NEWS DAY | Crunching math scores / Wilder cutting jobs, programs / Going to the dogs / Pakistan attacks

Math_Symbol_ClipartCrunching the math scores Minnesota’s math scores remain above average for fourth and eighth graders, while national scores increased slightly for eighth graders and remained at the same level for fourth-graders, according to the national report released yesterday. Minnesota’s scores remained nearly the same as they were two years ago, with 54 percent of Minnesota fourth-graders showing proficiency.

Minnesota’s achievement gap remains large. MPR explains:

On the one hand, Minnesota’s black, Hispanic and American-Indian students all scored higher than the national average for each ethnic group….

On the other hand, Minnesota’s actual achievement gap is larger than the national average. While students of color regularly performed above the national average, so too did white students – which kept the gap large. The national achievement gap between white and black fourth-graders, for example, is 26 points. Minnesota’s gap is 28.

Wilder will cut 260 jobs The Wilder Foundation announced yesterday that it will cut 260 jobs, almost one-third of its 650-person work force, according to the Pioneer Press. The cuts come because of the recession’s impact, which slashed the value of the Wilder Foundation endowment.

Cuts will include:
• closure of residential treatment centers for troubled children and teens: Bush Memorial Children’s Center, Holcomb House and Spencer House;
• divesting from ownership of low-income housing in six buildings and ending management of low-income housing in an additional six buildings;
• closing the Home Health Agency (600 senior clients) and the Housekeeping and Homemaker service, which assists seniors.

With a $40.6 million budget in 2008, Wilder provided direct service to thousands of vulnerable people in the community; research that focused on community needs, accomplishments, and challenges; and a meeting place in its new building open to a wide variety of community events and organizations.

Wilder launched its first-ever capital campaign in 2005, opening its new headquarters at Lexington and University in 2008. The Second Century Capital Campaign came, according to Wilder’s annual report, “after 100 years of relying on funding its programs and services primarily from the Wilder family endowment established in 1906,” and was a signal that the foundation “needed support to continue its mission of serving the community’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Wilder Foundation CEO Tom Kingston was quoted in the Pioneer Press as saying that the new building does not contribute to the foundation’s current financial problems, but rather is “exactly on track with saving money,” and had actually improved cash flow.

News is going to the dogs And other animals.

Dog flu, aka H3N8, has spread to 30 states, according to Tampa Bay Online. WCBS in New York says that there is a vaccine, but that the mortality rate is low and the usual course is a couple of weeks of “coughing, high fever and runny noses.” The flu, first spotted at a greyhound track in Florida in 2004, is not related to H1N1, and is not contagious to humans. The new dog flu was originally a horse flu that went to the dogs.

Raising chickens in St. Paul will get cheaper, but not easier, reports the Pioneer Press. The city council lowered the permit fee from $72 to $27 but said prospective chicken owners will still need signatures from 75 percent of neighbors within 150 feet to get a permit, reports the Pioneer Press. And yes, roosters are still allowed.

• The Brits have created a fruit fly that is “sexually irresistible,” reports BBC.

A moose “calmly hung out in a Fargo, N.D., hotel courtyard for several hours Wednesday morning, munching on grass and leaves,” before being tranquilized and taken to a wildlife refuge, reports the Star Tribune.

On a more serious note, Ron Way’s excellent report in MinnPost yesterday asked whether the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) may finally be ready to enforce the law on large dairy and feedlot operations across the state. He notes the criticism arising from “excessive timidity by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to deal with a problem that’s left several families and children sporadically inhaling “dangerous” hydrogen sulfide fumes over a two-year period,” and recites the history of MPCA delays in responding to complaints, and lax enforcement against super-sized feedlot operations.

That “history of bowing to agriculture, especially in environmental policy” should be familiar to everyone in the state by now, and there’s nothing in Way’s report to indicate that it is changing.

World/National news

Social Security – no increase this year For the first time since automatic cost-of-living increases were instituted in 1975, social security recipients will not get an increase this year. Because of the recession, inflation has flat-lined or even dipped to the negative side, so there will be no benefit adjustment.

Pakistan A series of attacks across the country today demonstrated the reach of Taliban and Al Qaeda factions and the inability of security forces to maintain zones of safety.

Teams of gunmen attacked three security sites in or near the eastern city of Lahore, reports NPR, “showing the militants are highly organized and able to carry out sophisticated, coordinated strikes against heavily fortified facilities despite stepped up security across the country.” The attacks began just after 9 a.m., and streets emptied as the city shut down.

In northwest Pakistan, a suicide car bomb exploded next to a police station in the Saddar area of Kohat, killing 11 people. Another bomb, near a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killed at least five people.

According to the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Lahore, “Thursday’s co-ordinated strikes appear to say to security forces “the more you come after us, the more we’ll go after you.”

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