White students no longer to be majority in school

This photo taken July 21, 2014 shows Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti meeting with young students in teacher Jane Cornell's summer school class at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
This photo taken July 21, 2014 shows Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti meeting with young students in teacher Jane Cornell’s summer school class at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


By KIMBERLY HEFLING Associated Press


KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) – The cheerful sign outside Jane Cornell’s summer school classroom in Pennsylvania’s wealthiest county says “Welcome” and “Bienvenidos” in polished handwriting.

Inside, giggling grade-schoolers who mostly come from homes where Spanish is the primary language worked on storytelling with a tale about a crocodile going to the dentist. The children and their classroom at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center, near both mushroom farms and the borough’s bucolic red-brick downtown, are a subtle reminder of America’s changing school demographics.

For the first time ever, U.S. public schools are projected this fall to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites enrolled, a shift largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children.

Non-Hispanic white students are still expected to be the largest racial group in the public schools this year at 49.8 percent. But the National Center for Education Statistics says minority students, when added together, will now make up the majority.

About one-quarter of the minority students are Hispanic, 15 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders. Biracial students and Native Americans make up a smaller share of the minority student population.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the changing population a seminal moment in education. “We can’t talk about other people’s children. These are our children,” he said.

The shift creates new academic realities, such as the need for more English language instruction, and cultural ones, meaning changes in school lunch menus to reflect students’ tastes.

But it also brings some complex societal questions that often fall to school systems to address, including issues of immigration, poverty, diversity and inequity.

The result, at times, is racial and ethnic tension.

In Louisiana in July, Jefferson Parish public school administrators reached an agreement with the federal government to end an investigation into discrimination against English language learners.

In May, police had to be called to a school in the Streamwood, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, to help break up a fight between Hispanic and black students after a racially based lunchroom brawl got out of control.

Issues of race and ethnicity in school can also be more subtle.

In the Kennett Consolidated School District, Superintendent Barry Tomasetti described parents who opt to send their kids to private schools across the border in Delaware after touring diverse classrooms. Other families, he said, seek out the district’s diverse schools “because they realize it’s not a homogenous world out there.”

The changes in the district, about an hour southwest outside of Philadelphia, from mostly middle-to-upper class white to about 40 percent Hispanic was driven partly by workers migrating from Mexico and elsewhere to work the mushroom farms.

“We like our diversity,” Tomasetti said, even as he acknowledged the cost. He has had to hire English language instructors and translators for parent-teacher conferences. He has cobbled together money to provide summer school for many young English language learners who need extra reading and math support.

“Our expectation is all of our kids succeed,” he said.

Private schools nationally are changing as well, seeing a smaller number of white students and a greater number of Hispanic students in their decreasing pool of children.

The new majority-minority status of America’s schools mirrors a change that is coming for the nation as a whole. The Census Bureau estimates that the country’s population will have more minorities than whites for the first time in 2043, a change due in part to higher birth rates among Hispanics and a stagnating or declining birth rate among blacks, whites and Asians.

Today, slightly more than 1 in 5 kids speaks a language other than English at home.

But even as the population becomes more diverse, schools are becoming more racially segregated, reflecting U.S. housing patterns.

The disparities are evident even in the youngest of black, Hispanic and Native American children, who on average enter kindergarten academically behind their white and Asian peers. They are more likely to attend failing schools and face harsher school discipline.

Later, they have lower standardized test scores, on average, fewer opportunities to take advanced classes and are less likely to graduate.

Duncan said the disparities are unacceptable, and the country needs to make sure all students “have an opportunity to have a world class education, to do extraordinarily well.”

As the school-age population has become more nonwhite, it’s also become poorer, said Patricia Gandara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA who serves on President Barack Obama’s advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Roughly one-quarter of Hispanics and African-Americans live below the poverty line – meaning a family of four has nearly $24,000 in annual income – and some of the poorest of Hispanic children are dealing with the instability of being in the country illegally or with a parent who is, Gandara said.

Focusing on teacher preparation and stronger curriculum is “not going to get us anywhere unless we pay attention to the really basic needs of these children, things like nutrition and health and safety, and the instability of the homes,” she said.

This transformation in school goes beyond just educating the children. Educators said parents must feel comfortable and accepted in schools, too.

Lisa Mack, president of the Ohio PTA, encourages local leaders to include grandparents and replace events such as a sock hop with one with a Motown theme that might be more inclusive or to provide opportunities for people of different ethnic groups to bring food to share at monthly meetings.

“I think one thing that’s critical is that schools and PTAs and everyone just need to understand that with changing demographics, you can’t do things the way you’ve done them before,” she said. “That you have to be creative in reaching out and making them feel welcomed and valued and supported in the school system.”

Some schools are seeking teachers to help reflect the demographics of their student population.

Today, fewer than 1 in 5 of the public schools teachers is a minority. “It is an ongoing challenge to try and make our teacher population reflect our student population,” said Steve Saunders, spokesman for the Adams County, Colorado, school district outside Denver that has seen a large shift toward having Hispanic students.

The New America Foundation, in a recent report, suggested teacher prep programs have at least one class for teachers on working with non-native English speakers and that education programs embrace bilingualism.

Andrea Giunta, a senior policy analyst at the National Education Association who focuses on teacher recruiting, retention and diversity, said you can’t assume that teachers are a good match just because of their background.

“Just because you speak Spanish doesn’t mean you speak the same Spanish your students are speaking and communicating with,” she said.

This comes as the NEA, the nation’s largest union, just elected an all-minority leadership team in July. The new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, is Latina, and the vice president and secretary-treasurer, Rebecca S. Pringle and Princess Moss, are black.

In Kennett Square, superintendent Tomasetti said Hispanic students in his district are performing at levels, on average, higher than their peers statewide. One recent graduate, Christian Cordova-Pedroza, is attending Harvard University this fall. Cordova-Pedroza is one of five children of a mushroom farmer from Mexico.

Cordova-Pedroza credited the motivation instilled by his parents combined with access to a variety of educational opportunities for his success, including an after-school program that included tutoring and help with college applications. He also was active in a Latino leadership club that helps provides translation services in the community and participated in summer programs at Penn State and Princeton.

“Certainly, I had to work hard to get there, but I feel like at every opportunity that I had a chance of participating in or doing that, I was always like, ‘Yes, I want to do that,'” he said.

Nearby, at El Nayarit Mexico Grocery Store, owner Jaime Sandoval, a native of Mexico with six kids, said he’s been pleased with the education his children have received. His 9-year-old daughter, he said, wants to be a teacher.

“She loves to read and all that stuff,” Sandoval said. “She always has good grades on English and she loves it much.”

America’s kids eating healthier, getting fitter

By John Upton, Grist

Here’s news as sweet as a fistful of blueberries: American kids aged 11 to 16 were eating more fruit and vegetables in 2009 than those who came before them just eight years earlier, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Kids are also cutting back on sweets and sugary drinks, eating breakfast more regularly, spending more time exercising, and spending less time in front of the television, the study found:


Click to embiggen.

The following graph shows the modest rise in the number of days per week that American kids engaged in physical activity (PA) and the decline in the hours per day that they sat in front of the television:

Click to embiggen.

These healthier habits have begun making a difference.

The average body mass index of thousands of kids studied increased between 2001 and 2005, then started falling between 2005 and 2009. That’s in line with the results of other studies, which have shown a plateau in childhood obesity rates. (Though as we told you last week, America’s most obese kids, primarily children of poor black and Hispanic parents, continue to get fatter.)

“Over the previous decades, the pattern had been that kids were getting less physical activity, and it’s been very hard to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption,” Ronald Iannotti, coauthor of the study and chairman of the department of exercise and health sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, told USA Today. “We’ve got a long way to go, but the good news is that those are increasing.”

More of America’s wind turbines are actually being built in America

By John Upton, Grist

The equipment that’s powering America’s wind energy boom is increasingly being made right at home.

In 2007, just 25 percent of turbine components used in new wind farms in the U.S. were produced domestically. By last year, that figure had risen to 72 percent, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy. And exports of such equipment rose to $388 million last year, up from $16 million in 2007.

This happened even as the U.S. was installing a whole lot of turbines. More than 13.1 gigawatts of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid in 2012, representing $25 billion of investment. That made wind the nation’s fastest-growing electricity source last year, faster even than natural gas–fueled power.

Unfortunately, there were job losses in the sector last year, with the number of wind industry manufacturing jobs falling to 25,500 from 30,000 the year before. That’s because there was a lull and some factory closures after a mad scramble to fulfill orders placed before a federal tax credit expired. (It was renewed for this year, but its future is still up in the air.)

The better news is that the number of workers both indirectly and directly employed by the sector grew to 80,700 in 2012, up from 75,000 the year before.

And as the wind energy sector has grown, so too has the diversity of companies that comprise it, as shown in this chart from the DOE report:

Click to embiggen.
Energy Department
John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

Rock Out Under The Stars At Tulalip Amphitheatre

A Pacific Northwest summer tradition – Rock Out Under the Stars at Tulalip Amphitheatre

Tulalip, Washington — Tulalip Resort Casino is known for celebrating tradition, and one of the Pacific Northwest’s warm weather rituals is enjoying entertainment under the stars at the Four-Diamond resort’s outdoor Amphitheatre.  Featuring 7 summer concerts at the intimate 3,000 seat venue with an incredible sightline, the concert stage is set for a variety of arts and entertainment options to intrigue every kind of musical enthusiast.  The summer of 2013’s line-up is a memorable one – it includes Grammy and Academy Award winners, artists and music icons who have continually topped the charts.Sunday, July 21: Gretchen Wilson & Clay Walker
Gretchen Wilson has had 13 hit singles on the Billboard country charts, 5 reaching the Top 10.
With 31 titles on Billboard, Clay Walker boasts 4 platinum and 2 gold albums.

Sunday, July 28: Peter Frampton & Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Frampton is one of the most celebrated guitarists in rock history; Shepherd is a young blues guitarist who has sold millions of albums.

Thursday, August 15:  Sammy Hagar
The “Red Rocker”, an American music icon, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Van Halen.

Sunday, August 18:  Melissa Etheridge
Rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, winner of an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Double Grammy Winner.

Sunday, August 25:  Foreigner
This British-American band is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.  Mick Jones and Lou Gramm were just inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Saturday, September 7:  Doobie Brothers & America
The Doobie Brothers have been inducted into the Vocal Hall of Fame with hits like “Listen to the Music”; Grammy winners America has charted No. 1 hits like “A Horse with No Name” and “Sister Golden Hair”.

Tulalip Resort Casino also offers guest room/up close ticket packages.  Both reserved seating and general admission concert tickets are available and can be purchased in person at the Tulalip Resort Casino Rewards Club box office located on the casino floor, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Unless otherwise noted, the doors open at 5pm and concerts start at 7pm for all shows. All concert dates and times are subject to change. Guests must be 21 and over to attend.

Coastal cities prepare for rising sea levels

Source: McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON – Americans in coastal areas, particularly on the East and Gulf coasts, will confront challenging questions in the coming years as leaders determine how to protect millions of people in the face of rising sea levels and more intense storms.

Should cities rebuild the boardwalks in New Jersey shore towns? Should the government discourage people from rebuilding in areas now more vulnerable to flooding? How much would it cost to protect water and sewer systems, and subways and electrical substations from being inundated in the next storm?

Leaders from coastal communities along the East Coast gathered in New York City on Wednesday to talk about the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, as well as how they will address future sea level rising. The conference was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit, nonpartisan science advocacy group.

“What we really got a glimpse at was our collective future,” said Joe Vietri, who heads coastal and storm risk management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is heading up a comprehensive study of Sandy.

Rising sea levels caused primarily by global warming could worsen the effects of storms such as Sandy, particularly when it comes to storm surge. Since 1992, satellites have observed a 2.25-inch rise in global sea levels.

Just before Sandy, sea surface temperatures were about 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 30-year average for the time of year. Scientists who studied the storm determined that about 1 degree was likely a direct result of global warming.

With every degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, the atmosphere can hold 4 percent more moisture. As a result, Sandy was able to pull in more moisture, fueling a stronger storm and magnifying the amount of rainfall by as much as 5 percent to 10 percent compared with conditions more than 40 years ago.

Coupled with higher overall sea levels, the intense storm meant more water surging onshore and penetrating farther inland. The storm’s effects prompted officials in Wilmington, N.C., to look at its vulnerabilities if seas rise up to one meter by the end of the century.

“People are listening, people are ready to take some actions,” said Phil Prete, a senior environmental planner for the city.

The officials spent less time discussing the cause of rapid sea level rise: how to slow the carbon emissions that are heating up the Earth and warming the oceans. Many public officials in coastal communities instead are focusing on what they say are the consequences of global warming.

They have no choice, said Kristin Jacobs, mayor of Broward County, Fla., where extreme tides during Hurricane Sandy washed out portions of Fort Lauderdale’s iconic beachfront highway.

“Almost all of us are living in very low-lying areas,” she said. “There are many lessons in South Florida already learned from multiple hurricanes. We have learned from those hurricanes, we have learned to plan for the future, and we’ve learned that this is our new normal.”

The causes are also a settled question in Hoboken, N.J., where an estimated 500 million gallons of Hudson River water inundated the town and stayed for nearly 10 days, said Stephen Marks, Hoboken’s assistant business administrator. He called on the federal government and states to take a leadership role in addressing climate change, particularly in communities that are vulnerable to its effects.

“The debate about climate change is essentially over,” Marks said. “Hurricane Sandy settled that for, I would say, a majority of the residents in our city.”

But coastal populations are particularly vulnerable, and growing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month issued a report showing that already crowded U.S. coastal areas will see population grow from 123 million people in 2010 to nearly 134 million people by 2020. That puts millions more people at risk from storms such as Sandy.

People may be aware of the consequences of climate change, but it hasn’t seemed to have stopped anyone from moving to the beach – or hurt property values, said Vietri, of the Army Corps of Engineers. He noted that communities suffered far less damage if there were sand dunes or other protective measures, such as substantial setbacks for homes.

“You still have communities rebuilding almost exactly where they were prior to the storm coming,” Vietri said. “You continue to have a situation where we have a tremendous population density living in high-hazard areas.”