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Daily Glean: For state schools, higher test scores bring more pain

Nearly two-thirds of Minnesota high school juniors failed to meet No Child Left Behind math standards, reports the PiPress’s Megan Boldt and MaryJo Webster. This year’s sophomores will have to pass the standardized test to graduate; one Minneapolis leader tells the Strib’s Emily Johns and James Walsh that grad rates may drop. Despite slightly improved overall scores, rising NCLB subgroup standards mean more high-poverty schools will face federal sanctions.

More on testing: A yawning achievement gap persists between whites and non-whites; Minneapolis’ was worst. However, MPR’s Tim Nelson notes American Indian reading scores surged 12 percent, the biggest gain among subgroups. But Asian and Hispanic third-grade reading scores are down more than 10 percent in two years. One reformer notes math-passing rates declined by half from third to 11th grades. Nelson adds that two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics support testing, but only a quarter of whites do.

Take that, Kersten! The Strib test story notes that among schools with a majority of low-income kids, the best math-test performer was Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy. Yes, that’s the Arabic-language charter school Strib columnist Katherine Kersten has crusaded against for allegedly impermissible Muslim practices; 84 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches; 86 percent reached math proficiency.

Minneapolis police are increasingly searching cellphones for evidence, and now have a $4,000 Israeli forensic device that can “read and copy a cell phone’s video, photos, text messages, call history and personal audio recordings.” The Strib’s Steve Alexander writes that the device can scan 1,400 cellphone models and extract data in two to three minutes. There have been 68 cellphone “searches” this year.

The PiPress’s Bob Shaw is in the middle of a three-parter on affordable housing; the Met Council wants a third of housing to be affordable, but its goals have “no teeth.” One interesting facet: the numerical differences between ‘burbs. Shaw notes Burnsville has twice as many subsidized affordable units per-capita as Eagan; Stillwater three times that of Afton, and Apple Valley has doubled totals of some neighbors. Lake Elmo has a single government-subsidized unit.

On Tuesday, the quarter-cent transit sales tax kicks in for five metro counties. The PiPress has an excellent graphic comparing new rates here. You’ll pay almost a percentage point less in Scott and Carver counties, compared with Minneapolis, but you’ll have to pay those high gas prices if you want to drive out for bargains.

The PiPress’s Rachel Stassen-Berger notes Norm Coleman has a new ad acknowledging economic troubles and touting his gas-tax opposition. “Does it make people feel more secure to hear about their insecurities from an incumbent?” Stassen-Berger asks.

The Strib’s Mark Brunswick profiles 155 Minnesota National Guard soldiers who build “combat outposts” in Baghdad’s worst sections. Brunswick says the soldiers “wield their hammers with 80 pounds of combat gear on their back” and have built more than 220,000 square feet of office and living space in places like Sadr City. There’s been only one injury, from a mortar attack. Their work is “largely designed to last no more than five years” — hopeful withdrawal sign or odd obsolescence?

Wild: A Minneapolis woman with a brain pacemaker says “wireless widgets” can affect her settings, and the list of devices keeps growing. Jackie Christensen has Parkinson’s; St. Jude Medical just began testing an implant to fight depression. In the Strib, Christensen urges the government to reassert its regulatory rights over electromagnetic interference, rather than deferring to industry. WCCO has a story on depression-ameliorating implants here.

Reality has hit Minneapolis convention boosters, who are no longer pushing for a massive, 1,000-plus-room convention hotel. The Strib’s Steve Brandt says one proposal had called for $40 million to $100 million subsidies to a $300 million project. More than 1,200 hotel rooms have opened downtown in the last 30 months.

The Strib’s Norman Draper looks at how schools are dealing with high fuel prices. Robbinsdale is pushing back start times at most elementary schools 20 minutes to cut bus routes. The Rosemount- Eagan-Apple Valley district’s 200-bus-fleet costs have soared $700,000 in three years. Minneapolis has received a bargain by joint city-district fuel purchasing.

A few days after the PiPress said it was OK to delay an instant-runoff voting initiative, a Strib editorial urges St. Paul City Council members to let voters decide this year. The no-primary, ranked-choice system has drawn constitutional questions, but the Strib says the city attorney’s fears aren’t solid enough to deny the voters their decision. (Disclaimer: I worked on Minneapolis’ IRV initiative.)

Today’s PiPress editorial page has been outsourced west; both stories come from the Portland Oregonian.

After an HIV-positive boy was banned from swimming or showering in an Alabama campground pool, the local Camp Heartland named its new swimming hole for the boy and flew the family up to take a dip, KSTP reports.

Nort spews: I’m getting vaklempt; The National League is leaving town. Kevin Slowey was masterful as the Twins beat the Brewers 5-0, but they’re still a game and a half back of the White Sox. At Interlachen, 19-year-old golfer Inbee Park became the youngest U.S. Women’s Open winner ever, winning by four shots. The Wild dealt Brian Rolston’s rights to Tampa; he becomes a free agent tomorrow, but tells the PiPress that Minnesota is still in the mix.

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