Consider this sentence: “The short blade was curved like a scythe, its fat wooden handle fitting snugly in her palm.”

It would be tough for a poor reader to decipher, regardless of his or her age. Or at least that’s what educators might assume.

But at San Ysidro High School, teachers have abandoned their assumptions. They’re pushing English learners harder than they’ve ever pushed them before, taking away remedial reading and amping up the challenge — all in an effort to improve scores on the high school exit exam.

Is this approach working? Our story reveals what the test scores are saying and explains how one school’s approach fits into the wider picture of South Bay middle and high schools.

In other news:

• If you feel like you’ve been hearing a lot more about bank robberies lately, you’re not imagining things.

We checked with the FBI and discovered that local bank robberies (from the San Diego County coast to the Arizona border) through last week are up 42 percent compared to last year.

• Voters in Chula Vista will face a ballot measure that, as we report, has made the city “the hotbed of a fierce debate between organized labor and business interests over lucrative public works contracts and project labor agreements.”

Will the measure actually freeze out union workers from all public works projects? That’s what foes say. But the reality is more complicated, as we explain.

• Our Fact Checkers are still busy checking out statements from candidates as Tuesday’s election nears. In the latest post, we analyze a statement from a City Council candidate who says a federal judge thinks it’s possible to roll back existing pensions through bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy has been floated as a solution to San Diego’s financial problems, especially if it allows the city to cut back on its hefty pension debt. But opponents, including the mayor, say bankruptcy is not an option and argue that it wouldn’t help the city crawl out from under its pension obligations.

Is the candidate telling the truth? We’ll tell you.

• The county grand jury is not happy with the San Diego school district. As we report, it issued a report yesterday that criticized the district for misusing more than $100,000 meant for student government.

The district says it’s on the case.

• Councilman Carl DeMaio has endorsed fellow Republican Lorie Zapf in her race for a council seat. While no one can be too surprised, it’s more interesting than a typical candidate nod because of Zapf’s anti-gay remarks and her default on her mortgage. Not a problem, DeMaio says, while taking a moment to zing one of Zapf’s opponents.

Meanwhile, a key council ally of his, Donna Frye, breaks out the canine metaphors (“lapdog” is one) to describe DeMaio’s endorsement.

• Earlier this week, we told you how a local college student planned to sue the city of San Diego, saying it violates her free-speech rights by not allowing her and potentially dozens of others to be naked during a bike ride protest next week. As expected, an attorney filed her lawsuit yesterday in federal court.

This isn’t the first time that nudity in public has distracted city officials. Back in 1977, voters got to decide whether visitors to the isolated Black’s Beach could go clothes-free.

What did the voters decide? And are nudists still working on those elusive all-over tans at Black’s? The latest Dispatch from History Man post explains it all and includes comments from a former lifeguard about the challenges of working that beach.

By the way, humorist Dave Barry and readers of his blog were mighty amused by our story about the naked bike protester. A warning: If you hate puns and/or immature humor (if so, you’re dead to me), don’t click this link to see what they said.

• The Photo of the Day profiles an Oceanside music teacher who talks about the importance of play as an education tool.


• Corrections department officials have acknowledged that state parole agents missed many chances to send John Albert Gardner III back to prison before he killed Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. (AP)

• A downtown hotel is now offering live video feeds from its lobby to the police if they are called. Officers can view the video from their cars. (U-T) 

•The county lags far behind its counterparts in the state when it comes to putting campaign finance records online, the U-T says.

• A “John Smith” has failed in his effort to put a measure on the state ballot that would require girls who want abortions to notify their parents. Who’s this mysterious Mr. Smith? CityBeat thinks it’s Jim Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader alternative newspaper, who used the same name for a similar proposition in 2008.

“If this year’s initiative had qualified, it would have been Holman’s fourth attempt at such a law, despite the progressively poor showing his ballot measure have had since 2005,” the story says.

• Finally, a UCSD professor has co-written a new study that says fatal medication mistakes jump by 10 percent in the month of July, possibly because that’s when trainee doctors show up at hospitals.

In a related story, I’m not going up on that rickety ladder until August. Better safe than sorry.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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