.
April 30th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Why have high schoolers made little progress in reading, math since '70s?

Despite the tens of billions of dollars the U.S. spends on education every year, high school students have not made any significant gains in reading or math for nearly 40 years. A new government report known as the "Nation's Report Card" shows results for 9, 13, and 17-year-olds dating back to the 1970s.

While the two younger groups have improved in those subjects over the years, scores for 17-year-olds have barely budged.

On reading tests, the high schoolers' scores have improved by exactly one point out of 500 points since 1971. They have "intermediate skills," and can make generalizations about what they've read. As for math, the scores have gone up by just two points since 1973. Students can perform "moderately complex procedures" like using decimals or fractions.

Colleges and businesses, not surprisingly, say many high school students just aren't up to snuff; that they earn diplomas without learning the necessary skills for life. As one education advocate puts it: "If high schools were cell phones, they'd be considered in a dead zone."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls the results for high school students "especially troubling." No kidding...

President Obama speaks about education being one of his administration's top priorities. This national report card suggests he doesn't have much time to waste.

The administration wants to make boosting high school graduation rates a key focus. They also want states to start using tougher common standards for both teaching and testing, instead of benchmarks that vary from state by state.

Here's my question to you: What does it say about the state of education if high schoolers have made little progress in reading and math since the 1970s?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: Education
April 30th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

How can Republican Party improve its image with voters?

ALT TEXT

A girl wears an elephant hat at the Republican National Convention.(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In an effort to counter President Obama's 100th day in office, Republicans are making a push to re-brand themselves as something other than "the party of no."

Some top party members are announcing a series of town hall-style meetings about their ideas for shaping the country. The group will operate outside of the Republican National Committee and will contrast their policy ideas with the Democrats'. So far - that's something that's been lacking.

Members of this "National Council for a New America" include Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senator John McCain, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, among others - not exactly a crop of fresh faces.

The group says it's not a Republican-only forum and will seek to include more than just their ideas; they're calling on all Americans to participate in their policy debate. The Democratic National Committee is dismissing all this, calling it "more beltway PR gimmicks."

Meanwhile it's clear that Republicans need to do something to stop the bleeding. With only about one in four voters identifying themselves as Republicans these days, and a favorable rating of 39 percent, the Republican party is in serious trouble.

Some have even questioned the relevance of the Republican party - should the Democrats get the 60 vote filibuster proof majority in the Senate, while also controlling the House of Representatives and the White House?

Here’s my question to you: What does the Republican Party have to do to improve its image with voters?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Republican Party
April 30th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Has swine flu story been overblown?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you have been bombarded with news coverage of the swine flu for several days now. And when the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to the second highest level - of 5 - yesterday, the media couldn't get enough of it. After all, this stuff sells newspapers and gets ratings. But when you take a look at the numbers, it seems like the story might be overblown...

The WHO has confirmed 257 cases of swine flu worldwide. 97 cases in Mexico, with seven deaths. Mexican officials have reported much higher numbers - 2,500 cases and more than 150 deaths - but those numbers haven't been confirmed. In the U.S., the WHO says there are 109 confirmed cases with 1 death. Out of a population of more than 300 million people, that hardly seems to be cause for alarm.

And scientists who are studying the virus say this strain of influenza doesn't look as deadly as strains that have caused previous pandemics. In fact, some suggest that the current form of the swine flu virus may not even do as much damage as the regular flu.

More than 13,000 people in the U.S. have died of complications from seasonal flu since January; and it's expected to continue killing hundreds of people a week. In total, about 36,000 people a year die from the flu in this country; and worldwide, the annual death toll is somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000.

One scientist tells the Los Angeles Times that just because the swine flu is being identified in more countries doesn't mean it's spreading especially quickly, saying: "You don't ever find anything that you don't look for."

Here’s my question to you: Has the swine flu story been overblown?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health
April 29th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Pres. Obama's effect on race relations in first 100 days?

ALT TEXT

(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

100 days into office, the history Barack Obama made in becoming this country's first African-American president hasn't been lost.

It's something that Mr. Obama rarely talked about on the campaign trail - or since he's taken office - but it is a subtle part of his larger message of change; and may have already improved race relations in this country.

A new New York Times/CBS poll shows 66 percent of those surveyed say race relations are "generally good" in the U.S.; that's up from 53 percent who felt that way in July. 22 percent say they're "generally bad," and that number is down from 37 percent. When it comes to black Americans, the percentage who say race relations are good has doubled since the summer.

When asked a question about his historic presidency at his last press conference, Mr. Obama said that at the inauguration there was "justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination," but then added, "that lasted about a day."

But these poll numbers suggest otherwise. One white woman polled in Indiana - a Democrat - says since the election she's noticed "people of different races being kinder to each other." A Republican white woman in Kansas City says Mr. Obama's openness and acceptance has helped others act the same way. A black Democratic woman in Ohio says with Obama as president, whites and blacks seem to be working toward the same goals.

Here’s my question to you: How has President Obama affected race relations 100 days into office?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

April 29th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Republican Party on brink of irrelevance?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party is just the latest bad news for the Republican Party. Politico suggests the GOP's meltdown is the worst of any party's in decades and has left the Republican party on the brink of irrelevance with few obvious paths back to power.

Sen. Arlen Specter announced yesterday that he would switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

Specter's abandonment comes in the same month as a traditionally Republican leaning district in upstate New York tipped for the Democrats. This means in the nine Northeastern states - there are only 15 GOP House members out of 83 seats - and only three Republican senators out of 18.

On a national level, the GOP is near record levels for unpopularity. Only about one person in four identifies himself as a Republican; and a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 39 percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of the Republican party. Even a lot of Republicans no longer like the party much.

Some Republicans say conservatives have left the GOP with an exclusionary message. Senator Olympia Snowe says, "you certainly haven't heard warm encouraging words of how they view moderates. Either you are with us or against us."

Meanwhile Specter's switch to the Democrats is less than genuine. As recently as March 17, the Pennsylvania senator insisted he would never switch parties. But once the polls indicated he would lose his bid for re-election, he jumped on the Democrats' bandwagon like a bird on a worm. This is called hypocrisy.

Here’s my question to you: Is the Republican Party on the brink of irrelevance?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Republican Party
April 28th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Most families allow media to cover fallen soldiers

ALT TEXT

(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Since the Obama administration lifted the ban on media coverage of fallen troops returning to the U.S., most military families are choosing to allow reporters and photographers to witness the ceremonies.

The press had been banned from covering these solemn ceremonies ostensibly to protect the privacy of the soldiers' families. Cynics suggest it was because President Bush didn't want attention drawn to the fact that soldiers were being killed in the phony war he started in Iraq.

The ban was actually imposed 18 years ago by Bush's father, the first President Bush, during Operation Desert Storm. The father of one Army corporal recently killed in Iraq said, "I think it was to protect the government's butt." That's exactly what it was.

So far - 14 of 19 families have allowed the media cover their loved one's return. The Pentagon calls it "a pretty good majority." The Air Force Mortuary Affairs office says reporters have been cooperative and there haven't been any problems. They also say they'll help facilitate a meeting with reporters if the family wants... although only one family has done that so far.

Sadly, media interest has dropped off rather dramatically in just a few short weeks: almost 40 members of the press turned up for the return of the first combat casualty they were allowed to cover... at a more recent ceremony, the AP says its photographer was the only one.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if most military families want the media to cover the return of fallen troops to the U.S.?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: U.S. Army • US Military
April 28th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Is spending less a new reality for your family?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In light of the ongoing recession, about one-third of Americans say they've been spending less in recent months. More importantly, they say they plan to make this their "new, normal" pattern in the future. A new Gallup poll shows overall 53 percent of those surveyed say they have been spending less, while 32 percent of those people say it will become the new norm.

Many Americans say they’re saving more in light of tough economic times. Others are struggling just to make ends meet and do not have the extra cash to put away.

30 percent say they're spending about the same amount of money; and a surprising 17 percent say they're spending more. Meanwhile when it comes to savings, 36 percent say they're saving more in these tough times.

31 percent are saving the same amount as before; while 32 percent say they're saving less. This is probably because many Americans are doing everything they can just to make ends meet and don't have any extra money to put away.

The poll also found nearly 60 percent of Americans say they enjoy "saving money" more. That's 22 points higher than those who say they enjoy "spending money" more; and that gap has increased since the last time the question was asked.

It's worth noting that it's difficult to predict what people will actually do in the future; but these poll numbers could mean bad news for the country's retailers. Gallup suggests we may be seeing a "new frugality" settling in among many Americans.

Here’s my question to you: Is spending less a new reality for your family?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Economy
April 28th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Has fear of swine flu changed your life?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Drastic measures are being taken to prevent the spread of swine flu in many countries around the world - including Mexico, which is the eye of the swine flu hurricane. But in the U.S. the response has been more muted.

Only 64 cases of swine flu have been diagnosed here so far - and the majority of these people apparently became ill after traveling to Mexico. Compare that to Mexico's 1,600 cases and more than 150 deaths linked to the swine flu.

Newsweek reports that public health officials suggest the virus probably won't hit us as hard as our neighbors to the South. For one thing, the anti-terror training that took place after 9/11 makes American hospitals better prepared to handle a pandemic.

The U.S. also has more resources: more hospitals, facilities for doctors and nurses, better critical care, and with large quantities of drugs that can treat influenza.

Also, the government's declaring a public health emergency should help, because it can act more aggressively. And, if people are freaking out a bit, they're also more likely to wash their hands, get treated, etc., which can all help keep swine flu from spreading.

In this country some schools have closed, others have told kids not to shake hands. Pharmacies in New York reported that paper face masks were selling by the box; while New Mexico set up a swine flu hot line. One Chicago hospital required anyone entering to use a liquid disinfectant.

Here’s my question to you: Has the fear of swine flu changed your life in any way?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health
April 27th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Would you donate to Gov. Palin's legal defense fund?

If you have a couple extra coins knocking around in your pocket, you could consider a donation to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's legal defense fund. The former Republican vice presidential candidate has about $500,000 in legal fees - partly due to investigations into efforts to fire an Alaska state trooper who's her former-brother-in-law.

Also, supporters say about a dozen new ethics complaints have been filed against Palin in the last four months. The 'Alaska Fund Trust' says on its website: "For Alaskans, the time has come to end the siege on our government by political tricksters. Enough is enough. With the help of reform-minded advocates from across our nation, we will stand up for what is right."

They add that the fund will "reduce the incentive for mischief by Palin's opponents" and turn back the tide of partisan and personal political attacks.

Donations will be limited to $150, and the fund won't accept money from corporations, lobbyists, foreigners or state contractors. Supporters say the names and contribution amounts of all donors will be made public.

They insist this is one of the "most restrictive and transparent legal funds in history," and compare it to other recent funds - like those for both Clintons and former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

Here’s my question to you: Would you be inclined to donate to Governor Sarah Palin's legal defense fund?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Sarah Palin
April 27th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Why has former Pres. Bush been silent on torture debate?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Since the release of those Bush-era interrogation memos, former Vice President Dick Cheney hasn't been able to stop tallking. This was a guy who we barely saw or heard from for eight years. Cheney insists the harsh techniques kept the country safe and President Obama should release more documents to prove that.

As president, George W. Bush denied that his administration authorized torture of prisoners.

Bush's former top political adviser, Karl Rove is accusing Mr. Obama of seeking "show trials" of former administration officials. Even Senator John McCain, who fought for limits on interrogation during the Bush administration, says any talk of prosecution is about "settling old political scores." I guess the fact that laws may have been broken doesn't matter to McCain.

But with all the talk - one person we haven't heard from is former President Bush himself. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy insists an independent commission is needed to find out who exactly authorized this stuff, saying: "I want to know who was it who made the decisions that we will violate our own laws; we'll violate our own treaties; we will even violate our own Constitution."

While president, Bush repeatedly denied that his administration authorized torture of prisoners. But just last week a Senate report showed top Bush officials as early as 2002 gave the CIA approval to use techniques like waterboarding - which has been considered torture since the Spanish Inquisition.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to the torture debate, why has former President Bush been silent?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

« older posts