Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California on March 16, 2004 · Page 11
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Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California · Page 11

Ukiah, California
Issue Date:
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Page 11
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THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL STATE TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2004 - A-11 California sophomores tackle high school exit exam bm* IdhJIkll^^n f^f^t »•* M • • . ^M^^^ By JENNIFER COLEMAN Associated Press WINTERS — Matt Biers-Ariel tries to corral the attention of 24 high school sophomores. "If you don't pass this exam, you don't get to leave high school," he says loudly over the din. That works, for a while, and the 10th graders at Winters High School begin reviewing probabilities, compounding interest and other sample questions for the two-day California High School Exit Exam. The high-stakes test, given Tuesday and Wednesday at most California high schools, will be a requirement uf California graduates, starting with the class of 2006 — this year's sophomores. Last summer, the state Board of Education delayed that requirement for two years after a report found that about 20 percent of the class of 2004 would fail the test's math portion and not graduate. About half of students not fluent in English and three-quarters of special education students would also not be eligible for diplomas because of poor test performance. Under the 1999 law that created the test, the board had one chance to postpone it. Any more delays would require an act by the Legislature, as would making new exceptions for students, such as those in special education classes or who are still learning English. At the Board of Education's March meeting, board President Reed Hastings said the test wasn't created to "separate winners from losers," but to identify students early on who need extra help. "It's not rtieant to be like a bar exam," said Hastings, referring to the test that allows lawyers to practice law. As more high school books and curricula are aligned with the state's academic standards, more students will pass the standards-based test, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. He said he didn't anticipate any delay of the graduation requirement. "The business community really supports the exit exam. We've heard from them that it's important to have those minimum standards in place," he said. "The high school diploma of the future will be worth more than the high school diploma of the past." Schools can steer students who fail the test into classes that focus on their academic weaknesses, said O'Connell, a former stn'e senator who wrote the law that c:eated the test. At Winters, where about 40 percent of the students are Hispanic, Biers-Ariel said he fears that a quarter may not pass the English and Language Arts portion of the test. "For the English-language learners, my class is really a stretch for them." said Biers-Ariel, who teaches sophomore English. But while the test's presence looms large, Biers-Ariel said, he doesn't "teach to the test. I teach to the state standards." The math portion covers seventh- grade skills and algebra I, said Shannon Silva. a teacher at Franklin High School in Elk Grove. Students enrolled in algebra I are learning and using those skills daily, and she helps students who are in more advanced classes brush up on those skills by incorporating them into the daily class work. Courtney Davis. 16, a sophomore at Franklin High, said she's a good student, but worries about the test. "I'm more concerned about the math," she said. "I'm not good on tests." There's a lot of stress involved in the two-day test, said Stephanie Chavez, 15, a sophomore at Winters High. "I think I'll pass the math, but still, it's hard." Paper removes staffers from gay marriage story By BETH FOUHY Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Chronicle removed its lead City Hall reporter and photographer from covering the city's same-sex marriage controversy after the longtime lesbian partners were wed last week. In a decision he characterized as difficult and painful, executive editor Phil Bronstein told the paper's staff Monday that reporter Rachel Gordon and photographer Liz Mangeisdorf had been pulled from the story after editors concluded there was a potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest. A similar move was made at public radio station KQED, where Scott Shafer, host of the popular California Report program, agreed to stop reporting on gay marriage after he and his partner were wed. "Chronicle journalists directly and personally involved in a major news story — one in whose outcome they also have a personal stake — should not also cover that story," Bronstein wrote in a memo. "The issue is the integrity and credibility of the paper, as well as conflict and perception of conflict." Bronstein said the decision was made after lengthy discussion and meetings with -the paper's senior editors and with both Gordon and Mangeisdorf, whose professional integrity Bronstein praised. Neither Gordon or Mangeisdorf would comment on the decision, but Bronstein noted that the couple "disagreed" with it. The gay marriage story has dominated headlines in San Francisco since Feb. 12, when Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some 4,000 couples tied the knot before the California Supreme Cpurt ordered the city to shut down the marriages on March 11, pending a decision later this spring on whether Newsom had the authority to allow them. Bronstein noted that Gordon and Mangeisdorf had approached their editors about getting married soon after the wedding spree began, but decided against the idea after they and their editors agreed there could be a perceived conflict of interest. The couple later decided to get married after all. "We all agreed that no one was acting in bad faith," Bronstein wrote. "But with Liz's and Rachel's marriage a fact, we then had to separate out how we got here and what we should do going forward." Steven Petrow, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists'Association, said he was "troubled" by the Chronicle's decision and believed it set a bad precedent. "Should women be prohibited from covering issues of gender? Should religion writers not be able to go to church? In each case, the answer is no," Petrow said. Bronstein told staffers that he had consulted Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, about how to handle the situation. ,"The issue isn't 'Can this reporter cover the story objectively?' but 'Will your audience believe she can?'" Rosenstiel told Bronstein. "What will the audience of your publication think if these folks have done things that would cause the audience to believe their coverage was not independent?" At KQED, executive producer Raul Ramirez said both Shafer and his editors were "uncomfortable" with Shafer covering the story after he and his partner were married. While Shafer continues to host the California Report and do an occasional on- air interview on issues pertaining to gay marriage, he will not be assigned to the story as a reporter. "It is a question of appearance, and conflict of interest," Ramirez said, noting that Shafer disclosed on the program Friday that he and his partner had been married. CANIDAE All Life Stages Formula 40# Bag Dog Food 20# Bag Cat Food per bag Antioxidant Vitamins Balanced Omega 6 & 3 fatty acids Glucosamine Chondroitin Digestive enzymes Natural Psyllium With coupon expires 3/22/04 Your Low Price Leader RAINBOW LAKEPORT 1975 Areonaul Road* 279-0550 America's Country Store" UKIAH 235 East Perkins* 462-2404 Budget chair calls for review ByTOMCHORNEAU Associated Press SACRAMENTO — State managers will be asked later this month to explain why the costs of a data processing contract have increased twice as fast as the workload during the past five years, Assembly Budget Committee chairman Darrell Steinberg said Monday. Steinberg said he is concerned about a report by The Associated Press that California's contract with Electronic Data Systems has ballooned to $230 million a year while auditors say there are few records to justify the escalation. "The state doesn't have a great history with these kinds of information technology contracts," said Steinberg, D- Sacratnento. "There are obviously dollars to be saved in procuring information technology in a much more effective way and this contract with EDS is a prime example." The Texas-based company has had the contract to process the state's Medi-Cal claims since 1987. An audit conducted last spring found the record keeping by public health officials was so inadequate that auditors could not explain why costs have more than doubled while the. number of bills processed by the company have only increased 37 percent during that time. Auditors also questioned payments of more than $100 million since 1999 to the company for contract changes that were awarded with little review. The company was paid an additional $19 million out of money originally set aside to encourage other companies to compete for the state contract. Although auditors recommended a number of management changes to tighten controls over the contract, virtually none of them has been implemented, the Legislative Analyst's Office reported last week. Steinberg's budget oversight committee will consider the EDS contract as part of its review of state purchasing and information technology procurement at a hearing scheduled for March 24. Despite the findings of the auditors, officials at the Department of Health Services have defended the EDS contract as one of the nation's most tightly managed. Steinberg said he was not ready to pass judgment on the issue until he hears more from the department. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the audit shows something needs to be done. "I'm surprised that there was nothing done after the criticism last spring," he said. "When you get this kind of criticism and you don't respond, that just institutional foot-dragging that needs to be corrected. "Contract procurement of information technology and of this scale is difficult to sort through, but it's got to be done," said Coupal, whose organization is one of the state's largest taxpayer groups that also acts as a watchdog over government spending. Stan Rosenstein, deputy director of Health Services, said the contract's costs increased because of the increased caseload and the higher number of claims processed for other health programs outside of Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is California's version of the federal Medicaid program that provides medical services to low- income families, the elderly and the disabled. Jointly funded by the state and federal government, the program serves about 6.8 million people and costs about $31 billion annually, of which the state pays $12 billion. GROCERY OUTLET Doc, Kelly, and the friendly team of Ukiah Grocery Outlet invite you to stop by and take advantage of the best bargains in town, with new items daily. As Always Shop Us Firs & Save up to 40% FOOD STAMPS CCEPTE Ukiah Grocery Outlet 1203 N. State St • Ukiah 463-2129 Store Hours: M-S 8-8 • Sun. 9-7 Food Stamps & E.B.T. Gladly Accepted Purchase of $20 or more Good thru 3/22/04 Limit One Per Household

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