Thursday, June 12th, 2014
A California judge has made a landmark education ruling, calling that state’s teacher tenure rules unconstitutional because they keep some teachers who don’t perform well–and dismiss some teachers who do–based on standards other than current merit. CNN has more:
Poor and minority students are especially hurt by the laws because “grossly ineffective teachers” more often work in their schools, Los Angeles County Judge Rolf M. Treu said.
The ruling was hailed by the nation’s top education chief as bringing to California — and possibly the nation — an opportunity to build “a new framework for the teaching profession.” The decision represented “a mandate” to fix a broken teaching system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.
The court ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and the teachers union, the plaintiffs said.
Reforming teacher tenure and firing laws is a hotly debated issue in American education, and the California case is being watched nationally, as evidenced by a statement from Duncan immediately after the court ruling.
Reformers say firing a bad teacher is almost impossible because of tenure laws and union protections, but teachers and their unions argue school boards and their firing criteria have unfair, overtly political standards.
Duncan, a former schools chief in Chicago, said he hoped the ruling will spark a national dialogue on a teacher tenure process “that is fair, thoughtful, practical and swift.”
At a minimum, Duncan said the court decision, if upheld, will bring to California “a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.”
“The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems,” Duncan said.
Teachers unions, however, criticized the ruling, with one leader stating the court decision was “anti-public education” and a “scapegoating” of teachers for public education’s problems. They will appeal the ruling.
Image: Classroom, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 24th, 2014
At least 15 cases of measles have been reported in California since January 1 of this year, a marked increase from the same time last year, by which time only two cases had been documented. More from UPI:
Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of California Department of Public Health in Sacramento said the cases occurred throughout California.
“Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” Chapman said in a statement. “With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease.”
Imported cases can spread to the community, especially among unvaccinated persons, including infants too young to be vaccinated, Chapman said.
High immunization rates in California have kept preventable childhood diseases, such as measles, at record lows during the past 20 years.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, but the number of cases per year in California ranged from four to 40 cases due to infected visitors or unvaccinated Americans visiting countries where measles still occurs.
Among the California cases with measles onset in 2014, three traveled to the Philippines, where a large outbreak is occurring, and two traveled to India, where measles is endemic, Chapman said.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread through the air when someone who is ill with the disease coughs or sneezes.
It is recommended children get their first dose of MMR — measles, mumps, rubella — vaccine at 12 to 15 months. The second dose of MMR is usually administered before children start kindergarten at ages 4 to 6. Immunized adults do not need boosters.
Image: Baby being vaccinated, via Shuterstock
Keep track of Baby’s vaccinations with our helpful schedule.
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Friday, January 17th, 2014
The cost of having a baby ranges from $3,000 to $37,000 in the state of California, a new study published in the journal BMJ Open has found, with no apparent logical explanation for the wild range or the high costs. The study highlights some of the issues with soaring health care costs in the U.S. More from NBC News:
“Even after adjusting for patient characteristics like their length of stay and their age and even adjusting for hospital characteristics and things like the cost of living, we found significant variations in price,” said Dr. Renee Hsia of the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study.
For a simple, uncomplicated vaginal delivery, prices ranged from $3,296 to $37,227, Hsia’s team found. For a C-section, women were billed between $8,312 and nearly $71,000.
“This is, unfortunately, the appalling state of affairs of health care in the United States,” Hsia said.
Even getting the prices wasn’t easy. Hsia’s team had to tease it out from state data on each patient admission. They figured out which ones were for childbirth, and then eliminated any complicated cases.
“Of course we would expect that if woman is in the hospital for six days as opposed to for two days, she would have larger charges,” Hsia said. “And if you deliver a baby in San Francisco, it will be more expensive than if you deliver in a cheaper suburban area.”
But the prices her team found — they are not naming individual hospitals — varied way more than these differences should account for.
The main problem is that patients do not know how much their insurers are paying on their behalf, and they certainly don’t know the price up front, Hsia says.
“This study shows that the market doesn’t take care of health care the way that we would like,” Hsia said in a telephone interview.
“If I go to buy a dozen eggs at the grocery store, I know if they are cage-free,” she added. “As a consumer, I know what I am buying and why there might be price differences. But as a patient, I don’t even know what things cost.”
Health experts say this is one of the main reason U.S. health care is so much more expensive than in other countries — $8,915 per person in 2012, for a total of $2.8 trillion. Of that, $882 billion is spent on hospitals services, like giving birth.
In May, the federal government said it would start publishing data on hospital charges. Their first numbers confirmed what health reform advocates complained about for years: The charges vary enormously, and for seemingly unclear reasons.
The Obama administration hopes that publishing prices will help force health care providers to be more consistent in their billing.
Image: Woman giving birth, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 25th, 2013
Police in Sonoma County, California shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez after the boy refused to drop a rifle that resembled an AK-47 but was later determined to be a fake. More from NBC News:
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The Sonoma County deputies on patrol saw the boy, identified as Andy Lopez, walking in a blue hoodie with what appeared to be a rifle at 3:14 p.m. Tuesday, Sheriff’s Lt. Dennis O’Leary said in a statement. The replica gun resembled an AK-47 with a black magazine cartridge and brown butt, according to a photograph the sheriff released. It did not have the traditionally orange tip of a replica firearm.
Andy’s father, Rodrigo Lopez, said he can’t believe his son wouldn’t listen to authorities if they asked him to drop the weapon. His son, he said, had a lot of respect for police.
“I sense that he did obey orders,” Rodrigo Lopez said.
Other community members also stood behind the boy.
“He was not a gang member, he was an 8th grader,” said Anita Ruiz, whose son was friends with the victim. “He was not a criminal, but yet he’s dead. He’s 13 years old. Couldn’t something else have been done?”
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
A group of Malibu, California teachers are alleging that a number of chronic health issues they’re suffering from, including asthma and migraine headaches, are the result of poor building conditions at their schools. More from CNN.com:
A group of [high school junior Nicholas] Wiseman’s teachers at Malibu High School sent a letter to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s risk manager on October 4, complaining about a variety of illnesses. They suspect their working environment is at fault, but administrators say they are still investigating, and some experts are skeptical.
“At this point, there is nothing to let people know, other than employees had health concerns,” Sandra Lyon, the district superintendent, told CNN Newsource affiliate KCAL/KCBS. “We don’t have any evidence whatsoever that there is any contaminant, any issue in or around that building.”
The letter says the teachers “are extremely concerned about their health and safety.” Three teachers at the school have been diagnosed with stage 1 thyroid cancer in the past six months. Some seven teachers complained about migraines. The letter says the teachers who are sick work primarily in the main middle school building (the school services grades 6 through 12), the music and drama building, the visual arts building and in the school’s theater.
When one teacher moved to another building, her migraines got better, the letter states.
Another teacher who moved from one of the suspected buildings stopped getting a rash she’d been suffering from for four years.
The letter publicly requests environmental tests be done at the school and asks the district to make those test results public.
Image: Teacher with a headache, via Shutterstock
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