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Congressional House Hunters

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Three weeks or so after each election 50 or more House freshman congressmen and congresswomen, plus their aides, and members of the media cram into a hearing room for tradition. The tradition is that each member waits until his or her name is called, when it is called, they draw a number from a box and if they want th…

Three weeks or so after each election 50 or more House freshman congressmen and congresswomen, plus their aides, and members of the media cram into a hearing room for tradition. The tradition is that each member waits until his or her name is called, when it is called, they draw a number from a box and if they want th…

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The Steel City’s Silver Housing Crisis

As Pueblo, Colorado sees its population get older, more seniors will require public housing as more older Puebloans face threats to their housing stability from a sudden loss of a spouse or unplanned expenses on a fixed income.

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Cora Cardenas was 63 years old when she got into a legal dispute with her landlord. Cardenas says the landlord decided Cardenas’ one-bedroom apartment was better suited for the landlord’s granddaughter. “I was homeless and I had nowhere to go,” says Cardenas, now 87.

Her saving grace came in the form of the Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA), which at the time built, in conjunction with the city of Pueblo and the Pueblo Housing Authority, the Richmond and Union Plaza senior citizen apartment complexes consisted of 97 units adjacent to the Joseph H. Edwards Active Adult Center. It was also an SRDA project in the heart of the historic Union Avenue district.

Cardenas lives in the Union Plaza complex. “I was one of the first ones in the building when it opened in 1994,” she says.

She got into her predicament partly as a result of what happened more than three decades earlier. 1973 must have been a terrible year for her. First Cardenas’ husband, Dominic, died of a stroke at the all too young age of 49. Then on Dec. 11 of that year, one of her four children–her son, Sammy, a Navy fireman at the time–was killed in a fire aboard ship while serving in the Vietnam War.

A life lived

Before that fateful year, Cardenas remembers fondly that she was living in Pueblo with her family in a “beautiful dream house” on Lancaster Drive with “big bedrooms.” But after her husband died she could no longer take care of the place and moved into an apartment.

Cora Cardenas was 63 years old when she got into a legal dispute with her landlord. Cardenas says the landlord decided Cardenas’ one-bedroom apartment was better suited for the landlord’s granddaughter. “I was homeless and I had nowhere to go,” says Cardenas, now 87.

Her saving grace came in the form of the Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA), which at the time built, in conjunction with the city of Pueblo and the Pueblo Housing Authority, the Richmond and Union Plaza senior citizen apartment complexes consisted of 97 units adjacent to the Joseph H. Edwards Active Adult Center. It was also an SRDA project in the heart of the historic Union Avenue district.

Cardenas lives in the Union Plaza complex. “I was one of the first ones in the building when it opened in 1994,” she says.

She got into her predicament partly as a result of what happened more than three decades earlier. 1973 must have been a terrible year for her. First Cardenas’ husband, Dominic, died of a stroke at the all too young age of 49. Then on Dec. 11 of that year, one of her four children–her son, Sammy, a Navy fireman at the time–was killed in a fire aboard ship while serving in the Vietnam War.

A life lived

Before that fateful year, Cardenas remembers fondly that she was living in Pueblo with her family in a “beautiful dream house” on Lancaster Drive with “big bedrooms.” But after her husband died she could no longer take care of the place and moved into an apartment.

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Colorado students show gains in literacy on 2018 state tests, but disparities remain

White and Asian students continue to score higher than black and Hispanic students, and students from middle- and high-income families outperform students from low-income families.

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More than half of all Colorado students in third through eighth grade continue to fall below state expectations in reading, writing, and math, according to results of state tests students took this spring. That’s been the case since Colorado switched to more rigorous tests four years ago.

In literacy, 44.5 percent of students in those grades statewide met expectations. In math, 34.1 percent did. It’s difficult to compare this year’s scores, released Thursday, to scores from previous years because of changes in requirements for which students take which tests.

However, the percentage of students meeting expectations in literacy went up at least slightly this year in every grade, three through eight. The math results were mixed.

Results in both subjects show a persistent and troubling reality mirrored across the country: White and Asian students continue to score higher than black and Hispanic students, and students from middle- and high-income families outperform students from low-income families.

The gaps between students from higher- and lower-income families are about 30 percentage points. For example, 45 percent of sixth-graders from middle- and high-income families met expectations on the state math test, but only 14 percent of sixth-graders from low-income families did.

“As a society and a state, this is unacceptable,” Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a statement. “And every effort must continue to be made to reverse this course.”

About 550,000 students across Colorado were tested in the spring. Students in third through eighth grades took the PARCC literacy and math tests, which were developed by a consortium of states, including Colorado. (The state refers to the PARCC tests as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS, tests.) High school students took well-known college entrance exams: Ninth- and 10th-graders took the PSAT, and 11th-graders took the SAT.

The percentage of students meeting expectations on the literacy and math PARCC tests varied by grade. In third grade, for example, 40 percent of students met expectations on the literacy test and 39 percent met expectations on the math test. Both represent a 2 percentage-point increase from 2015, the first year Colorado gave the PARCC tests.

Joyce Zurkowski, who oversees testing for the state education department, said that while the upward trends are encouraging, “the change is not happening as quickly as we’d hope.”

At the high school level, this spring marked the second year Colorado 11th-graders took the SAT, and the third year 10th-graders took the PSAT. Ninth-graders also took the PSAT this year.

Scores on those exams were similar to last year, with Colorado students continuing to do better than national averages. For example, Colorado 11th-graders scored an average of 513 on the SAT reading and writing section, and 501 on the math. The average score of students who took the SAT on the same day nationwide was 497 in reading and writing, and 489 in math.

As in previous years, the data shows girls in grades three through eight scored better on state literacy tests than did boys. The gap between the genders increased the older students got: 54 percent of eighth-grade girls met expectations in literacy, while only 34 percent of boys did.

The reverse was true in math, at least in the lower grades. Boys in grades three through seven scored higher than girls, but eighth-grade girls did slightly better than eighth-grade boys.

Girls also scored higher than boys on the PSAT and SAT, though by 11th grade the gap narrowed to a single point: The average score for girls was 1015; for boys, it was 1014.

Some of the biggest gaps are between students with and without disabilities. For example, just 6 percent of eighth-graders with disabilities met expectations in literacy, compared with 48 percent of eighth-graders without disabilities, a whopping 42-point difference.

Measuring academic progress

The state also calculates the progress students make on the tests year to year. This calculation, known as the “median growth percentile,” measures how much students improve in an academic year compared with other students with similar scores in the previous year.

The state – and many school districts – consider this measurement just as important, if not more important, than raw test scores, which often correlate to students’ level of societal privilege. Growth scores, on the other hand, measure the improvement students make in a year – and provide insight into how effective their teachers and schools are in teaching them.

Because of that, growth scores make up a big portion of the ratings the state gives to schools and districts. Low-rated schools and districts are subject to state sanctions.

A student’s growth is ranked on a scale of 1 to 99. A score of 99 means a student did better on the test than 99 percent of students who scored similarly to him the year before.

Students who score above 50 are considered to have made more than a year’s worth of academic progress in a year’s time, whereas students who score below 50 are considered to have made less than a year’s worth of progress.

Statewide data shows white students, students from higher-income families, and students without disabilities had growth scores above 50. Students of color, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities had scores below 50.

For example, elementary students who do not qualify for subsidized lunches had a growth score of 54 in both literacy and math. Elementary students who do qualify had a growth score of 47. Having a lower growth score means it may be harder for those students to reach grade level.

The state also compares the scores of students learning English as a second language to the scores of students who are not. When the data is cut in that way, the differences are minimal in elementary and middle school. For example, the overall growth score in math for elementary-aged English learners was 49, while the score for non-English learners was 51.

However, the difference in growth scores between those two groups was bigger in high school – a trend that holds true for several other student groups, as well.

Difficult to discern

The reason educators and state officials focus on how different groups of students do on the tests is to ensure schools are educating all students – not just those with the most privilege.

Of all the groups, it can be most difficult to tell how well schools are serving students learning English as a second language. That’s because of the way the state categorizes students.

English language learners who attain fluency score very well on the state tests, especially in literacy. But whether they score on par with – or perhaps even better than – native English speakers remains an open question because that category includes other students as well.

That’s not the only reason it can be hard to draw conclusions about the academic progress of different student groups. Colorado has strict student privacy rules that, for example, obscure the growth scores of any group with fewer than 20 students, officials said.

Education advocacy groups have called on the state to release more information that would provide a fuller picture of whether schools and districts are serving all students well.

Participation rates up

Colorado was once a hotbed of the testing opt-out movement, with tens of thousands of fed-up parents excusing their children from taking the state assessments. But participation has been rising, and it was up again this past spring for students in grades three through 10.

It’s likely that part of the increase is due to the passage of a bill in 2015 paring back the amount of time Colorado students spend taking standardized tests.

But there was another factor this year, too: Zurkowski attributed a bump in ninth-grade participation, in particular, to a switch in tests. Ninth-graders took the PSAT this past spring instead of the PARCC tests. Whereas just 76 percent of Colorado ninth-graders participated in the PARCC literacy test last year, nearly 94 percent of ninth-graders took the PSAT, a preparatory test for college-entrance exams and a qualifying test for National Merit scholarships.

“I believe students and parents are recognizing the relevance of the PSAT test,” Zurkowski said.

The state is set to make another switch next year. Instead of administering the PARCC tests to students in grades three through eight, Colorado is developing its own literacy and math tests.

But state officials said they don’t anticipate a significant change in participation or the ability to compare student scores from year to year. The Colorado-developed test questions will be based on the same academic standards as the PARCC questions, Zurkowski said.


Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Melanie Asmar on August 16, 2018

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

 

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Aretha Franklin: the sound of America’s Civil Rights Movement

The Queen of Soul created the soundtrack that inspired millions to fight for racial equality.

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FILE - In this March 26, 1973 file photo, soul singer Aretha Franklin appears at a news conference. Franklin died Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 at her home in Detroit. She was 76. (AP Photo, File)

Aretha Franklin, who was born and rose to fame during the segregation era and went on to sing at the inauguration of the first black president, often used her talent, fortune and platform to inspire millions of black Americans and support the fight for racial equality.

“She not only provided the soundtrack for the civil rights movement, Aretha’s music transcended race, nationality and religion and helped people from all backgrounds to recognize what they had in common,” said longtime civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.

Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, was a close confidante of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a financial lifeline to the civil rights organization he co-founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Queen of Soul’s commitment to civil rights was instilled by her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, who also knew King and preached social justice from his pulpit at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

Jesse Jackson, Betty Shabazz, Tom Todd, Aretha Franklin, Louis Stokes

The church, in fact, was the first place King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Among those in the congregation were Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. It was Jackson who later urged the civil rights leader to “tell them about the dream, Martin” at the March on Washington, where he delivered the oration for which he is most famous.

Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day 1967. Black Americans had already won federal legislation outlawing segregation and protecting their voting rights, particularly in the Deep South.

But blacks were still a year away from the Fair Housing Act. And just months after the song was recorded, urban centers, including Franklin’s hometown of Detroit, would burn, exposing police brutality and unequal living conditions and job opportunities.

“Her songs were songs of the movement,” Andrew Young, the former King lieutenant and U.N. ambassador, said Thursday. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. … That’s basically what we wanted. The movement was about respect.”

The SCLC often struggled financially, but Franklin played a vital role in keeping the movement afloat.

“Almost every time we needed money, there were two people we could always count on: Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte,” Young said. “They would get together and have a concert, and that would put us back on our feet.”

FILE – In this March 26, 1973 file photo, soul singer Aretha Franklin appears at a news conference. Franklin died Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 at her home in Detroit. She was 76. (AP Photo, File)

King and Franklin were like spiritual siblings, sharing a bond rooted in their Christian faith, Young said. King would often ask Franklin to sing his favorite songs, “Amazing Grace” or “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” When King was assassinated in 1968, Franklin sang “Precious Lord” at his funeral in Atlanta.

Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” was also a comfort to the Rev. Al Sharpton when he was a boy. He recalled that his mother would play the song nonstop in their Brooklyn home after his father left.

As an adult and an activist, Sharpton became friends with the soul singer. He noted her unwavering faith, which she brought with her on stage to every performance.

“Whether it was the White House, Radio City Music Hall or the Apollo Theater, she always did gospel numbers,” Sharpton said. “She was unapologetically a hardcore, faith-believing Baptist. At the height of her career, she cut a gospel album. Who does that? Her faith is what motivated her.”

Long after the civil rights movement ended, Franklin remained committed to social justice, helping Sharpton as he began his organization, the National Action Network, in New York. She would call Sharpton for updates on the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, asking about such cases as those of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

“She gave so much to so many people, from Dr. King, to Mandela, to Barack Obama,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend who visited her the day before her death.

Her presence and influence were as valuable to the movement as her financial contributions, Sharpton said.

“To have someone like that that involved and interested … was a statement,” he said. “It gave all the credibility in the world. Others had celebrity, but she had gravity and respect.”

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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