News Day: Too much testing / “People will die” / Home sales rise, prices plunge / more

Too much testing MN students face high-stakes GRAD tests and MCA II tests this week. For the first time, high school graduation hinges on the 11th grade math GRAD test, and that means failure to graduate for many, unless the law is changed. Legislators are talking about changing the math GRAD law, but not eliminating the burden of test after mandated test that eats up teaching time without delivering benefits to schools or students.

Critics around the world question the value and frequency of testing. MN 2020 describes our school testing requirements as “labyrinthian and byzantine.” Teachers in Britain threaten a boycott of mandated tests, according to BBC.

The Brits claim it’s child abuse to subject students to batteries of “educationally barren” tests. Teachers say the tests disrupt the education process by making them teach to the test, pit school against school, and actually do harm to children. The Department of Children, Schools and Families says standardized tests are required in order to raise achievement levels, and that the threatened boycott would be illegal.

Don’t get sick The metro area’s two “safety net” hospitals — Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) and Regions Hospital in St. Paul — face disaster if the governor’s proposed funding cuts are enacted, reports the PiPress. HCMC estimates that it will lose $50 million, beginning next year, and regions will lose close to $30 million. That’s nine percent of HCMC’s budget and about six percent for Regions.

At the same time, MinnesotaCare and General Assistance medical aid are being cut, more people who are losing their jobs and health insurance, and many of these uninsured people will swell the patient numbers at HCMC and Regions.

HCMC provided $48 million in uncompensated care in 2008, or 15 percent of all the uncompensated care costs in the state — despite being just one of 134 hospitals. Regions provided more than $20 million in uncompensated care in 2008, a figure that has been rising.

“People will die. That’s the reality,” said Lynn Abrahamsen, chief executive officer of HCMC. “People will wait too long to get that care.”

Home sales up Home sales in the 13-county metro area rose by 14 percent in March 2009, compared to March 2008, reports the PiPress, and “a whopping 45 percent in Ramsey County.”

MinnPost reports the Regional Multiple Listing Service numbers:

Pending sales are up 21.3 percent, and closed sales are up 14.2 percent over the previous March. The median sales price, however, was $154,125, down 22.9 percent from March 2008.

Part of the reason for the lower prices: 60% of homes sold in February and March were foreclosed or bank-owned properties. Still, with the federal stimulus package’s First-Time Homebuyer credit on the horizon, real estate professionals are cautiously optimistic.

Mpls settles police bias suit The city of Minneapolis reached a settlement in a bias suit brought against it by five black police officers, reports MPR. The $740,000 settlement goes to Sgt. Charlie Adams, Lt. Lee Edwards, Sgt. Dennis Hamilton, Lt. Don Harris and Lt. Medaria Arradondo. Adams had previously reached a separate settlement in a defamation suit he filed against Police Chief Dolan.

Pierce Butler to 35E? A planned two-mile extension of Pierce Butler Road to connect to I-35E, reports the Strib, is very bad news for two business owners: Daisy Haung and Gennadiy Yermolenko. Haung has invested almost $3 million in a Frogtown grocery and bazaar. Yermolenko has spent $1.5 million to redevelop a salvage yard.

Going hungry in Minnesota Food shelf use is skyrocketing, reports the TC Daily Planet:

Visits to metro area food shelves increased 21 percent in the last year, according to a new report from Hunger Solutions, a hunger relief organization. In Dakota and Carver counties, increases are even more alarming, at 70 percent and 66 percent respectively. At the same time, only about 69 percent of eligible Minnesota residents receive food stamp benefits.

Many of the food shelf users are new to the system, driven by job losses and foreclosures.

Trouble in Thailand Troops opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition after days of demonstrations, BBC reported Sunday night, and red-shirted protesters hurled stones and smoke bombs. “The whole capital is a series of riots,” said one person.

The New York Times reported earlier that the government had declared a state of emergency. The government was forced to cancel an East Asian summit and fly diplomats out by helicopter earlier in the week after protesters laid siege to the beach resort where the summit was beginning.

Protesters are demanding an end to the four-month-old government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and a return to power for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed by a military coup in 2006. On Monday morning, the New York Times reported continuing protests, clashes between police and protesters, and a call for revolution from Thaksin.

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