Pilot program using iPad textbooks bumped math scores 20%

A yearlong pilot program with digital textbooks on Apple’s iPad found that students’ algebra scores increased by 20 percent when compared to a curriculum with traditional books.

On the heels of Apple’s e-textbook announcement in New York City this week, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced the results of its “HMC Fuse: Algebra I” pilot program at Ameila Earhart Middle School in California’s Riverside Unified School District. The Algebra I digital textbook is touted as the world’s first full-curriculum algebra application developed exclusively for Apple’s iPad.

In its test run, the “HMH Fuse” application helped more than 78 percent of students score “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the spring 2011 California Standards Test. That was significantly higher than the 59 percent of peers who used traditional textbooks…

The first pilot program took place during the second trimester of the 2010-2011 school year, when students using “HMH Fuse” were said to have scored an average of 10 points higher than their peers. But that number jumped even higher for the California Standards Test in spring 2011, when “HMH Fuse” students scored about 20 percent higher than students who used traditional textbooks…

A white paper on the HMH Fuse Pilot Program is available for download from the publisher. Other schools and students can download the “HMH Fuse Shell” applications available for free on the iPad App Store, with curriculums available as in-app purchases within the applications.


Astronomy Pic of the Day

Days in the Sun — Regina Valkenborgh

From solstice to solstice, this six month long exposure compresses time from the 21st of June till the 21st of December, 2011, into a single point of view. Dubbed a solargraph, the unconventional picture was recorded with a pinhole camera made from a drink can lined with a piece of photographic paper. Fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure, the simple camera continuously records the Sun’s path each day as a glowing trail burned into the photosensitive paper. In this case, the spot was chosen to look out over the domes and radio telescope of the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury Observatory. Dark gaps in the daily arcs are caused by cloud cover, whereas continuous bright tracks record glorious spells of sunny weather. Of course, in June, the Sun trails begin higher at the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice. The trails sink lower in the sky as December’s winter solstice approaches. Last year’s autumn was one of the balmiest on record in the UK, as the many bright arcs in the lower part of this picture testify.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Mayors from NYC to Los Angeles support same-sex marriage

Is your mayor in the picture?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Mayors of about 80 U.S. cities from New York to Los Angeles to Houston are backing a campaign to remove legal barriers to same-sex marriage nationwide.

“The more support we build in our cities and states, the stronger case we can make for extending the freedom to marry to loving couples no matter where they live,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles said…at a news briefing on the issue. Same-sex marriage is illegal under California law.

Legislators in Washington, New Jersey and Maryland are pushing measures to permit the practice, while voters in North Carolina and Minnesota will face ballot questions this year on banning it. Federal law doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, which are legal in New York, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Law-abiding, tax-paying families and their children deserve the same opportunities, the same rights and the same responsibilities afforded to every other family,” said Villaraigosa, a Democrat, at the briefing in Washington, where the U.S. Conference of Mayors is meeting. He spoke in support of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based advocacy group that says bans discriminate against homosexuals and infringe on their rights…

“On average in New York City, 700 gay and lesbian couples are now getting married at the city clerk’s offices” each month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “That means every month, hundreds of more parents and children are gaining the economic stability and protections that come with being a formal family unit.”

The mayor added that the change has been an economic boon for the largest U.S. city. He has said that the new law helps companies attract top talent and draws same-sex couples as tourists, including some who intend to marry while in New York…

Efforts to make the practice legal gained momentum in 2003, when the top Massachusetts court ruled 4-3 that a ban was unconstitutional. In 2004, the city of San Francisco initiated a court battle by letting gay couples wed. Massachusetts became the first state to permit same-sex marriage in May of that year.

Like so many civil rights struggles, though religious fundamentalists form the bastion of reactionary opposition, the issue of marriage equality encourages many more people to rethink the bigotry that props up the intellectual dishonesty and fear that denies equal opportunities to all citizens of this nation.

Obama rejects Roman Catholic Church plea for exemption from insurance covering birth control

The Obama administration said Friday that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.

Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year — until Aug. 1, 2013 — to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1…

Since I’m a devout member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can I get a similar one-year dispensation, say, from paying my income tax?

The rule takes a big step to remove cost as a barrier to birth control, a longtime goal of advocates for women’s rights and experts on women’s health.

In announcing details of the final rule on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

“Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women,” Ms. Sebelius said, and “it is documented to significantly reduce health costs.”

Catholic bishops issued a statement saying…“Blah, blah, blah, bladiddy-blah, blah, blah!”

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It only took the Navy 66 years to recognize a Black sailor’s heroism

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Carl E. Clark, 95, stood before a cheering crowd of 600 on Tuesday at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View to receive a combat medal for bravery in World War II, an honor he was originally denied because he’s black…

On May 3, 1945, in the Battle of Okinawa, Japan, six kamikaze planes hit the U.S.S. Aaron Ward, engulfing the ship’s deck in a deadly inferno. As the fire approached an ammunition locker that would have exploded and destroyed the ship, Mr. Clark — who broke his collarbone in the attacks and was the only survivor of a damage control team — grabbed a hose typically operated by several men and doused the flames.

His actions saved the vessel, but they were not mentioned in the battle report. In the deeply segregated Navy of that time, Mr. Clark was just a servant — a ship’s steward — and it was common practice then for the heroics of blacks in the military to be ignored or discredited…

Mr. Clark’s deeds would have remained unrecognized except for Sheila Dunec, an instructor at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, who met him in 1999 as part of a project to document veterans’ remembrances. She eventually brought the matter to the attention of Representative Eshoo, who pressed the Navy to investigate…

For Mr. Clark and other black servicemen in 1945 the war raged on two fronts: the battle against the enemy, and the relentless racism within the military. The constant struggles led to a complex view of the war.

“I couldn’t hate the Japanese,” Mr. Clark said. “I couldn’t have the same feelings toward the enemy as the Caucasians because of the way we were treated at home…”

At Tuesday’s ceremony he accepted the medal on behalf of other black servicemen whose deeds and deaths were never noted. “I want to share this honor with all of those men,” he said in his speech.

He stayed in the Navy after the war to provide for his family, rising to the rank of chief petty officer to command 175 men. He finally retired in 1958, but he said in the 22 years he served the racism never relented. When he received his discharge papers a young white clerk said, “Here you go, boy.” Embittered, he left without saying goodbye to his men…

And now Mr. Clark, who appears decades younger than his age…finds himself looking forward — hoping his story teaches younger blacks, who he said don’t fully appreciate his generation’s struggles.

“Racial relations in the country have come a long way,” he said, “but I know it has quite a way to go.”

At the rate with which our pundits and politicians approach tasks requiring backbone and a sense of history and justice — turning around bigotry in this Land of Liberty seems always to be measured in decades. If you leave it up to that mythic grassroots American, the timespan might be centuries. Or so it seems.

Retired Beefeater ejected from pub by landlady bigot

A former Beefeater at the Tower of London has reportedly been thrown out of his local pub for talking German to his daughter.

Tom Sharp, 71, said he was talking to his half-German daughter in the Packhorse pub in the Peterborough village of Northborough when their conversation slipped into German.

Mr Sharp…said the pub’s landlady flew into a rage when she heard the language being used on Wednesday evening.

He claims she told him: “We are white, you are English so you speak English in my pub otherwise get out.” Other drinkers who witnessed the row and spoke up for Mr Sharp and his 49-year-old daughter Nichole Falconer were also ejected, he said.

“I honestly couldn’t believe she was telling us we couldn’t speak German. Now and again the odd German phrase slips up – it is my daughter’s mother tongue. It is natural,” he said…

“I think it is a sad reflection of her attitude to life that she can be upset about speaking a language she can’t understand. It’s outrageous. She was just like a mad woman completely possessed.”

The incident has been reported to police as a hate crime

“I served in the army for 26 years before joining the beefeaters for 20 years. I guarded the Tower of London…Should a father not speak to his daughter in her mother tongue..?”

The landlady of the pub, which is owned by Scottish and Newcastle but managed by LT Pub Management, declined to comment.

A police spokesman said…”Officers attended and spoke to both parties.”

Well, there’s local coppers with an aggressive approach to dealing with bigotry.