for US support to Pakistan in pleading its case for assistance and market access before the international community.
“Ours is a war ravaged and flood stricken economy, and our people need priority attention and assistance to overcome financial difficulties,” Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying.
“Our priority is trade not aid”, the President emphasized.
The President urged the visiting delegation to use their influence to secure market access and trade for the country.
Discussing Pakistan-US relations, the President said that a long-term and stable equation marked by close collaboration and multidimensional cooperation between the two countries guarantees not only development of the country but also peace and stability of the region.
He expressed satisfaction on the progress being made through the channel of Pak-US strategic dialogue on various sectoral levels.
The members of congressional delegation appreciated the country’s struggle against militancy and assured US continued support in this regard to the people and the Government of Pakistan.
The President reiterated his call for expediting passage of ROZs (Reconstruction Opportunity Zones) legislation to create economic opportunities for the people who are worst hit due to scourge of militancy.
Discussing regional situation, the President reiterated Pakistan’s principled stance that it has an abiding interest in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and it firmly believes in neutrality and non-interference in internal affairs of the country.
Pakistan, the President said, would continue to support all efforts for promoting sustainable peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.
He said “we firmly believe that political approach seconded by economic development was equally important for bringing stability to the war tarnished country”.
He said that Pakistan would support all efforts for the capacity building of the institutions in Afghanistan.
The Congressmen also raised the matter of Mr. Raymond Davis, involved in the killing of Pakistani nationals in Lahore, with the President.
The President said that he appreciated their concern but the matter was already before the courts. It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed, he said.
The delegation assured the President said that US administration would continue to provide all possible help to the Government in overcoming its difficulties.…