National / International News

Several shot in Phoenix suburb

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:44
At least four people have been shot at multiple locations in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

No Charges For Operator Of Drone That Crashed At White House

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:39

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the decision followed a Secret Service investigation into the Jan. 26 incident. The FAA is conducting its own review of the quad copter's crash.

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Feeling the OBR's pain

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:27
The OBR warns some of the assumptions it uses have become 'complex and opaque'

Parents weigh the lessons of Common Core testing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:20
In a small brick house in Glen Burnie, Maryland, 9-year-old Thevy Mak sits at the piano, practicing before a lesson.

Small and thin, with long dark hair, Thevy is a little girl caught up in a big fight playing out around the country. This week, her fourth grade class will take the first round of the new PARCC assessment; standardized tests tied to the Common Core education standards. Thevy won’t be joining them.

“I was glad I didn’t have to,” Thevy says. “Sometimes the questions are really hard and I get really confused.”

Thevy's mom, Sheena Mak, tried some sample questions from the test and felt they were beyond Thevy’s grade level. Mak also doesn’t like what she views as corporate-driven school reform. Pearson, a multi-billion dollar education company, helped develop the test. Not that she went into all that with Thevy.

Sheena Mak (center), with daughters Sophia, 7 (left), and Thevy, 9. Thevy is not taking standardized tests tied to the Common Core standards this year. Amy Scott/Marketplace

"As a parent it is my duty, it's my responsibility, to make the decisions for my children that I think are in their best interest,” Mak says.

Thevy is among millions of students who are scheduled this month to take the first round of tests aligned with the Common Core standards.  Depending on the state, the tests have different names and take different forms. They’re all designed to track kids’ progress toward college and careers. And no matter where you live, there are likely to be families who will refuse to let their kids be tested.

As more parents make that choice this spring, they’re wrestling with what it will mean for their kids. After all, the kids are the ones who have to show up and refuse the tests.

“The first thought that came to my mind was, ‘Boy this puts a kid in an awkward position,’” says Joanna Faber, a former teacher who runs workshops about how to communicate with children.

With all the drama about testing — parents shaming each other on Facebook and protesting in front of schools — Faber says kids may feel torn between two authorities: parent and school. She suggests giving children a choice.

“If your child’s very uncomfortable about the idea of opting out, you might tell her, ‘Listen, if you want to just sit and take the test, that’s okay. I can protest in other ways,’” Faber says.

Parents should let their kids decide whether to take the Common Core tests.
Lynne Rigby wanted to opt her kids out of Florida’s new Common Core test. She says it’s taking too much time away from learning. But she worried about how her seventh grader would feel going against the grain.

“He's such a rule follower and I expected him to want to take the test,” Rigby says.

So she let him and his older brother decide.

“I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, and they’re not here to fight my battle,” she says. “They’re 13 and 14. They’re capable of making those decisions.”

Both boys chose not to take the tests. So did lots of other students at their school, Rigby says, so they didn’t stand out. Other parents worry about how that decision will affect kids later on, though, when they confront other challenges like in college or the workplace.

“I think it’s actually very destructive in a deep way to signal to kids that a test is hard or scary or that they can’t do it,” says Amy Briggs, a mother of two in Brooklyn, New York, a hotbed of the opt-out movement.

Briggs works for a nonprofit that helps teachers implement the Common Core, so she doesn't share the distaste many in the opt-out movement have for the standards themselves. As a mom, Briggs says she’d rather see her kids fail a test than be protected from taking it.

“I feel like my job is to cheer them on,” she says. “I’m not going to remove every obstacle. Tests are part of the deal.”

A lot of parents think they shouldn’t be part of the deal — at least not so many of them — and that test scores shouldn’t play such a big role in how schools are rated, whether get kids ahead, and whether teachers keep their jobs. They say opting out teaches kids a different lesson about standing up for their beliefs.

Public school parents and teachers remain closely divided when it comes to their overall attitudes toward the Common Core standards, split between positive and negative impressions. Kelsey Fowler/Piktochart

Brooklyn Ritter, 9, will sit out testing at her public Montessori school in Baltimore.

“I decided that I didn’t want to take it, because I am no good at tests — especially when it’s being timed,” she says.

Her mom, Elena Ritter, says Brooklyn was so worried about the test she didn’t want to become a third grader. That’s when annual state testing begins. But Ritter says refusing the test is not about saving Brooklyn from something scary.

“I always say ‘90 percent of fear is between your ears,’” she says. But if I can’t get behind the test myself and they don’t want to do it, I didn’t feel like I could push them to do it.

In the end, the lesson a kid takes away from opting out may depend more on the kid than the parents, says Faber.

“If your child feels empowered by it, then it’s empowering,” she says. “If they feel awkward and frightened about it, then it’s not going to be empowering.”

With kids taking 113 standardized tests, on average, by the time they finish high school, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to think about it.

Montsho handed two-year doping ban

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:16
Former 400m world champion Amantle Montsho is banned for two years for doping at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Fed Sends Clear Sign On Raising Rates, But Says Hike Unlikely In April

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:06

In a statement, the Federal Reserve dropped a pledge to be "patient" before raising rates.

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DNA study: Celts not a single group

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 10:00
A DNA study of Britons shows that, genetically, there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the UK.

Osborne warning on corporation tax

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:58
The Chancellor warns Northern Ireland's political parties that they must reach agreement on welfare changes if they are to get power over corporation tax.

Attorney General Holder Jokes Republicans Have 'A New Fondness For Me'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:45

The Senate has delayed confirming Holder's successor Loretta Lynch. Sen. Durbin says she's been "asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar."

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US tycoon Durst on suicide watch

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:43
Millionaire real estate tycoon Robert Durst is moved to a mental health unit after he was deemed a suicide risk.

Alonso has 'good day' in simulator

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:42
McLaren are encouraged by Fernando Alonso's session in the simulator as part of a plan for his return to the track.

Mesa, Ariz., Police Seek Active Shooter

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:38

A police spokesman said at least four people have been shot. He said police are looking for a bald white male in his 40s, wearing a gray shirt, black pants or shorts and with a tattoo on his neck.

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Risks Run High When Antipsychotics Are Prescribed For Dementia

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:35

Results from an analysis of veterans' health records show a higher risk of death among people taking antipsychotic drugs for symptoms of dementia than has been documented before.

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Putin admits Crimea sanctions damage

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:31
As thousands of Russians hail the anniversary of Crimea's annexation, President Putin says sanctions have been damaging but not fatal.

Budget calculator 2015

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:31
How will the Budget affect you?

Solar eclipse poses energy challenge

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:29
Friday's solar eclipse will present a significant challenge for the UK's electricity network as demand is expected to fall then surge.

US concern over Israel poll rhetoric

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:24
The White House expresses "deep concern" over "divisive rhetoric" in Israel's election, and reiterates US support for Palestinian statehood.

MSPs condemn MEP's Abu Hamza comment

BBC - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:23
MSPs unanimously condemn comments by UKIP MEP David Coburn comparing a Scottish government minister to a convicted terrorist.

Video Break: Soaring Through An Immense Vietnamese Cave

NPR News - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:21

American photographer Ryan Deboodt says he filmed Hang Son Doong on his third visit. The world's largest cave features a river and huge "skylights" that have allowed trees and wildlife to flourish.

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Yik Yak, privacy settings and the anonymous economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-03-18 09:16

In South by Southwest Interactive’s idea exchange, the goal is often trying to get some pattern recognition. Brands, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, academics — everyone is trying to get a sense of what is happening right now, and what is the Next Big Thing. Right now, data privacy is a huge issue. Over 100 events at Interactive tackle privacy as a topic, from drones to health care.

One of the week’s privacy-focused events was the release of a new login management system from Yahoo. The company is calling it an “on-demand password” system where, every time you want to login, you get a new code texted to your phone. For a company that has been pulling in user data — and fielding “change password” requests — for years this seems to make a lot of sense. But it’s also part of a larger recognition at Yahoo that users increasingly understand the value of data protection and control.

“It’s really important to provide our users with the tools and the ability to control what they share with us,” says Dylan Casey, a VP of products at Yahoo. “And, be as transparent as possible about what we do with it.”

Other people at Southby are here to talk about anonymity. For Yik Yak, one of the hot startups making an appearance at the festival, anonymity is a key feature. The app lets college kids share anonymous comments publicly with the entire campus community. There has been plenty of criticism leveled at Yik Yak for allowing racism, sexism, and worse to be posted without much accountability. Co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington say they are combating that content by adding filters for certain language. But they tout the app for recently alerting students to a campus shooting nine minutes before the college’s emergency alert system. And their promise of anonymity for users is bringing in cash.

“The company's at about 35 people working on Yik Yak,” Droll says. “We've raised about 70 million dollars and we have a presence at just about every college campus in america.”

Yik Yak is one of many increasingly popular apps that offer anonymity as a big selling point. But many of these startups don’t have to worry about revenue yet. For Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, data is an incredibly valuable resource. Which is probably why those larger companies are trying to offer more general controls and protection--not anonymity.

Is there a way to mine data and offer some anonymity to a growing number of users who don't want their email messages used for marketing ploys, or something worse? Security specialist at the company Rapid7 Nicholas Percoco says it depends on what you really want from your technology.

“By nature of using the device or service,” he says, “the benefit of that is that it’s tracking you.”  

Location based rewards, mapping, recommendations and more convenience based on the data we’re giving up is already here. And even if you do decide you do want anonymity as a user and are willing to do the work to get it, it might be a quixotic quest. Percoco says as time goes on, companies that pull in our data get bought and sold, along with our information. Take a bit from data column A and a bit from data column B, and a company, government or hacker can turn anonymity into your positive ID.

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