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California isn’t doing enough to teach kids how to read, lawsuit says

December 30, 2017


Shavalo Wooley, 8, uses 3-D glasses along with magnifying glasses while participating in a new program to improve children’s reading skills by addressing problems with eye movement during the reading process at La Salle Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles in March. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

By Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2017

Too many California children can’t read, and the state doesn’t have an adequate plan to fix the problem, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the advocacy law firm Public Counsel, alleges that the state is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to educate all children.

California lags behind the national average in both reading and writing for fourth- and eighth-graders, according to national education data.

California scores below average on a national reading assessment (U.S. Department of Education)

About five years ago, the state superintendent and state board of education president commissioned a report with suggestions to improve literacy in California. The state has not adopted or implemented an adequate plan based on those suggestions, the lawsuit alleges.

In recent statewide English assessments, fewer than half of California students met the state’s literacy standards for their grade. The lawsuit cites the case of Los Angeles Unified School District’s La Salle Elementary, where fewer than 10 of 179 tested pupils met state English standards this year.

“This is in full view of the state,” said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum. “They haven’t done anything in terms of working with the district or working with the school to address a problem that has …persisted year after year after year.”

The plaintiffs are current and former students and teachers at La Salle Elementary School; Van Buren Elementary School, in Stockton; and the charter school Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, in Inglewood. The lawsuit places the onus of responsibility on the state, rather than the districts, because the problem spans schools throughout California, Rosenbaum said.

David Moch, one of the plaintiffs and a retired teacher who taught at La Salle Elementary for 18 years until 2014, said he sometimes used kindergarten reading tools to help children as high as third and fifth grade. Some of the programs the district instituted did help older students learn to read, he said, but they were not long-term programs.

“We need citizens that can read. We need citizens that can vote,” Moch said. “Once you get behind, if there’s no intervention, there’s no catching up. The level of the work is getting more intense and multiplied at every level.”

The complaint calls for better teacher training and more resources for teachers. It also demands that once students are identified as having difficulty reading, the state help schools to implement “proven methods of literacy instruction,” said Rosenbaum, who filed the lawsuit along with law firm Morrison & Foerster.

The state does not have a current plan in place that assesses each school’s literacy instruction, Rosenbaum said. “There’s no accountability system in place to ensure that literacy is being delivered.”

California Department of Education spokesman Robert Oakes declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said in an email that the state allocates additional funding for high-needs students and makes data available for “school communities” to use in the “targeting of resources.”


The Gap In The G20 Agenda (And Why World Leaders Should Listen To Rihanna)

August 21, 2017


Photograph: Al Pereira/WireImage

Article by Julia Gillard, A Labor party politician, was prime minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. The Guardian, Education and Opinion, Sunday 2 July 2017

Germany’s goal for the G20 meeting in Hamburg is to make globalisation work for everybody. World leaders will discuss how to achieve sustainable growth in Africa, women’s economic empowerment and how to create more jobs for a rapidly growing youth population. Investment and infrastructure are the buzzwords for the day.

It’s an excellent mission, and one I support wholeheartedly, but there is a serious gap in the agenda, which is investment in education. Without better teaching and outcomes for all children, it is hard to see how the G20’s agenda can be realised.

Such is the learning crisis that, in low-income countries across sub-Saharan Africa, only one in 10 children will gain basic secondary school skills by 2030 – the target year for achievement of the UN-agreed sustainable development goals. The vast majority, nine in 10 children, will barely complete primary school. Even in middle-income countries, home to the largest populations, only half of young people are likely to attain minimum secondary school results by 2030.

At the same time, billions of low-skilled jobs will be lost to automation all over the world, and employers will require significantly higher skills from prospective employees. And in an uncertain world, we also know that educated populations are more resilient and able to recover. Literacy and the ability to seek out and act out on information are critical to rebuilding communities affected by conflict, climate change and natural disaster.

Without increased investment for quality education for all, the G20 agenda is on shaky ground. Economic growth driven by large-scale infrastructure investments without equitable provision of education will leave hundreds of millions of people behind, exacerbating inequality, disillusion and instability.

Yet investment in education aid by key donors is falling. Recent analysis by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report says educations’s share of global aid has fallen for six years running even though total aid has grown by 24% over the same period and aid is not going to the countries and children most in need. In fact, aid for education in Africa is down substantially.

If G20 leaders are serious about sustainable growth and job creation, and want them to stem migration flows and promote long-term stability, education is an essential investment. But this has to be equitable investment which means ensuring the poorest have the same opportunities to learn as the privileged, girls are promoted to stay in school, and disabled and excluded children are served by a functioning, inclusive education system, for which government is accountable.

A literate, skilled workforce is essential for low-income countries to attract investment and fill jobs with local rather than imported labour. Middle income countries need to attend to the education of their poorest people to build their economies and ensure long term stability. Wealthy countries have an interest in building stable and prosperous partners for a sustainable future.

I do believe this is education’s time, I was delighted that pop music icon Rhianna, who is also the Global Partnership for Educations’ global ambassador, tweeted a number of world leaders at the weekend – calling on them to #Fund Education.

Rhianna’s tweets created quite a storm and community activist organisation Global Citizen will be on the case with a big concert in Hamburg in a few days time, on the eve of the G20 summit. Along with many others including Shakira, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg, I will be on stage – not singing I assure you – but urging donors and developing countries alike to fund education, particularly through the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment early next year which asks donors for $3.1bn for 2018 to 2020.

Let’s hope the G20 are listening, not only to each other, but to Rhianna and the millions of young people whose skills and talents must be nurtured through a major increase in investment in learning.




How To Grow A Lemon Tree From Seed

October 14, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons, Grow Trees!

Ideas for your garden

If you’ve ever seen a flowering lemon tree, you’ll understand why. For those of you who haven’t, allow me explain. Their lush, dark green, oval leaves have a glossy texture that shimmers in sunlight. Their delicate white flowers bloom with a citrus fragrance and are soft to the touch. Their exotic nature provides an alluring quality. And, finally, they bear the exciting possibility of fruit!

Typically, lemon trees flourish outdoors year-round in hot, sunny regions, but they can also thrive indoors as edible houseplants in cold-season climates. At the organic food store where I work we have a healthy lemon cutting producing massive fruit in a garage setting all year. It makes for an impressive sight during the dead of a Canadian winter!

And while rooting cuttings is a sensible option for fast fruit, lemon tree cuttings are not readily available in many parts of the world. But lemons are another story. And although it may take anywhere from 3-6 years for your tree to be capable of producing fruit, there is something extra rewarding about starting from seed. I currently have six strong little seedlings on the go, all of which were germinated in the middle of winter with very little effort. Watching them grow has been an exciting and fascinating experience and I know the best is yet to come.

Here is a step-by-step guide to growing your very own lemon tree from seed:

Things you’ll need:

1. A lemon. Make sure you purchase an organic lemon since some non-organic lemon seeds may be “duds”, incapable of germinating. Any organic lemon will do, but if you have climate or space restrictions, you may want to try looking for a specific variety called a “Meyer” lemon. Meyer lemons are a smaller type of lemon, often grown for ornamental purposes, and are thus better suited for indoor containers. I chose Meyer seeds for these reasons, but you can use any seed that makes sense for your situation.

2. Potting soil. I would guess that any potting soil will do, but I suggest using one with a blend of peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer. Every single one of the seeds I planted in this type of certified organic potting mix have sprouted beautifully, so I think it’s fair to say that it works.

3. Container/pot. A container (with drainage holes) that is 5-6” deep and a few inches in diameter will be sufficient for sprouting; however, the seedling will need to be re-potted into a much larger container. Mature lemon trees prefer a container that is wider rather than deeper, so I suggest planting your seedling in a pot that is 10-16” deep and 12-18” in diameter. Your baby tree will happily make itself at home in this larger container for the next few years, at which time you may want to upgrade again.

4. A grow light or lots of sun. Lemon trees need a lot of light, especially when they are sprouting and require 10-14 hours of it each day. If you don’t have a consistently sunny window (like me), get a grow light. They don’t cost much and will prove their worth in healthy green foliage.

Method for sprouting the lemon seed:

1. Pre-moisten your potting soil. Put some soil into a bucket and mix in some water until the soil is damp all the way through.

2. Fill your container with the pre-moistened soil. Leave about an inch of space below the rim of your container.

3. Slice open your lemon and choose a seed that looks completely full of life. Pop it into your mouth and suck on it until all the flesh is removed and the lemon flavour is gone. Do not allow the seed to dry out at any time. It needs to stay moist in order to germinate. I suggest keeping it in your mouth until you’re ready to plant.

4. Plant your seed! While it’s moist, plant your seed about 1/2″ below the soil level. Cover it completely with soil and water well with a squirt bottle or gentle watering can.

5. Cover your container with breathable plastic to keep your seeds warm and moist. I used a piece of clear garbage bag with holes poked into it and a rubber band to securely hold it in place.

6. Place the container in a warm location and observe for the next few days. Keep in mind: your seed needs warmth and moisture in order to germinate. Don’t allow the potting soil to dry out completely. Also take caution that you don’t cook your seed in its little greenhouse. Too much heat and moisture could lead to a rotten seed! You’re aiming to achieve a nice balance, so if you feel like the soil is warm enough without the plastic then it’s probably safest to remove it.

7. In about two weeks you may notice a sprout emerging from the soil. Once it appears, remove the plastic (if it’s still on) and place the little guy in a warm location with plenty of direct sunlight. Supplement sun with your grow light if needed.

8. Care for your new baby and watch it grow! Provide it with:

  • Water. Ensure that the soil is damp at all times, especially when your lemon tree is young. Do not allow it to sit in a puddle of stagnant water though; those drainage holes are there for good reason.
  • Sunlight. Place it in a warm sunny window where it will receive eight hours of direct sunlight each day, or supplement some sun for a grow light. Since Toronto rarely seems to get any sun in the winter, my sprouts reside in a well-lit window under the warm rays of a grow light for 12 hours each day.
  • Food. In order to keep your lemon tree healthy and growing the soil will eventually need to be replenished with nutrients. I suggest feeding it an organic fertilizer, such as compost or vermicompost, once it has developed a nice little set of leaves. Dig a little trench around the base of your tree, fill it with compost and water it well. Or, serve it up as compost tea. Try feeding it twice a year or as needed, but do not overfeed! When it comes to fertilizing, less it best; so if in doubt, put it off a bit longer. (Another option is to start your seed in potting soil with vermicompost or worm castings mixed into it).
  • Love. Spend some time looking at your new citrus friend. Pay attention to its growth. Feel it, talk to it, sing to it, but don’t try to dance with it. Get into the habit of watching for browning leaves and checking the underside of leaves for pests. Just like us, our plants can fall victim to bugs and disease and may sometimes require some extra love and affection.Image

GMOs In The Food

June 18, 2013

By Dr. David Jockers

Keeping your garden and you healthy


Roundup and GMO News(NaturalHealth365) The most popular herbicide worldwide is called Roundup and it uses an active ingredient called glyphosate. Foods stuffs that are produced in fields that are sprayed by glyphosate carry residue of the chemical into the marketplace where they are consumed. In North America, bioengineered foods are ubiquitous and it is quite challenging for the average consumer to avoid them.

Glyphosate cannot be washed off of plants and it has the ability to penetrate the roots and be taken up by the plant where residue sits inside the cellular material. All commonly sprayed foods such as soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, wheat, sugar, etc. carry glyphosate into our bodies. Animals raised on GM corn and soy carry glyphosate into their meat, dairy and eggs.

Are you eating glyphosate in your food – without knowing it?

Glyphosate is a powerful weed killer due to its ability to disrupt the shikimate pathway in plants. This pathway does not exist in mammals but it does exist in the progenic microorganisms that populate the mammalian gut and mucous membranes. This pathway produces a group of aromatic amino acids including phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan that are required for the survival of plants and many bacterial species.

Glyphosate has the ability to create major genetic changes in the human microbiome. The microbiome is the microorganism colonies that live on and in the body. They densely populate the skin, mouth, nose, stomach and digestive system. The microbiome is made up of progenic (life giving) and pathogenic (disease causing) microbial species of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and various other parasites.

How glyphosate can mess up your digestive system

Progenic microorganisms are absolutely essential for mammalian health. They function to digest food, synthesize vitamins, optimize immune response, maintain gut permeability and metabolize toxic substances. We have ten times more microbial species in our gut than we have cells in our body.

Therefore, anything that interferes with the shikimate pathway is indirectly destructive to human health by altering the balance of gut flora.

Glyphosate has been shown to preferentially kill enterococcus, bacillus and lactobacillus. Certain pathogenic species such as pseudomonas are able to break down glyphosate and produce phosphate which it then uses for amino acid synthesis. As a byproduct of this it produces neurotoxic formaldehyde.

Other pathogenic strains, such as salmonella and clostridium, have been found to be highly resistant to glyphosate as well.

Enterococcus and lactobacillus proliferation is the best defense against an overgrowth of salmonella and clostridium. This glyphosate induced dysbiosis is causing salmonella outbreaks in commercial chicken facilities and botulism in industrial raised beef. It has also led to an over-use of antibiotics and the resultant development of antibiotic resistant infections.

Clostridium difficile overgrowth is thought to be the leading cause of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. C difficile infection has increased substantially in North America in the last 10 years. A Wisconsin study showed that C difficile infection was found in 3% in 2003 but went up to 7% in 2004 and 16% in 2005.

Are GMO crops destroying the human race (genetically)?

Bacterial species commonly adapt to their environment through a process called “conjugation,” that involves gene transferring. This is how bacteria become antibiotic resistant by taking on certain genetic traits that are no longer vulnerable to the antibiotic’s course of action. When intestinal bacteria transfer GMO gene properties they begin producing the same active proteins of the GMO.

This would mean they would produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) pesticide toxin that is highly carcinogenic.

Insertional mutagenesis is a term used to describe the mechanism when a gene inserts itself into another coding gene and disrupts the genetic code. This is a well-known course of action by which viruses cause cancer, cell dysfunction and death. This process can not only affect intestinal bacteria but if it gets into the bloodstream it can literally modify the very genetic code of the humans consuming them.

In Praise of the Heavenly Hammock

October 25, 2012
Swing Time
By Christopher Cokinos
June 24, 2012

If I wrote a history of the hammock, I’d detail the texture of hamack-tree bark, record the number of hammocks Columbus packed for his return trip to Spain, and dig up reactions among Old World royalty to the slings that let natives sleep above creepy-crawlies. There would be chapters about hammocks on ships of sea and space, chapters on the complexities of weave. I’d think about princes in palaces swaying in the breeze. I’d think about hammocks in the trenches of jungle wars.

But as soon as I got in a hammock, I’d forget all that. I’d return instead to adoration: The hammock is my Shangri-La — or so it seems.

Not long after we moved onto acreage in northern Utah, Kathe said something like, “A hammock would be nice.” Facing the prospect of improving more land than either of us had ever owned — eradicating Dyer’s woad, chopping wood, planting trees — the image of unwinding in a hammock seemed sweet. And, soon, it arrived.

In the spring, sometimes with snow still on the ground, I set up the hammock by chokecherries near the house. Floating there on warm days, we’d look at the dead cottonwoods that hosted eagles, flickers, waxwings; we’d watch clouds roll over the Bear River Range. Between uncurling leaves and dark branches, we’d see elk on the mountain slopes. We’d trade off hammock time, each dozing with a book splayed on the belly, until the evening chill.

It was like that for years, as was the late-spring carting of the hammock across a bridge to a stand of willows by a rocky beach beside the Blacksmith Fork. There the hammock would remain into fall. We’d usually wade the river — a shorter trip than using the bridge — to reach the willows with provisions of water, wine, snacks, books, binoculars. I can hardly say now how crucial this was to letting go the worries of the day, to casting aside conservation battles, deadlines, family scraps and ambition. Sometimes dippers would land nearby; sometimes willows tossing against a blue sky would almost carry me into thin air. What is worry in such moments? In the hammock, I became a better person. Calmer.

Now the hammock, with a new sling, sits beneath two palo verde trees in our tiny Tucson yard. We moved from Utah a year ago, and the hammock I once found so inviting is less so. Well, the hammock beckons, but the prospect does not. No river, no views of mountains, no meadowlarks. Only recently have I begun to plop myself in the sling because — this is where I live. And I should open myself to the cardinals, verdins, even the power lines and the beige metal fence.

I also just bought a backpacker’s hammock and last week went to Rio Vista Park, which sits beside the Rillito River wash, a dry, sandy thread that’s wet only in monsoons. I stuffed the hammock, a novel and water bottle into a pack and walked from the parking lot to the mesquite flats. To my astonishment, I found a perfect grove, another prospect. Beneath trees. A glimpse of Pusch Ridge. Leaves shivering. I was cradled. A man with his phone and dog walked by, then I was alone, untroubled even by the sound of traffic. I unclenched, felt that I could stay in the desert.

“It’s not the river,” I told Kathe when I got home. “But it’s good.”

I need this. To float away from buildings and bustle, to find and to lose myself in a cocoon between two trees, to accept mesquite in the park and palo verde at the house. To find home again. Even if — especially if — home also means leaving food and water at the vagrant’s camp a few yards from my leisure in the park.

My ease is always temporary, costly, riddled with history. In my yard or in the park, I know this. I forget this. I remember it again. Always, I slide into the hammock to slide out. I put my feet on the ground we all share — ground that’s different from what I’ve known, true. But in that difference I might gain more perspective on this truth: That getting into a hammock is always preparation for getting out.

June 24, 2012

Christopher Cokinos teaches English at the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment.

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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December 10, 2009