Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
by Charles McGrathNew York TimesJuly 28, 2009...The book is a little like the Imperial Valley itself: pathless, fascinating, exhausting. Its two great themes are illegal immigration — the struggle of countless thousands of Mexicans to sneak into the United States through the Imperial Valley — and water, which has transformed the valley, or parts of it, from desert to seeming paradise but at great environmental cost... complete NYT article
By DAMIEN CAVENew York TimesPublished: July 28, 2009MIAMI — The Coast Guard said Tuesday that for a second day it was scouring a wide area of the Atlantic for dozens of Haitians who had crammed onto a rickety sailboat that sank near the Turks and Caicos Islands with 200 people aboard. As of 5:30 p.m., Coast Guard officials here said 15 bodies had been found, 118 people had been rescued and at least 67 were missing...link to complete NYT article
Saturday, July 25, 2009
July 26, 2009By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.HOUSTON — The Obama administration is vastly expanding a federal effort begun under President George W. Bush to identify and deport illegal immigrants held in local jails. But here in the city where the effort got a trial start eight months ago, people on each side of the immigration debate have found fault with it.Under the effort, known as Secure Communities, local officials check every set of fingerprints taken at jails against those of people who have had a brush with federal immigration authorities; in the past, they could check only for a criminal history in the F.B.I. database. If a person turns out to be an illegal immigrant, the case is turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation proceedings in addition to the criminal charges.The Obama administration considers the trial program successful enough to pledge $195 million over the next year to expand the effort with an eye toward establishing it nationwide by late 2012, when it is projected to cost about $1 billion a year. It is now under way in 70 counties across the country, including those containing the cities of San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami and Durham, N.C...link to complete NYT article
The Race Dialogue We Won't Have
By Jonathan Capehart
Sunday, July 26, 2009
This is what is likely to come of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home by a white police officer: nothing.
The July 16 arrest of the African American scholar by a Cambridge, Mass., police officer looks a little more complicated and a lot more nuanced today than it did when the story broke on Monday. But it has sparked another conversation on race in America that, I suspect, will end as quickly as it began, with no clearer understanding of the roots of the racial reactions that fueled it. I'll explain why in a minute.
We've made enormous strides in the 46 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. expounded on a dream of racial equality. America in 1963 envisioned neither a prominent, wealthy and powerful black professor at Harvard nor a black president of the United States.
"I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made," President Obama said at the end of his news conference Wednesday night when asked about the confrontation in Cambridge. But then he added, "And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, [race] still haunts us." It certainly haunted Obama.
Two days after the president said he thought the police "acted stupidly" in the Gates affair, he stood in the White House briefing room to ask everyone -- himself included -- to "take a step back" from the heated rhetoric from all sides. He acknowledged that he "could have calibrated those words differently" and that the controversy shows that "these are issues that still very sensitive here in America."..link to complete article
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The New York TimesEditorialJune 24, 2009 WednesdayLate Edition - FinalWe were caught between exhilaration and despair on Tuesday as we watched more than 500 young people in caps and gowns gather in a park a few steps from the United States Capitol. It was a graduation, but it wasn't. There were awards, but no diplomas. And while there was talk of bright futures, the speeches were threaded with notes of impatience and defiance and made clear that those hopes were in no way assured.That is because all of the students are in this country illegally. They were rallying to support the Dream Act, a bill in Congress that would open a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who complete two years of college or military service.These students came here as minors, hitched to their parents' aspirations for a better life. But once they graduated from high school, they found their choices restricted to the same dead-end jobs and shadowed lives that their parents live.The Dream Act, their best hope, has languished since it was first introduced in 2001, welded in recent years to comprehensive immigration reform bills that have gone nowhere. The all-or-nothing comprehensive strategy holds that if a bipartisan immigration bill doesn't contain the right mix of sweeteners like the Dream Act to offset hard-line enforcement measures, it won't attract enough votes to pass.That strategy hasn't worked but backers are hoping that President Obama will lead the way. The youthful grass-roots advocates from more than a dozen states who rallied on Tuesday share that hope, but they also know they are running out of time. They are getting older, and their window of eligibility for relief is closing.One speaker, Walter Lara, 23, who graduated from college with honors, was caught by immigration in Miami. He is scheduled to be deported to Buenos Aires on July 6.Just to talk with him and his fellow advocates who came up with him from Florida is to see an inspiring wealth of potential -- with no place to go. They are from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru. They all went to community college. But because they are here illegally, they got no financial aid or in-state tuition (they paid $800 per class, instead of $250) or loans or work-study jobs.They want to go into international relations, psychology, chemistry, engineering, mass communications, political science. But one is a handyman; the others work in restaurants and as church volunteers. The drive to Washington took them 18 hours. They looked tired, solemn, defiant, hopeful in the way young people have that banishes cynicism. They seemed incredulous that a message they grew up with -- work hard, stay in school, study and you will succeed -- does not apply to them. link to editorial
EditorialNew York TimesPublished: July 22, 2009We find it terrifying every time we get on the highway and see all of those multitasking drivers racing along while they yammer and text on cellphones, juggle hot coffee and a Mc-whatever or attend to personal grooming in the rearview mirror. So it is especially distressing to learn that in 2003, officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration quashed a proposal for a large-scale study of cellphone risks and withheld hundreds of pages of research that warned about the dangers of cellphone use while driving.That information — including estimates that cellphoning drivers caused 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002 — was finally pried loose this week by a freedom of information lawsuit.The former leader of the agency told The Times’s Matt Richtel that he was urged by officials at the Department of Transportation to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing the Congressional appropriators who controlled the highway budget. They had made clear that they wanted the agency to gather safety data but not to “lobby” the states.What we want to know is: Since when did trying to save lives constitute lobbying?The researchers had rightly proposed a warning to state governors about the initial finding that laws mandating the use of hands-free devices did not solve the problem. The conversation is the distraction. This is a finding since confirmed by other studies that show a driver on the phone is four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and is comparable to someone with 0.08 blood-alcohol content, the threshold for drunken driving.Six years later, the Transportation Department advises drivers to avoid cellphones except in emergencies. But far too many Americans now consider phoning while driving to be standard behavior. The department estimates that roughly 12 percent of drivers are on the phone at any given time — twice the estimate of its own researchers when their effort to document the risks was rebuffed...link to NYT editorial
By Krissah ThompsonWashington Post Staff WriterThursday, July 23, 2009; 10:12 AMPresident Obama said Wednesday night that racial issues still haunt America, even as he noted "the incredible progress that has been made."Obama was asked at the end of his news conference about the arrest last week of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his home. The incident has sparked a national discussion about race relations.Obama noted that "Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here," and he referred to the professor's account of arriving home to find a jammed door, forcing it open and then being confronted by a white police officer looking for proof that Gates lived in the house. According to Gates's account, he showed the officer his ID and became angry when the officer would not identify himself.The president said he understands the professor's outrage. If he were trying to "jigger into" his old house in Chicago, Obama said, he would assume that the police would be called on him as well. But once Gates showed his ID, he added, it seemed to him the officer should have considered the issue resolved."Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that," Obama said. "But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."The remarks received extensive coverage overnight on blogs and top billing on several television news shows Thursday morning.ad_icon"What I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact," Obama said Wednesday night. He said he had pushed for the passage of a bill in the Illinois legislature to address the problem.Obama went on to say that he stood in the White House "as testimony to the progress that's been made.""And yet the fact of the matter is . . . this still haunts us," he said. "And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently, and oftentime for no cause, casts suspicion, even when there is good cause." ...link to complete WP article
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
New York TimesBy NINA BERNSTEINPublished: July 21, 2009Armed federal immigration agents have illegally pushed and shoved their way into homes in New York and New Jersey in hundreds of predawn raids that violated their own agency rules as well as the Constitution, according to a study to be released on Wednesday by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.The study by the school’s Immigration Justice Law Clinic, backed by several law enforcement experts including Nassau County’s police commissioner, found a widespread pattern of misconduct by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement after analyzing 700 arrest reports obtained from the agency through Freedom of Information lawsuits.The raids were supposed to focus on dangerous criminals, but overwhelmingly netted Latinos with civil immigration violations who happened to be present, the study said. Raiders mistakenly held legal residents and citizens by force in their own homes while agents rummaged through drawers seeking incriminating documents, the report said.Acting without judicial search warrants, the agents were required to obtain informed consent from a resident before they entered a private residence. But the study found that in 86 percent of the Nassau and Suffolk County arrest reports that it analyzed, and a quarter of the New Jersey cases, no consent was recorded.“If any local law enforcement agency in the nation were involved in these types of widespread constitutional violations it would prompt a federal investigation,” said Lawrence W. Mulvey, the Nassau police commissioner, who led a panel that guided the Cardozo report. “Federal immigration agents simply need to play by the same rules as every other law enforcement officer.”Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded with a brief e-mail statement defending the conduct of its agents and the home raids — the same kind of response it has made to similar criticism since the Bush administration vastly expanded their use in 2006...link to complete NYT article
link to photo
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
July 21, 2009By MATT RICHTELIn 2003, researchers at a federal agency proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel.They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America’s roadways.But such an ambitious study never happened. And the researchers’ agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.On Tuesday, the full body of research is being made public for the first time by two consumer advocacy groups, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the documents. The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen provided a copy to The New York Times, which is publishing the documents on its Web site.In interviews, the officials who withheld the research offered their fullest explanation to date.The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.Critics say that rationale and the failure of the Transportation Department, which oversees the highway agency, to more vigorously pursue distracted driving has cost lives and allowed to blossom a culture of behind-the-wheel multitasking.“We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.The group petitioned for the information after The Los Angeles Times wrote about the research last year. Mother Jones later published additional details.The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.The researchers also shelved a draft letter they had prepared for Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to send, warning states that hands-free laws might not solve the problem.That letter said that hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk. The reason: a cellphone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers’ focus off the road, studies showed.The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.The three-person research team based the fatality and accident estimates on studies that quantified the risks of distracted driving, and an assumption that 6 percent of drivers were talking on the phone at a given time. That figure is roughly half what the Transportation Department assumes to be the case now.More precise data does not exist because most police forces have not collected long-term data connecting cellphones to accidents. That is why the researchers called for the broader study with 10,000 or more drivers.“We nevertheless have concluded that the use of cellphones while driving has contributed to an increasing number of crashes, injuries and fatalities,” according to a “talking points” memo the researchers compiled in July 2003.It added: “We therefore recommend that the drivers not use wireless communication devices, including text messaging systems, when driving, except in an emergency.”Dr. Jeffrey Runge, then the head of the highway safety agency, said he grudgingly decided not to publish the Mineta letter and policy recommendation because of larger political considerations.At the time, Congress had warned the agency not to use its research to lobby states. Dr. Runge said transit officials told him he could jeopardize billions of dollars of its financing if Congress perceived the agency had crossed the line into lobbying... link to complete article
Monday, July 20, 2009
July 20, 2009 05:55 PMBoston GlobeBy Tracy Jan, Globe StaffHarvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.Police arrived at Gates' Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.He was booked for disorderly conduct after exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had "no idea who he was messing with,'' the report said.Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because "I'm a black man in America.'' [To read a copy of the police report, click here]Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver's license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.The police report said Gates was arrested after he yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly inside the residence then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him. "It was at that time that I informed Professor Gates that he was under arrest,'' the officer wrote in the report.Gates, 58, declined to comment today when reached by phone.The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community... link to complete article
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Please don't text or talk on your cell when you drive
July 18, 2009, 12:00 pm
Should Cellphone Use by Drivers Be Illegal?
New York TimesBy The Editors
An increasing number of studies show that driving while talking on a cellphone can be dangerously distracting. Yet most states have not barred handheld phones, and none have banned all drivers from using hands-free devices. (Half a dozen states and the District of Columbia prohibit driving while holding a phone; currently 14 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving.)
Some opponents say cellphone bans are simply not enforceable. Others argue that drivers do all sorts of distracting things while driving — like eating, arguing with kids in the back seat, listening to music — so it makes little sense to outlaw one activity.
We asked several experts how significant is the cellphone hazard? As a matter of public safety, should all cellphone use while driving be banned?
Admissions group urges colleges to 'assume control' of debate on testingChronicle of Higher EducationBy ERIC HOOVERWith just a few words, William R. Fitzsimmons could start a revolution. He is, after all, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University.Imagine if he announces one day that his office no longer requires applicants to submit standardized-test scores. Within weeks Harvard's competitors go test-optional, too. Soon less-selective institutions do the same. College admissions is transformed, and high-school students everywhere rejoice.At least that's what happens in the daydream shared by some testing critics. Reality, however, looks a lot different. ACT and SAT exams support a complex ecosystem in which colleges' needs vary according to size, mission, and selectivity. Even Harvard cannot change that.Still, people listen to what Mr. Fitzsimmons says. And this week, he plans to say a lot about tests.Last year the National Association for College Admission Counseling asked Mr. Fitzsimmons to lead a panel that would examine testing issues and recommend how colleges might better use entrance exams. The dean and his fellow panelists were to present their findings this week at the association's annual conference, in Seattle.Nacac gave The Chronicle an early look at the long-awaited report, which stops well short of condemning admissions tests. Nonetheless, it delivers the association's strongest statement to date on one of higher education's most controversial issues. It affirms that colleges and other interested parties have overinflated both the real and the perceived importance of the exams — and proposes how to let some of that air out.The report urges colleges to regularly scrutinize their testing requirements, to stop using minimum scores for scholarships, and to ensure that admissions policies account for inequities among applicants, including access to test preparation. Moreover, it anticipates a future when admissions tests better reflect what students learn in high school."We want to get the word out more clearly than before that tests should not be used in a rigid way," Mr. Fitzsimmons says. "A couple decades ago, people associated testing results with so-called ability. We have come to a clearer understanding that those scores have more to do with opportunities."'Center of Gravity'Creating the 58-page report was a test itself. The 21-member panel, the Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission, included admissions deans from an array of institutions, such as Central Lakes College, in Minnesota; Georgetown University; and the University of Connecticut."The challenge was to find a center of gravity," says David A. Hawkins, Nacac's director of public policy and research. "We were looking to the collective wisdom of colleges, which have their own proprietary interests and are not always consistent."High-school counselors, independent consultants, and education-policy experts rounded out the panel, which met four times and communicated frequently via e-mail. Mr. Hawkins had the unenviable task of synthesizing more than 20 hours of notes with the panelists' written contributions.The commission crafted recommendations that echoed the association's big-tent spirit. "We were realistic," says Mr. Hawkins. "We weren't going to tell people to abolish tests or that they were the greatest thing since sliced bread."The report does encourage more colleges to consider dropping their test requirement if they find that they can make appropriate admissions decisions without the ACT and SAT.Each college, the report says, should use its own validity studies to judge whether the tests have enough predictive value to justify their use. Admissions offices should not rely only on national data compiled by testing companies — or on tradition.The panel encourages Nacac to become an "unaffiliated clearinghouse" of testing information. It recommends that the association create a program to train admissions officials in the ethics and standards of testing. It also asks Nacac to create a way for colleges to share testing research, and to annually publish sample validity studies of the ACT and SAT.Judgments of the value of such statistics, however, often divided the committee. All members agreed that test scores reliably predict freshman-year grades, but some said that did not justify requiring the tests.Steven T. Syverson urged his fellow panelists to reach a broader definition of success in college. "We need to start paying better attention to our language," says Mr. Syverson, vice president for enrollment at Lawrence University, in Wisconsin, which does not require standardized-test scores. "Success isn't a grade-point average. I've got lots of students who get C's but who have a fabulous college experience. They develop social skills and leadership skills. Being a good citizen is a successful outcome."Randall C. Deike agrees. Even so, he brought a more practical view of tests to the discussion.Vice president for enrollment at Case Western Reserve University, Mr. Deike holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He believes that the ACT and SAT are solid tests that help admissions officials do their jobs, especially at large universities with waves of applicants. He repeatedly told the commission not to discount the statistical significance of the exams."Why," he recalls asking, "would you throw away good information?"Mr. Fitzsimmons, the chairman, dubbed Mr. Deike "the canary in the coal mine." When panelists proposed language that struck him as too critical of tests, he would speak up and try to steer them to more-inclusive recommendations.In the spirit of collaboration, Mr. Deike ended up writing a key passage in the report that encourages more colleges to at least explore the possibility of going test-optional. But he remains unconvinced that such a move is advisable for many. "Too often standardized testing is condemned," he says, "when it's really test misuse that's at issue."Beyond NumbersThe report takes gentle swipes at several third parties for "possible misuses" of test scores. It urges the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to stop using minimum PSAT scores as a requirement for its awards. It questions why the College Board "appears to condone" that practice. The report also criticizes the use of test scores in U.S. News & World Report's college rankings as well as in college-bond ratings.The booming test-preparation industry prompted a vigorous debate among panelists. Some participants say they had hoped that the report would dismiss test prep's value to students. Others, however, argued that the issue looms too large in students' lives to reduce to a short statement. They wanted the report to confront the complexity of what they see: that test prep benefits some applicants but not all."I'm not against preparing for tests, but there's now an obsessive compulsion to get the best scores you can," says Marybeth Kravets, a counselor at Deerfield High School, a public school in Illinois. "Therein lies the inequity — those who can afford it can better prepare themselves."The commission concluded that while test prep is inevitable, its effects remain too mysterious. Could it add 30 points to a student's SAT score, or 100? What distinguishes good prep from bad?Citing a dearth of independent research, the commission called for further study of the effects of coaching. Nacac has already commissioned a white paper on the topic.Meanwhile, the report said colleges "have a unique responsibility to mitigate the inequitable effects of test preparation." Admissions staffs that compile applicants' grades and test scores into an "academic index" number, the report says, should remain flexible enough to consider those effects.Notably, the report does not offer recommendations to the largest constituency of all — test takers. Students and parents, of course, have not been passive participants in the testing frenzy. Like politics, the ACT and SAT are things that Americans love to hate.But in a world where grades are final, tests are seductive because they offer an apparent second (or third or fourth) chance to improve. That speaks to something larger than admissions policies."If you did away with the current tests, something would replace them," says Mr. Deike. "As human beings and as a society, we want to quantify everything."'A Contextual Animal'Among its recommendations, the panel also poses a philosophical challenge. Colleges, it says, must "assume control of the conversation" about tests.Jeff Rickey believes colleges have relinquished that control to several players — test companies, test-preparation services, and the media. Like other panelists, he insists that test scores are not the ultimate determinants of admissions outcomes. "There's a lot of anxiety that comes from mischaracterizations of the importance of admissions testing," says Mr. Rickey, dean of admissions and financial aid at Earlham College, in Indiana. "We have, as a profession, neglected stewardship of this conversation."When Mr. Rickey meets with parents and students, he gives them a number — 12.5 percent. That's how much an applicant's ACT or SAT score counts in Earlham's overall evaluation. Grades and the rigor of courses, the dean tells applicants, count for much more.Transparency was one theme Mr. Rickey hoped the commission would embrace. In various places, it did. The report urges colleges "to think and communicate clearly, independently, and progressively" about how they use tests.The trick, of course, is that not all colleges can quantify, or succinctly describe, the role that tests play in admissions. Evaluations may differ in significant ways."A test score is a contextual animal, not a line in the sand," says Philip A. Ballinger, director of admissions at the University of Washington, which replaced its academic index with an individualized review process in 2005.Perhaps the greatest challenge the panel faced was nuance. Although testing is a high-voltage debate, few admissions officials believe that tests are entirely good or bad.Mr. Ballinger exemplifies that ambiguity. Known as one of the most thoughtful practitioners in his field, he has described admissions tests, which disproportionately benefit wealthier applicants, as "an exclusionary engine." Yet he also believes they can help colleges serve their students.Like many universities, Washington uses test scores to place students in courses and to connect them to tutoring. A first-generation student who earned A's and B's in her high-school literature classes, Mr. Ballinger says, may be well prepared for college. But a low score on the SAT's critical-reading section might indicate that she needs some extra help."I hoped we could recognize that test scores are not just a pinpoint of data but a symbolic tool, a tool of communication, a political tool, a public-relations tool," Mr. Ballinger says. "I think we've done that."A Future Course?Perhaps the last thing the sagging shelves of academe need is another report. Although comprehensive, the commission's report is not groundbreaking. It echoes previous findings, including several conclusions in "Myths & Tradeoffs: The Role of Tests in Undergraduate Admissions," a 1999 report by the National Research Council.Yet Susan K. Tree is eager to see Nacac's new report, which she believes will make a long-overdue statement. Ms. Tree is director of college counseling at Westtown High School, a private school in Pennsylvania. She served as chairwoman of a previous Nacac commission on standardized tests, which issued a report in 1995. Her research convinced her that many admissions professionals knew too little about tests, such as what they do and do not measure. She suspects that is still the case on many campuses.Over the years, Ms. Tree has asked why Harvard and other elite institutions, with more than enough high-scoring applicants, cling to the ACT and SAT. "The colleges that could best afford to do away with them," she says, "are obsessed with them."In Harvard's admissions office, it rains valedictorians. Last year the middle 50 percent of its freshmen scored between 1400 and 1590 (out of a possible 1600) on the SAT's mathematics and critical-reading sections. On average, the nation's four-year colleges accept nearly 70 percent of their applicants. This spring Harvard accepted 7 percent.Such numbers represent what Mr. Fitzsimmons, the Harvard dean, has called "the lunatic fringe," where there is little variance among the scores of competitive applicants.Even so, he says, standardized-test scores help his staff evaluate students' transcripts. For one thing, they help ease concerns about grade inflation. "We want to give people as many opportunities as possible to show what they can do, particularly when we don't know everything about their high schools," he says.Over the past year, Mr. Fitzsimmons has scribbled note after note to himself about testing. Many linear feet of folders — full of clippings, studies, and data — have piled up in his office. Fellow panelists say that the dean strove to put his Harvard hat aside, that he wanted the report to speak forcefully to all of higher education.Mr. Fitzsimmons is not exactly neutral on tests, though. Unlike most colleges, Harvard requires a battery of exams: the ACT or SAT, and three College Board Subject Tests.The latter better predict students' performance at Harvard than the ACT and SAT do. Mr. Fitzsimmons believes the Subject Tests also send a healthy signal to students. "The message is that students succeed by studying the material in their courses," he says, "not by spending an enormous amount of time trying to prepare for the ACT and SAT."The commission's report concludes with an endorsement of achievement tests, which some panelists hope will one day supplant the ACT and SAT. By using state achievement tests, the College Board's Subject Tests, or International Baccalaureate exams, the report says, "colleges would create a powerful incentive for American high schools to improve their curricula and their teaching. They would lose little or none of the information they need to make good choices about entering classes."Nicholas Lemann draws a similar conclusion in his book The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, which traces the history of the SAT (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999). "In a perfect world, high-school curriculum standards would link up with college-admissions placement decisions," says Mr. Lemann, dean of Columbia University's journalism school and a member of Nacac's testing commission. "There needs to be a shift in tone from aptitude to achievement."That idea contradicts the thinking of the late James Bryant Conant, who did much to popularize the SAT in the mid-20th century. He believed that traditional subject-based exams ill served students who lacked the means to attend boarding schools. He endorsed the SAT — which at the time was viewed as a pure measure of intelligence — as a way to level the field for applicants."Subject-matter examinations were of slight value," Mr. Conant wrote in My Several Lives: Memoirs of a Social Inventor (Harper & Row, 1970). "The aptitude, not the schooling, was what counted."What gave him the authority to decide what counted? For one thing, he spent 20 years as president of Harvard.http://chronicle.comSection: StudentsVolume 55, Issue 5, Page A1
Judge Sotomayor was one of those students who had the "attitude" -- she really tried, worked hard, and excelled. That is what counts
July 17, 2009Chronicle of Higher EducationA federal appeals court ruled today that the U.S. government might have acted improperly in denying a visa to the the prominent European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan.But while the ruling raised hopes that Mr. Ramadan will eventually be allowed into the United States to teach or attend academic conferences, it was hardly a major blow to the federal policy of “ideological exclusion,” the denial of visas to some applicants based on their views or associations.The decision, rendered today by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was narrowly focused, concentrating on the question of whether a U.S. consulate had given Mr. Ramadan sufficient opportunity to prove he did not know — and could not reasonably have known — that he had donated money to a Swiss-based charity that was a terrorist organization.Overturning a U.S. District Court ruling that had upheld the government’s handling of Mr. Ramadan’s case, the appeals-court panel said the government had not established that the consular officers handling Mr. Ramadan’s visa application had given him sufficient opportunity to demonstrate his innocence. The appellate judges ordered the lower court to hold additional proceedings to ascertain whether the consulate had given him due process.Mr. Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, was applying for a U.S. visa in 2005 when he acknowledged having given about $1,300 to the Association de Secours Palestinian from 1998 to 2002. The State Department had designated the association as a terrorist group in 2003 because of its financial support of Hamas, but Mr. Ramadan said he had no knowledge of the group’s terrorist ties when he donated money to it.The American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the Pen American Center joined Mr. Ramadan in filing the lawsuit challenging his visa denial. Melissa A. Goodman, a staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, which has helped represent Mr. Ramadan, said she was cheered by language in today’s decision holding that Mr. Ramadan’s case involved First Amendment issues and that scholars such as Mr. Ramadan have a right to contest visa denials.She said she was hopeful today’s ruling might encourage President Obama’s administration to reconsider the visa policy put in place under President George W. Bush. So far, the Obama administration has not indicated a willingness to do so. —Peter Schmidt link to article
Saturday, July 18, 2009
After near silence for about a month, DREAM Act Texas is back.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
I am proud to announce that a number of University of Houston students have collaborated together to produce a new UH newspaper....