The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Saturday, November 30, 2002
K-12 Education: Black White Student Achievement Gap. Felicia R. Lee wrote a story entitled: "Why Are Black Students Lagging?" for the November 30, 2002 New York Times. The article reports on a forthcoming book “Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement" (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), by John U. Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. Ogbu argues that recent research shows that African-Americans' own cultural attitudes are a serious problem that is too often neglected. "No matter how you reform schools, it's not going to solve the problem," he said in an interview. "There are two parts of the problem, society and schools on one hand and the black community on the other hand." Professor Ogbu studied Shaker Heights, an affluent Cleveland suburb whose school district is equally divided between blacks and whites. As in many racially integrated school districts, the black students have lagged behind whites in grade-point averages, test scores and placement in high-level classes. Professor Ogbu was invited by black parents in 1997 to examine the district's 5,000 students to figure out why. "What amazed me is that these kids who come from homes of doctors and lawyers are not thinking like their parents; they don't know how their parents made it," Professor Ogbu said in an interview. "They are looking at rappers in ghettos as their role models, they are looking at entertainers." For example, he said that middle-class black parents in general spent no more time on homework or tracking their children's schooling than poor white parents. And he said that while black students talked in detail about what efforts were needed to get an A and about their desire to achieve, too many nonetheless failed to put forth that effort. Not surprisingly, many researchers take issue with some of Professor Ogbu's latest findings. "When we asked if friends made fun of kids who do well in school, we don't find any racial difference in that," said Ronald F. Ferguson, a senior research associate at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard who analyzed a new study of 40,000 middle and high school students in 15 middle class school districts, including Shaker Heights. The study, which was administered by the Minority Student Achievement Network, an organization that explores ways to close the racial achievement gap, found that African-American and Latino students work as hard and care as much about school as white and Asian students do. While the book will no doubt ignite controversy, it can help place increased attention on our urban schools where about half of the ninth graders finish high school in four years. The full article may be found at: (231)

Friday, November 29, 2002
Health Care: Long Awaited Report Issued in Canada. On November 28, 2002 a government commission issued a long-awaited report that recommended a major increase in federal financing for Canada's national health care program to stabilize its finances and avoid the development of a two-tier public and private health care system. Canada has had universal health care since the 1960's but lengthening waiting lists for elective surgery, access to high tech diagnostic services, and cost increases have put the system under great pressure. The report is backed up by 40 white papers on policy aspects. The Canadian health care system uses about 9 percent of the country's GDP with the US at nearly 14 percent. The full story may be found at: (230)

Thursday, November 28, 2002
K-12 Education: LA Schools Call on Mid-Career Professionals. Erika Hayasaki wrote an article for the November 22, 2002 LA Times on the school district's program to recruit 1,000 mid-career professionals to teach math, science and other subjects at its low performing schools. Roy Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and former Governor of Colorado, put out the welcome mat Thursday for professionals, including accountants, attorneys, bankers and engineers, who are considering a career switch. The 38,000-teacher district has hired an average of 4,000 teachers each year since 1998. This year, nearly half of its new hires were credentialed, up from 40% in several previous years. Others had bachelor's degrees only and were hired on a so-called emergency basis. Los Angeles Unified is under pressure to hire more trained teachers because of a federal law passed last year that requires teachers in every state to be fully credentialed by the end of the 2005-06 school year. The rookies will be hired through the fast-track Los Angeles Teaching Fellows Program under the nationwide New Teacher Project, which also has worked with school districts in Kansas, New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The New Teacher Project has launched programs in 17 states, and developed 10 training institutes since 1997. It has trained more than 3,000 teachers nationwide. See the full story at:,0,4071582.story.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
K-12 Education: US Ranks Number 18 in Academic Skills. A research report by the Innocenti Research Center in Florence, Italy surveyed 14 and 15 year olds on literacy and ability to apply mathematics and science. Students in Korea and Japan scored highest in the academic survey that compared results for 24 industrialized countries. Finland and Canada were third and fourth. The UK came in at seven. The US was ranked 18th of the 24 industrialized countries. The story may be found at: (228)

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
K-12 Education. Insufficient Research to Determine the Effectiveness of Selected Private Education Companies. The United States General Accounting Office released a report in October 2002 on three private companies that provide a range of management and educational services to schools. After a detailed review, the report concluded that: "little is known about the effectiveness of these companies' [Edison, Mosaica, and Chancellor Beacon] programs on student achievement, parental satisfaction, parental involvement, or school climate because few rigorous studies have been conducted. The full report may be accessed through the report announcement page at:

Taxation and Public Finance: States Budget Outlook Bleak. The National Governors Association on November 25, 2002 released a report entitled: "The Fiscal Survey of States." The report reported that 37 states were forced to reduce their enacted budgets by about $12.8 billion in fiscal 2002. About mid-way through the current fiscal year, 23 states plan to reduce their net enacted budgets by an additional $8.3 billion. NGA Executive Director Raymond C. Scheppach said that this budget situation is "a result of a convergence of four major factors that have battered almost every state budget to the point where there just are no easy choices left. The combination of long-run deterioration in state tax systems coupled with an explosion of health care costs are creating an imbalance between revenue and spending. To make matters worse we've had a collapse of capital gains tax revenues added to the overall loss of revenue attributable to slow economic growth." For fiscal year 2002, 26 states used across-the-board cuts and used rainy day funds, 15 states laid off employees, 13 states reorganized programs, and 31 used a variety of other methods. The full report may be found at:,1169,C_PRESS_RELEASE^D_4693,00.html. (226)

Monday, November 25, 2002
Public Services: Minnesota Puts State Agency Results Online. The Office of Results Management in Minnesota lead by Tom Moss has put the state's managing for results progress report online. The website provides graphs and written information for key goal areas in the major 25 state agencies. The full site may be found at: (225)

Demographics: Boomers as Seniors. Forbes magazine online has a series on the impact of boomers becoming seniors across a number of social and financial aspects. An interactive map by state of projections on senior populations may be found at: The overview of the series may be found at: (224)

Sunday, November 24, 2002
The Economy: U.S. Employment Costs Third in World. In a graph published in the November 16, 2002 issue of the Economist using data from the Mercer consulting group the U.S. had the third highest total employment costs -- at over $45,000 per year -- behind number one Japan and number two France. In the European Union on average costs are 35% below those in the U.S. and 60% below those in Japan. (223).

Post-Secondary Education: Be Careful What You Measure for Quality. James B. Twitchell, professor of advertising at the University of Florida, wrote a piece entitled: "The Branding of Higher Education" for the November 25, 2002 issue of Forbes magazine. In it he writes about how universities are branding themselves by doing all they can to get the highest ranking in the annual college rankings done by U.S. News and World Report. The impact in his view is that institutions will overlook funding for libraries and teaching staff in favor of "competitive amenities" such as deluxe dorm rooms and elaborate athletic facilities. He suggests that if universities want a more realistic way of branding themselves they should release the survey results from the National Survey of Student Engagement, "Nessie", about who students feel about their higher education experience. He suggests that institutions spend more money on intellectual plant including the library, medium-level professor's salaries and smaller class sizes. (222)