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In case you haven’t heard, Ruth McKinnie Braun, education editor for San Diego News Network and a longtime reporter for the Union-Tribune, passed away this week after being diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. She was an extraordinarily passionate person about schools and kids. I only got to meet her in person once, but I’ll always remember her exhorting me to look more and look deeper.

Braun had survived an earlier bout with breast cancer years ago. Earlier this summer, she wrote on her blog about what it was like to leave the oncologist with a clean bill of health. Her words are especially poignant now:

[M]y annual visit still brings me back to a quiet place inside myself where I ponder what could have been and how lucky I am to be here. … In years past, this calm thankfulness that comes over me as I wait would linger for weeks, even months. Today, I confess, it was short lived. I drove the final carpool of the school year from my daughter’s high school. Traffic was a bear and one of the girls was late. The everyday life of being a mom. Isn’t it grand?

I’ll miss her, and I know all of San Diego will, too.

  • We zero in on an unusual attempt to use methods for gifted children with students of all levels, starting at a younger age, at a handful of San Diego Unified schools. The first to test the waters is Cabrillo Elementary in Point Loma. It is part of a wider shift toward plucking the strategies that were once confined to classes for the gifted to mainstream classrooms.
  • The North County Times reports that an Oceanside principal has been charged with grand theft, and it seems to be related to parent fundraising at the school. And things just don’t seem to be coming up roses up north: The only high school in the Fallbrook Union High School District is in hot water under No Child Left Behind standards for improvement in test scores.
  • Educators are planning to open a specialized private school for students with learning disabilities, the Union-Tribune reports in brief. They are meeting in La Jolla on Wednesday to talk about it.
  • Hector Tobar at the Los Angeles Times writes about a weekend language school meant to help bilingual children keep their first language — in this case Spanish. One of my favorite details? The teachers tell the kids that a teddy bear in the classroom can only speak Spanish to encourage them to speak their first language, instead of immediately switching to English.
  • This is a little old, but better late than never. USA Today reports that a Cheyenne tribe is suing its school district over a new dress code because many families can’t afford the new uniforms and their children are being punished for not showing up with the right clothes. I know at least one mom who is aggravated about school fees and other costs here — have you heard of other examples? Shoot me an e-mail at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.
  • Longtime educator and professor Larry Cuban blogs on the difference between “sprinter” and “marathoner” superintendents, using San Diego as a case study. Sprinters believe “that low test scores and achievement gaps between whites and minorities are due in large part to reluctant (or inept) district bureaucrats, recalcitrant principals, and knuckle-dragging union leaders defending contracts that protect lousy teachers from pay-for-performance incentives,” Cuban blogs. He adds, “What undercuts sprinter-driven reforms in these arenas is the simple fact that fast-moving CEOs fast-track their solutions to these problems, get spent from there exertions or create too much turmoil, and soon exit leaving the debris of their reforms next to the skid marks in the parking lot.”
  • Forty-eight states are trying to hash out a common understanding of what classes and subjects a teen needs to master to be ready for college or a career, Education Week and the Washington Post report. That sounds wonky, but this is really a battle over what all kids should know. The author of one math textbook complains, “What’s missing is this whole notion of literacy and citizenship and solving problems you see in life, rather than just mathematical problems.”
  • And this is just heartbreaking: Teens in a poor, segregated South African township rioted last year because their teacher chronically failed to show up for class. The New York Times reports that the violent episode reflects a larger problem: the outright failure of schools for black children in South Africa, even after apartheid has been wiped away. “If you’re in a township school, you don’t have much chance,” one scholar complains.
EMILY ALPERT

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