While the U.S. Congress made Mother’s Day an official holiday in 1914, Obama urged the current legislative body to pass more substantial measures to honor women, starting with several of his administration’s initiatives.
‘Give it meaning’
“If Congress can make a holiday, surely they can back it up with the things that give it meaning,” Obama said.
“That includes paid maternity and paternity leave, sick leave, accommodations for workers who are pregnant, good health care, affordable child care, flexibility at work, equal pay, and a decent minimum wage. We ask our mothers to do more than their fair share of just about everything. Making sure that they’re treated fairly is the least we can do,” the president added.
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day in 1908, began the effort as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers make for their children.
Jarvis had originally envisioned Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. However, when the day became an official holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants pounced to capitalize on the day’s popularity.
Jarvis was disgusted and disowned the holiday before her death in 1948. She had even lobbied the government to remove the holiday from the American calendar.
But Mother’s Day persists. It is one of the most popular holidays and one of the biggest for consumer spending. (VOA)
Chicago, October 21: Medical students such as Alejandra Duran Arreola are trying to shape the debate, and they have the backing of influential medical groups, including the American Medical Association.
Arreola dreams of becoming an OB-GYN in her home state of Georgia, where there’s a shortage of doctors and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S.
But the 26-year-old Mexican immigrant’s goal is now trapped in the debate over a program protecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants like her from deportation. Whether she becomes a doctor depends on whether Congress finds an alternative to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump phased out last month.
Arreola, who was brought to the U.S. illegally at age 14, is among about 100 medical students nationwide who are enrolled in DACA, and many have become a powerful voice in the immigration debate. Their stories have resonated with leaders in Washington. Having excelled in school and gained admission into competitive medical schools, they’re on the verge of starting residencies to treat patients, a move experts say could help address the nation’s worsening doctor shortage.
“It’s mostly a tragedy of wasted talent and resources,” said Mark Kuczewski, who leads the medical education department at Loyola University’s medical school, where Arreola is in her second year. “Our country will have said, ‘You cannot go treat patients.’”
The Chicago-area medical school was the first to openly accept DACA students and has the largest concentration nationwide at 32. California and New York also have significant populations, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
DACA gives protection to about 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who otherwise would lack legal permission to be in the country. The immigrants must meet strict criteria to receive two-year permits that shield them from deportation and allow them to work.
Then-President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012. Critics call it an illegal amnesty program that is taking jobs from U.S. citizens. In rescinding it last month, Trump gave lawmakers until March to come up with a replacement.
Public support for DACA is wide. A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that just 1 in 5 Americans want to deport DACA recipients.
Arreola took a break from her studies last month to travel to Washington with fellow Loyola medical students and DACA recipient Cesar Montelongo Hernandez to talk to stakeholders. In their meetings with lawmakers, they framed the program as a medical necessity but also want a solution for others with DACA.
A 2017 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortfall of between about 35,000 and 83,000 doctors in 2025. That shortage is expected to increase with population growth and aging.
Hernandez, a 28-year-old from Mexico simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D., wants to focus his research on early detection of diseases. His work permit expires next September, and he’s worried he won’t qualify for scientific research funding without the program.
“I’ve shown I deserve to be here,” said Hernandez, who met with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who’s called for Congress to quickly pass a replacement for DACA.
For Arreola it’s about returning to the state she’s called home since she was 14 and giving back to areas in need of doctors.
“My family is from there; I know those people,” Arreola said. “Those are the people that inspired to really give this a push.”
Among those Arreola met with were policy staff for Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who believes the Obama program was “an overreach of executive power” but also wants Congress to write a plan to protect DACA recipients.
Medical school administrators say the immigrant medical students stand out even among their accomplished peers: They’re often bilingual and bicultural, have overcome adversity and are more likely to work with underserved populations or rural areas.
“They come with a cultural competency for how to best treat the individuals from their background, whether immigrants or different races and ethnicities,” said Matthew Shick, a government relations director for the Association of American Medical Colleges. “That gets translated over to their peers in education and training.”
Zarna Patel, 24, is a third-year student at Loyola who was brought to the U.S. from India as a 3-year-old without any legal documents. Her DACA permit expires in January, and she’s trying to renew it so she can continue medical school rotations that require clinical work. If she’s able to work in U.S., Patel will work in disadvantaged areas of Illinois for four years, part of her agreement to get school loans.
“Growing up, I didn’t have insurance,” she said. “I knew what that felt like, being locked out of the whole system.”
For others, there’s added worry of being stuck with debt they can’t repay.
Marcela Zhou, who was born in Mexico after her family moved there from China, is in her third year at the University of California at Los Angeles’ medical school. She wants to work in public health.
“Can I even afford to finish medical school?” said Zhou, who was 12 when she came to the U.S. on a visitor visa that eventually expired. “It’s sort of hard sometimes to keep going.”(VOA)
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning estimates that up to 10 percent of all America’s public schools have adopted some form of personalized learning
The economy needs kids who are creative problem solvers
The digital tool tells us: We have a problem to fix with these kids right here and we can do it right then and there
Washington, USA, August 28, 2017: In middle school, Junior Alvarado often struggled with multiplication and earned poor grades in math, so when he started his freshman year at Washington Leadership Academy, a charter high school in the nation’s capital, he fretted that he would lag behind.
But his teachers used a computer to identify his weak spots, customize a learning plan just for him and coach him through it. This past week, as Alvarado started sophomore geometry, he was more confident in his skills.
“For me, personalized learning is having classes set at your level,” Alvarado, 15, said in between lessons. “They explain the problem step by step, it wouldn’t be as fast, it will be at your pace.”
As schools struggle to raise high school graduation rates and close the persistent achievement gap for minority and low-income students, many educators tout digital technology in the classroom as a way forward. But experts caution that this approach still needs more scrutiny and warn schools and parents against being overly reliant on computers.
The use of technology in schools is part of a broader concept of personalized learning that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It’s a pedagogical philosophy centered around the interests and needs of each individual child as opposed to universal standards. Other features include flexible learning environments, customized education paths and letting students have a say in what and how they want to learn.
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department poured $500 million into personalized learning programs in 68 school districts serving close to a half million students in 13 states plus the District of Columbia. Large organizations such as the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation have also invested heavily in digital tools and other student-centered practices.
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning estimates that up to 10 percent of all America’s public schools have adopted some form of personalized learning. Rhode Island plans to spend $2 million to become the first state to make instruction in every one of its schools individualized. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also embraces personalized learning as part of her broader push for school choice.
Supporters say the traditional education model, in which a teacher lectures at the blackboard and then tests all students at the same time, is obsolete and doesn’t reflect the modern world.
“The economy needs kids who are creative problem solvers, who synthesize information, formulate and express a point of view,” said Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “That’s the model we are trying to move toward.”
At Washington Leadership Academy, educators rely on software and data to track student progress and adapt teaching to enable students to master topics at their own speed.
Digital tool finds problem
This past week, sophomores used special computer programs to take diagnostic tests in math and reading, and teachers then used that data to develop individual learning plans. In English class, for example, students reading below grade level would be assigned the same books or articles as their peers, but complicated vocabulary in the text would be annotated on their screen.
“The digital tool tells us: We have a problem to fix with these kids right here and we can do it right then and there; we don’t have to wait for the problem to come to us,” said Joseph Webb, founding principal at the school, which opened last year.
Webb, dressed in a green T-shirt reading “super school builder,” greeted students Wednesday with high-fives, hugs, and humor. “Red boxers are not part of our uniform!” he shouted to one student, who responded by pulling up his pants.
The school serves some 200 predominantly African-American students from high-poverty and high-risk neighborhoods. Flags of prestigious universities hang from the ceiling and a “You are a leader” poster is taped to a classroom door. Based on a national assessment last year, the school ranked in the 96th percentile for improvement in math and in the 99th percentile in reading compared with schools whose students scored similarly at the beginning of the year.
It was one of 10 schools to win a $10 million grant in a national competition aimed at reinventing American high schools that are funded by Lauren Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Naia McNatt, a lively 15-year-old who hopes to become “the African-American and female Bill Gates,” remembers feeling so bored and unchallenged in fourth grade that she stopped doing homework and her grades slipped.
At the Academy, “I don’t get bored ‘cause I guess I am pushed so much,” said McNatt, a sophomore. “It makes you need to do more, you need to know more.”
In math class, McNatt quickly worked through quadratic equations on her laptop. When she finished, the system spat out additional, more challenging problems.
Her math teacher, Britney Wray, says that in her previous school she was torn between advanced learners and those who lagged significantly. She says often she wouldn’t know if a student was failing a specific unit until she started a new one.
In comparison, the academy’s technology now gives Wray instant feedback on which students need help and where. “We like to see the problem and fix the problem immediately,” she said.
Still, most researchers say it is too early to tell if personalized learning works better than traditional teaching.
A recent study by the Rand Corporation found that personalized learning produced modest improvements: a 3 percentile increase in math and a smaller, statistically insignificant increase in reading compared with schools that used more traditional approaches. Some students also complained that collaboration with classmates suffered because everybody was working on a different task.
“I would not advise for everybody to drop what they are doing and adopt personalized learning,” said John Pane, a co-author of the report. “A more cautious approach is necessary.”
The new opportunities also pose new challenges. Pediatricians warn that too much screen time can come at the expense of face-to-face social interaction, hands-on exploration, and physical activity. Some studies also have shown that students may learn better from books than from computer screens, while another found that keeping children away from the computer for five days in a row improved their emotional intelligence.
Some teachers are skeptical. Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the Badass Teachers Association, an education advocacy group, agrees that technology has its merits, but insists that no computer or software should ever replace the personal touch, motivation and inspiration teachers give their students.
“That interaction and that human element are very important when children learn,” Kilfoyle said. (VOA)
Sirte was a stronghold for Islamic State from 2015-2016
Hundreds of foreign militants joined Islamic State in Sirte
Dozens of women and children detained towards the end of the fighting have been held in Misrata
Misrata, Libya, August 21, 2017:Four Sudanese Children whose parents are believed to have been killed fighting for Islamic State in the Libyan city of Sirte last year were handed over to the Sudanese consul on Sunday for the return to their country. Sirte was a stronghold for Islamic State from 2015-2016 when Libyan forces backed by U.S. air strikes ousted the ultra-hardline group. Hundreds of foreign militants joined Islamic State in Sirte.
Dozens of women and children detained towards the end of the fighting have been held in Misrata, the city from which the military campaign in Sirte was led.
They include nationals of Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, Chad, and Niger. Twenty-one Libyan children have been handed back to their families.
In June, eight Sudanese children were handed over to the Sudanese authorities and returned to Sudan. Eleven other Sudanese women and Sudanese children are still in Misrata.
The Red Crescent’s head of psychological support in Misrata, Salah Abuzreba, appealed to all countries “that haven’t responded until this moment to receive those children as a human act, so they can be returned to their relatives”. (VOA)