The Achievement Gap Widens in New York City

This year, New York State rejiggered the standardized tests that it uses to measure the math and reading proficiency of its third through eighth graders. Frankly, officials said, according to a New York Times piece, the exams had become too predictable—and thus, not hard enough.

The result of the state's efforts to raise its standards: The failure of nearly half of its students to measure up to them—fewer than half of the kids are proficient in English and only 54 percent have the required math skills. (Last year, roughly 67 percent of New York students were up to snuff in English, with 82 percent were proficient in math.)

This weekend, the Times ran an excellent infographic that illustrates how black and hispanic students were the primary victims of the heightened standards—which had the immediate effect of widening the achievement gap between those minority groups and white and Asian students in New York City.

One of the many schools whose once strong numbers were humbled by the shift was the Promise Academy, the centerpiece charter school of the Harlem Children's Zone. The school saw its third graders go from 100 percent proficiency in math in 2009 to only 56 percent as weighted against the tougher standards.

Those results won't help the HCZ as it refutes a study from the Brookings Institution, which asserts that the wraparound programs related to nutrition, employment, and other social services do not help to raise the level of student performance at schools within the Zone. The Obama administration wants to replicate so-called "promise neighborhoods" based on the HCZ model around the country, though the House recently slashed funding for the effort.

Geoffrey Canada, who conceived of and runs the HCZ, remained undaunted in his mission, as he responded to the new test scores in the Times:

There are two reactions those of us in this business can have. One is to complain, and it’s human nature to do that. The other is to say we need to do something dramatically more intensive and powerful to prepare our kids. We are going to look at the mirror and say we have got to do better.

via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

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Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

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The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

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