The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 1, 2011
Over one-third of California teens not getting gym classes at school

PE.JPGMore than 38 percent of the California's adolescent students (12-17) are not receiving any physical education at school -- despite state mandates. In addition only 42 percent of teens participate in PE on a daily basis, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

School-based PE add an average of 18 minutes of exercise per week to the overall physical activity needed to maintain good health. UCLA researchers found only 19 percent of state teens getting the 60 minutes of activity per day recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Student participation physical education has been reduced -- if not cut completely -- at many schools due to budget cuts and various exemptions (such as making room for driver's training). The study suggests that PE class requirements be re-instituted for teens of all ages. (Participation tends to fall dramatically as students get older.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Sheldon High School students begin their PE class with calisthenics and stretching exercises in the school's main gymnasium. 1999 Sacramento Bee photo by Jay Mather

August 31, 2010
Western Placer math texts finally get passing grades

By Diana Lambert
dlambert@sacbee.com

Western Placer Unified to the list of California school districts weary of error-filled textbooks.

Fourth- and fifth-grade math teachers in the district, which serves Lincoln and surrounding areas, started school for a second year with mistake-prone teachers editions. They had spent all of last year waiting for corrected student texts from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School Publishers.

The California HSP Math student texts were replaced over the summer, but the teachers editions were delivered just Monday, said Mary Boyle, deputy superintendent of education services for the district.

Fifth-grade math teacher Dan Burbage-Macaluso said he received four sets of teachers editions over the past 12 months. Some had errors. One was the wrong book.

Replacement of the student books was just as chaotic. The first delivery of texts exceeded the state's limit for errors, Boyle said. The next two were more of the same. The district finally hit pay dirt on delivery No. 4.

There were different kinds of mistakes in the texts, said Burbage-Macaluso, who teaches at Foskett Ranch Elementary. One problem confused length and width. Another asked students to estimate the price of buying a number of bushes without including the price of the bushes, he said.

Western Placer paid the publisher $213,509 for math books for elementary grades.

August 18, 2010
California per pupil spending is 32nd in nation

New school finance data from the National Center for Education Statistics ranks states and the District of Columbia in terms of per pupil spending (median current expenditures) for the school year 2007-08 (fiscal year 2008). Alaska is far ahead of the pack with $21,730. New York is second with $16,183. California ranks 32nd with $9,015. That's slightly below the national median of $9,509.

The NCES report includes finanical data for the largest 100 public elementary and secondary school districts in the United States. Boston City Schools tops the list with current expenditures per pupil of $20,324. New York City School District follows with $17,923. Three local districts are included: Sacramento City Unified ($10,051, rank 29); San Juan Unified ($9,141, rank 44); and Elk Grove Unified ($8,554, rank 64). 

August 12, 2010
Studies reveal minority graduation gap at nation's colleges

The Education Trust just published two reports examining graduation rates of white, black and Hispanics students at U.S. colleges and universities. Overall an average of 57 percent of all students enrolled in a 4-year program earn a degree within six years. But only 40 percent of African Americans and 49 percent of Hispanics graduate -- compared to 60 percent of whites. This "graduation gap" varies widely from institution to institution. Some do well at keeping the gap small between white and blacks, whites and Latinos. Others not so much.

California universities are represented in lists of both the biggest and smallest white/minority gap schools. UC Riverside, for example, graduates 66.9 percent of black students compared to 62.4 percent white (a gap of -4.5). Similarly, UCR awards degrees to 63.4 percent of Hispanic students compared to 62.4 percent of whites (a gap of -1.0). CSU Chico, on the other hand, shows a large black-white gap of 26.7 (30.8 to 57.5 percent) and a Hispanic-white gap of 16.0 (41.5 to 57.5 percent).

Here's the breakdown for the two local universities. The figures are six-year graduation rates for 2008, the latest year available.

UCD CSUS
White Grad Rate 82.5 45.7
Black Grad Rate 73.1 29.5
Hispanic Grad Rate 73.5 36.2
All Students 81.4 41.5
Source: College Results Online
July 2, 2010
CPB: California funding of schools ranks near bottom of U.S.

Is California racing to the bottom in its support for schools? A new analysis by the California Budget Project (a non-profit that advocates for the poor) says the state's funding of public education generally lags the rest of the country. CPB crunched data from the National Education Association and the National Center for Education Statistics and found:

* California ranked 44th in state spending per K-12 student in 2009-10 (Calif - $8,826; rest of nation - $11,372).
* California ranked 46th in state spending as a percentage of personal income in 2008-09 (3.28 percent versus 4.25 percent).
* California ranked 50th in the number of students per teacher in 2009-10 (21.3 versus 13.8).
* California's spending on schools as a share of the state economy trailed the rest of the country for at least 40 years and the gap grew to a record high in 2009-10 (3.3 percent versus 4.3 percent).
* California trailed the rest of the nation in per student spending since the early 1980s (inflation-adjusted dollars). The gap ballooned to $2,400 in 2009-10. 
* Largely due to Proposition 13, California schools after 1977-78 began receiving a much larger portion of funding from state versus local sources (55 percent versus 30 percent in 2009-10).

July 1, 2010
Interactive: California's most troubled schools

The state Department of Education makes school districts report each year whether they are fiscally sound. More than 150 California school districts say that, based on current projections, they may not be able to meet their financial obligations by 2012, the highest number in at least 15 years, according to the latest data. School districts in red are deemed to be in the worst shape.







June 2, 2010
The who, what, where, when of school crime

Thumbnail image for schoolcrime.JPGThe National Center for Education Statistics last week released its report on crime that occurs at school. The data-heavy study (derived from the 2003-05 National Crime Victimization Survey) breaks down incidents by such factors as time of day, location in the school, whether police were involved and characteristics of offenders.

Some highlights:

* 4.8 million criminal incidents (including 2.9 million thefts and 1.8 million violent crimes) occurred on school campuses during the period 2003-05.

* Most violent incidents (54 percent) happened inside school buildings. 35 percent happened outside buildings on school grounds. 11 percent on the route to and from schools. Most violent crimes (85 percent) did not involve a weapon. In 73 percent of such incidents, the victim suffered no injury.

* The vast majority of incidents (82 percent) were not reported to police.

* Most thefts and violence occurred between noon and 3 p.m. (36 percent and 41 percent respectively) than at other times of the day.

-- Pete Basofin

May 20, 2010
California to Texas Educators: "No thanks"
textbook.JPG

A move by Texas educators to revise social studies textbooks has one California state senator pressing to ensure that Texas doesn't mess with us.

On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, to ensure that California textbooks aren't subject to the same curriculum changes proposed in Texas. Yee is worried that, because of the large number of public school students in Texas, the "extreme right-wing curriculum changes" could influence textbooks nationwide.

Some historians have criticized the revisions as being historically inaccurate and an attempt to rewrite history. Proponents of the Texas plan say the current historical narrative has been hostile to religion and capitalism, and that the liberal left is distorting the proposed curriculum changes.

Among the changes, which recently got preliminary approval by the largely conservative Texas board of education, include replacing terms such as "capitalism" with "free-enterprise system." Another amendment requires that lessons on the McCarthy era include discussion of communist infiltration of the U.S. government. And, hip-hop would be dropped from the list of the nation's important cultural movements while including country and western music.

- Marjie Lundstrom



About The Public Eye

Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at: fraudsquad@sacbee.com.

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