austin, texas


Iran democracy vigil 012

Tex & I managed to stay silent for the entire minute of silence, but, o be perfectly fair, no one else at tonight’s Austin vigil was silent either.

iran-democracy-vigil-019

Most of the 700+ people who protested with candles were Iranian, and they all seemed to know each other.  Between me and Betsy, we knew three other people, but everyone was there for peaceful purposes.  In addition to the protesters, there were police officers on bicycles and a few regular joggers and bicycle riders who happened to be using the same bridge.

I spoke with a 19-yr-old student who has family in the South of Iran and a grandmother in Teheran.  She says that her grandmother hasn’t left her apartment at all in the past 10 days, but she feels safe living on the 19th floor of a large apartment building.

iran-democracy-vigil-005Tex spoke with a family that was in Iran in 1977-79 and the mom left with her infant daughter four days before Iranians took over the U.S. Embassy there.  The whole family are dual citizens and want their votes counted in both countries.

Austin has six TV stations, and five of them had satellite trucks at the vigil.  There were also print reporters and a few radio stations.

iran-democracy-vigil-019We walked back to the parking lot with a family from Iran, and the father of the family said that he missed Wednesday’s rally but was glad that he made it tonight.  He said that he’d have to stay better tuned in because we’ll be needing more vigils and protests, but I sincerely hope that we don’t need any more.

Iran democracy vigil 018

This is TAKS week here in the Texas schools. As a 10th grader, I take four tests this year. Some years we take two and other years three or four, but this is the big year that determines how well our school does compared to other schools. For us as students, every year matters because certain classes are open or closed for the following year depending on whether we pass or fail the tests. But for the school, 10th grade test scores are the ones that decide how well the whole school does. Some schools can even close if their scores are still low.

The Texas Education Agency has told the Austin school district that it needs to use the word “probable” — not “possible” — when referring to the closure of Johnston High School, district officials said.

The shift in verbiage was made at the suggestion of state officials who are part of Johnston’s oversight team because they wanted to underscore the urgency of the situation at the school in East Austin.

Agency officials have said the school, which has received “unacceptable” ratings for the past four years, will be closed or put under alternative management if it fails to achieve an acceptable rating this year.

Under the state’s accountability system, schools are rated “academically unacceptable” if they don’t meet target graduation rates and goals on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Are we being deliberately undereducated or miseducated? Is our whole generation being purposefully denied essential elements of a meaningful education as a byproduct of spending all of our schooling preparing for tests? Is that an accident?

Here’s the disturbing part. The bureaucrats don’t care if WE improve individually from year to year. They don’t care if our CLASS improves. They only care that we do better than last year’s 10th grade, even if they were a bunch of idiots or a bunch of screw-ups or a bunch of genii. By extension, BETTER doesn’t mean that our average is higher than last year’s class. It means that a larger percent of white kids pass (70%) than last year; a larger percent of black kids, a larger percent of immigrants, a larger percent of girls, a larger percent of poor kids, a larger percent of left-handed kids, and a larger percent of soccer players who only eat ice cream for breakfast.

This means that kids like me who get 90% or 99% every time only spend a THIRD of our school time learning how to answer the test questions and regurgitate essays. The poor kids, meanwhile, who got ONLY 60%-80% spend ALL their time on nothing but test practice. Kids in honors or pre-AP or advanced classes learn some other material and get interesting projects from time to time, like in-class debates, short story assignments and geometry construction projects, but the kids in academic or regular classes have every single test look like a TAKS question. That is not an exaggeration.

Last year, my test scores were all above 92%. I could go down by 10 points in every single subject and no one would care. If I went down 20 points, my brother would wring my neck and I’d probably have to drop some honors classes and possibly lose the chance for AP US History, but the state and the government STILL wouldn’t care. I would be within acceptable parameters.

Our school would still show improvement even if every single kid in honors right now dropped to 71% as long as one kid whose older sibling failed last year passed this year. That’s crazy!

Clearly they don’t care whether we as individuals pass as long as the scenario I have presented makes my high school look good. What’s the point? Could it be that the point really is to dumb down yet another generation; to keep us from learning about the Constitution and our rights. Only in understanding them both may we learn when our republic is at its BEST.

student taking a test

I agree with the teachers. TOO MANY TESTS! (Also too much homework, which is why I am spending less time on my blog.)

Teacher group says schools should ease up on testing

Educators say they feel the pressure of ratings system.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The third week of school is under way. In other words, it’s time to start testing.

In the Austin school district, some teachers must start giving benchmark tests, which measures students’ strengths and weaknesses heading into the new year.

. . . . .

The statewide Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is the favorite punching bag of teachers and parents who say schools are too focused on tests.
But Malfaro said that much of the testing burden in Austin comes not from the state but from district officials who require teachers to give district-produced tests throughout the year.

Ann Smisko, the Austin school district’s associate superintendent for
curriculum, said the district, like most, “regularly assesses students for one main reason: to ensure that children receive better, more focused classroom instruction.”

Smisko said the district uses benchmark tests at the start of school to see where students are, in the middle of the year to measure progress and at the end to see whether students need extra help before moving to the next grade.

District officials said the number of days per year that a class spends on testing varies by grade and campus.

Ken Zarifis, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at Burnet Middle School in North Austin, said he and colleagues spend more than 40 of the 180 instructional days in a school year giving tests that they do not write themselves.

Those tests include state-written exams such as the TAKS and district-produced tests, such as six-week exams and the three-times-a-year benchmark tests.

 

solar panelsOK. Texas started. In addition to the ones mentioned here, there are also schools with some solar panels. Can the whole country do this? Can we do a better job at recycling at school? Can we turn in more work electronically and not on paper? Can they cut down on the AC sometimes? What’s happening where you live?

Schools find it easy being green

Districts strive to make campuses eco-friendly.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, August 26, 2007

When it comes to building schools, district leaders and taxpayers are focused on being green: being environmentally friendly as well as fiscally responsible.

Several campuses are opening for the first time Monday in the Austin area, and dozens of other campuses and school buildings are under construction or are being renovated. Many have gone green — using recyclable materials in construction and operation and saving on water and energy — as part of a nationwide movement that touts green schools as healthier for students and cheaper to operate.

Almost four years ago, the Austin school district made the largest purchase to date of renewable energy from Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program: 45.7 million kilowatt-hours annually of solar, wind or geothermal power. It was the largest such purchase by a school district nationwide. The district is eligible for $430,000 in Austin Energy rebates for environmentally friendly projects in the 2004 $519.5 million bond program.

When Pickle Elementary School opened in Northeast Austin in 1999, it was the first Austin campus to include green building features like proper solar orientation to better take advantage of natural light, which helps it use 25 percent less energy than other campuses, along with rainwater collection to replace water that evaporates out of air conditioners and salvaged long-leaf pine floors. An analysis estimates that those features will save the district $12 million over the life of the school.

Schools represent the largest construction sector in the nation, with $53 billion being spent this year, and they are the fastest-growing market for green building, which is expected to account for 5 percent to 10 percent of the school construction market by 2010, according to the Council of Educational Facility Planners International.

About 60 schools across the country, including two in Dallas and Houston, have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization in Washington that sets “green” standards. An additional 370 are in the pipeline; one San Marcos school is among the nine in Texas.

I wonder who is behind THESE people.

Not everyone believes that it’s easier being green, however. Saying that building costs would skyrocket, the Fast Growth School Coalition, a group of 124 Texas school districts, helped defeat a bill during the most recent legislative session that would have required all school construction to fall in line with standards set by the Green Building Council.

Lady Bird Johnson in the wildflowers

LADY BIRD JOHNSON — 1912-2007

Former first lady and conservationist.

World Environment Day — What can WE do?

solar powerBryce from YouthInkLeft had a great post this morning giving his ideas for ways we can celebrate World Environment Day, June 5. As that day draws to a close, it’s time to look at what actions we can do for the environment for the days and months ahead. Bryce gave great suggestions for things people can do, and I have a few more to add.

  1. Get the government to require better mileage and force the auto makers to sell their efficient cars here. If they sell them in Europe, they should sell them here.
  2. Start a campaign to get your town or county to use solar and wind energy. Here’s an example.
  3. Get energy-saving products for your home, including new technology like this:
    1. sunlight table
    2. solar panels
    3. efficient light bulbs
    4. solar or electric cars
    5. swamp coolers instead of air conditioning
    6. Get rid of junk mail.
  4. Learn more
  5. Learn even more.
  6. This one’s my favorite, but I don’t think I’ll get one. 😦 Not this year.

electric motorcycle

What else can we do? Any or all of us?

Like most of my political posts,

this is cross-posted at Political Teen Tidbits and at YouThinkLeft.

Many thanks to Jordan for alerting me to this story, which is happening practically in my own back yard, right in Taylor, Texas!

—Freckles

From Texas cell, Canadian, 9, pleads for help

Family in limbo after unscheduled stop in Puerto Rico

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

AUSTIN, TEX. — Even if you try to look past the eight-metre-high chain-link fence, beyond the scores of uniformed guards patrolling the perimeter and away from the cameras, metal detectors and lasers, there isn’t the slightest evidence of children inside the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center.

No one is playing outside; there are no sounds of laughter.

But inside the thick, whitewashed walls of this former maximum-security prison in the heart of Texas are about 170 children — including a nine-year-old Canadian boy named Kevin.

Call it international limbo. Detained by U.S. Customs officials after their flight to Toronto made an unscheduled stop on American soil nearly four weeks ago, Kevin and his Iranian parents, Majid and Masomeh, feel they are being held hostage not only by the physical parameters of Hutto, but by the politics of nationality.

__________________________________

Related to this article Enlarge Image

'Dear Mr. Prime minister haper I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom. Mr. Priminister haper pleace bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.'

‘Dear Mr. Prime minister haper I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom. Mr. Priminister haper pleace bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.’

_______________________________________________

“We can’t go home because I am Canadian but my parents are not,” Kevin said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail — no personal interviews have been granted.

Majid and Masomeh — they prefer their last name not be used — initially fled Iran for Canada in January, 1995, to seek political asylum. Majid did odd jobs, eventually becoming manager of an east Toronto pizza parlour, paying the rent for their one-bedroom apartment.

In 1997, their only son, Kevin, was born. “For the first time, I was happy,” Majid said from the Hutto detention facility.

“I had my family with me — it’s the only family I have — we didn’t have any problems and we lived happy in Toronto.”

Kevin attended a Toronto school until Grade 3. Meanwhile, his parents were seeking refugee status, based on fear of persecution in Iran, but their application was denied and, in December, 2005, the family of three was deported.

Upon their arrival in Tehran, Majid said he was taken away from his family to a prison cell. For three months, he was detained, beaten and tortured, he said. When he was released, the three were reunited, and, with the help of friends and relatives, they connected with a people smuggler in Tehran.

“I pay him $40,000 to [get us] to Canada. It included everything: fake passports, tickets. He got $20,000 in Iran, and $20,000 in Turkey.”

(more…)

There should be more stories like this, and the public should be more involved in helping the troops and their families. 365 deaths from just one military base!!!! And for what??? Why are we still in Iraq? The mission is over.

—-Freckles

memorial picture


Fort Hood support center: http://www.goldstarfamilysupport.org/

Army families: http://www.armyfamiliesonline.org/skins/WBLO/home.aspx

————————-

Military Faces Growing Ranks of Bereaved


AP National Writer
One of the first sights greeting visitors to Fort Hood is a day-care center’s playground, brightly colored evidence of the Army’s commitment to be family friendly.

A few blocks away is a more poignant symbol: an office building recently converted into a first-of-its-kind support center for women and children whose husbands and fathers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. From Fort Hood alone, the toll has passed 365.

This photo, provided by war widow Melissa Storey, shows Melissa with her 4-year-old daughter, Adela, Dec. 16, 2006, on a hotel balcony in Anaheim. Calif., where they were attending a holiday gathering for families of fallen service members. Melissa, whose husband, Army Staff Sgt. Clint Storey, was killed in Iraq last August, is pregnant with a son conceived during her last days with her husband. (AP Photo/Courtesy Melissa Storey)

“It’s our sanctuary,” said Ursula Pirtle, whose daughter frequents a playroom at the center. Three-year-old Katie never met her father, Heath. He was killed in Iraq in 2003.

Over the past 15 years, America’s armed forces have taken huge strides to retain married service members — improving schools, health programs and child care. But now, as never before in this family-embracing era, the military is struggling with the toughest home-front problem of all: Doing right by the often outspoken and ever-growing ranks of the bereaved.

Of the 3,350 Americans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan through early January, 1,586 of them — 47.3 percent — were married. Those fallen warriors left behind 1,954 children, according to the Pentagon’s Manpower Data Center. More recent deaths have pushed that figure past 2,000.

Compared to the heavily draftee combat troops of the Vietnam war, today’s volunteer fighting force is older, more reliant on National Guard and Reserve citizen-soldiers, and more likely to be married.

And more so than their Vietnam counterparts, the new generation of bereaved spouses has been vocal — on their bases, at congressional hearings — in pressing for more compassionate, effective support.

It’s a constituency that politicians and generals do not want to alienate. The result has been numerous policy changes, ranging from improved benefits to better training for the officers who break the grim news of war-zone deaths. Even the Fort Hood support center materialized due to pressure from widows and their allies.

But the learning process is ongoing and the results are mixed.

“The war on terror has presented us with new challenges we haven’t seen before, in terms of number of casualties,” said an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Kevin Arata. “We know we’re not perfect — there are things families have said we can do better, and we’ve listened to that.”

Interviews with a dozen widows at Fort Hood and across the country reveal varied experiences, but also some common bonds.

Across the board, the widows are proud of their husbands — even if they disagree on the wisdom of the Iraq war. Each woman is still grieving, and those with children have extra worries — financial and psychological — that extend far into the future.

Some are deeply grateful for the support provided by the military after their husbands’ deaths; others are critical. Among the common complaints — that notification and assistance officers were sometimes ill-informed or aloof, and that they were bounced through different parts of the military bureaucracy when seeking help.

“We have to have someone who knows what they’re talking about,” Pirtle said. “The blind-leading-the-blind system isn’t working out.”

(more…)


p2110010.jpg Today I was with hundreds of other people protesting against the governor’s plan to use 9 additional power plants for coal. There were people of all different ages, and a lot of people brought their dogs. They had different kinds of political music there and lots of speeches. One was by a state senator, one by a pastor, one by a doctor, and a few by high school and college kids. Here are some pictures. I wrote about the rally last week and you can read that post here. (Thanks Betsy for taking photos!)

MONDAY UPDATE: There is a story and pictures about the protest in today’s Austin-American Statesman.

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Just got this from MoveOn. I hope to go. If you are in Texas, please come.

—Freckles

Governor Rick Perry and the Texas State Legislature are deciding whether or not to build 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants. Come to Austin and tell them we need a clean energy future—not more health problems and global warming! Can you come to the State Capitol for the rally?

Stop the Coal Rush Rally
Sunday, February 11th, 2007
3:00 p.m.

And if you can, stay for the Citizen’s Lobby Day
Monday, February 12th, 2007
2:00 p.m.

Register here: http://www.stopthecoalrush.com/moveon


Dear MoveOn member,
Governor Rick Perry is pushing through the construction of 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants in Texas—just as the new Congress is getting serious about global warming solutions in D.C. These plants alone would release more greenhouse gasses into the air than would be cut by the most progressive proposals currently in Congress.

He is rushing to get the coal plants built before any new legislation kicks in, and if he succeeds, he’ll be unilaterally taking us backward in our urgent fight against global warming. And Texans can look forward to more bad air quality days and increased asthma rates.

A coalition of groups including American Lung Association and Texas Sierra Club Legal Action have organized a rally at the Capitol in Austin at noon this Sunday to stop this. Can you join them to demand that Texas pursue a clean energy future?

Click here to attend the Stop the Coal Rush Rally:

http://www.stopthecoalrush.com/moveon

What: Stop the Coal Rush Rally
When: Sunday Feb. 11 at 3:00 pm
Where: Texas State Capitol
Austin, TX

Already, more than half of Texans live in areas where the air fails to meet federal minimum health-based standards. These plants would add an additional 124.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the skies over Texas each year, further threatening the health of Texas citizens and accelerating the pace of global warming.

(more…)

In the past few days, two people died who’ve affected my life indirectly. The first was Molly Ivins, one of my role models and a great liberal Texas voice. The second was Kenneth Kincaid, who I never met, but who must have done something right to raise Bob Kincaid and to be so admired by him.

I’ve also been touched by a few other deaths in the past year. The most horrible was the sudden death of a 7th grade girl that I knew, a girl I went to elementary school with. She was younger than me and died only a few hours after getting sick. That was super sad for her family and for the whole community. She died while she was on a school trip, and that made it even worse.

The other death was of a 38 year old man who was the father of a friend of mine. He spent almost three years dying, and a lot of that time preparing his family and himself for his death. He wrote letters that Elyse will read when she graduates high school and when she gets married. He also recorded videos for her and her mom.

dove

I have an internet friend who is dying of cancer, and who talks about it. Yesterday he said that he will soon be visiting with Molly, and that got me thinking even more about death. I will miss him a tremendous amount when he dies, but I don’t know what will happen to him. The real him, the soul and not the body.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die. I don’t know if our mind or soul goes to the places we visit in our best dreams or if we see the people that died before us or if nothing at all happens and it’s just over. I don’t know if we go with angels or with God or old friends. I don’t know if this is something I will understand better when I get older or if it’s just something to think more about.

I also think about how I never met my grandparents and about how I will feel when my parents die. I think I probably won’t feel too much about my dad’s death because he hasn’t been in my life since I was five. But I think about my mom dying a lot. She’s an addict and she’s in prison, so her chances of dying early are pretty high. I worry about her and hope she gets better. She also abused me really badly for a long time and part of me thinks it will be easier to finish getting past all that myself after she dies. I don’t wish her dead, but I don’t know how I will react when she does die.

My brother is in the military, but he is safe and sound in Texas. I can not even imagine life without him, so I refuse to even consider the idea that he will die before he turns 100.

—————–

I also think about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you asked a kid my age there, how many people would they know that died? Would they be people that died from accidents and diseases? Or from bombs and bullets? How scared are the kids there about never seeing their families again? Or about dying themselves?

—————-

There is no solution to death. But if everyone had all the medical care they needed and if no one started wars, a lot of people would live a lot longer and have a beautiful dignified death with the people they love sitting by their beds.


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Have you ever heard anything this crazy? One middle school has lousy scores so they’re closing it and sending the kids to schools that are just as bad! What a crock! Why not HELP the school and the kids. How do they expect everyone to pass the test when half the kids don’t speak English yet????

Webb WildcatOh, also look at how many of the kids are low income and how many are not white. Think they’d do this at a school where all the kids are white?

Webb Middle School parents react to closure proposal

Most of more than 200 people at meeting scorn proposal.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, January 26, 2007

More than 200 people packed a cafeteria at Webb Middle School on Thursday,
most of them to condemn a proposal to close the campus in May because
of students’ poor performance on state standardized tests.

“This school doesn’t even have enough textbooks to send home with the children so they can study,” said Melissa Mullins, parent of a sixth-grader. “They need more assistance, not less.”

Austin Superintendent Pat Forgione said he wants the school board to order the
campus, just west of Interstate 35 off St. Johns Avenue, closed before the state does.

The school has received the state’s lowest rating for three years, and if the students fail to meet passing standards in any area on the state achievement test this spring, the state could require closing or alternative management.

School board members, many of whom were in attendance Thursday, are expected to vote on Forgione’s proposal next month.

“We must think this through and do what’s best for our children,” Forgione
said, adding that Webb’s faculty and campus advisory council support his recommendation.

Almost one-third of Webb’s 663 students come from families that constantly move into and out of the area, which can reverse test gains. Nine of 10 Webb students are from low-income families. About half don’t understand English.

Nearly 40 percent of Webb’s teachers declined to return to the campus last year, one of
the highest teacher turnover rates among Austin middle schools.

(more…)

Update: It is ALL CLOSED AGAIN tomorrow. One more day off from school !

YEAY

—Freckles

Icicles
Check out all the stuff that’s closed tomorrow. EVERYTHING!!! They ought to just tell us what’s OPEN during the ice storms!

 

Tuesday: School Cancellations, Closings & Delays

  • ACE Academy
  • Acorn Learning Academy in Round Rock
  • Austin ISD
  • A+ Learning Center in Elgin
  • Austin CAN Academy
  • Austin Community College
  • Austin East Side Story Afterschool Program
  • Austin Graduate School of Theology
  • Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Bartlett ISD opening at 10 a.m.
  • Bastrop ISD
  • Beaver Brooks Children’s Center
  • Bluebonnet Montessori School of Lakeway
  • Brentwood Christian School
  • Brushy Creek Community Center opens at 5 a.m. All morning classes and programs are cancelled.
  • Burnet CISD
  • Busy Bee Learning Center
  • Capital City Kids Daycare
  • Calvary Episcopal Christian School
  • Concordia Academy High School
  • Concordia University
  • Coupland ISD
  • Covenant Presbyterian Preschool
  • Del Valle ISD (more…)

Now, I wonder if this has any relation to the article I quoted earlier this week.

—Frecklesteens drinking

 

Texas teens among ‘nation’s worst’

They’re drinking, having sex at rates higher than U.S. average, report says


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, November 17, 2006

Texas teens are significantly more likely to have sex, drink alcohol and
drive drunk than their peers nationwide, according to a report being
released today.

The report, Kids Count, a national and state-by-state effort to track children’s well-being, does show some improvements for Texas teens: Fewer students are dropping out of school, for example.

But “when it comes to risky behaviors, Texas teens are among the nation’s worst,” said Frances Deviney, Texas director for Kids Count, which corrals data collected by various groups.

The Kids Count report, citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, says that in 2005:

teen girl drinking•52.5 percent of Texas high schoolers had sexual intercourse, compared with 46.8 percent nationwide.

•29.6 percent of Texas youth engaged in “episodic heavy drinking,” compared with 25.5 percent nationwide.

•15.4 percent of Texas youth drove a car under the influence of alcohol, compared with 9.9 percent nationwide.

•37 percent of Texas youth rode with someone who had been drinking, compared with 28.5 percent nationwide.

A survey done four years earlier found similar results in Texas. But in the ensuing years, teens across the country became less likely to drink heavily and drive under the influence of alcohol, while Texas rates stayed about the same.

girl smoking pot marijuanaSusan McDowell, executive director of LifeWorks, which provides a network of services to youth and families in Austin, said that Texas’ high child poverty rate and an education system that lags behind other states’ contribute to problems as
children become teenagers.

“We’re investing less in children in Texas,” she said. “We shouldn’t be surprised that as they grow up, they’re more prone to risky behavior.”

The study did not show how Central Texas teens compared to the state data. But Tracy Lunoff, coordinator of health for the Austin Independent School District, said
surveys show the district’s “students aren’t engaging in such risky behaviors.” For example, pregnancy rates decreased last year, compared with the previous school year, as did the number of middle school and high school students disciplined for tobacco, drug and alcohol use, she said.

However, a 2006 report on the district’s Web site shows that since 1996, the district’s eighth, 10th- and 12-graders have used alcohol as much or more than their peers statewide and have used marijuana more.

Reagan High School sophomore Jesse Martinez, 15, said fellow classmates often give in to peer pressure.

“They don’t want to seem like a punk around their friends, so they do something to fit in,” he said. “People try so hard to fit in that it’s not surprising that people want to get in cars with people who have been drinking or drink just to seem cool.”

Since last year, Martinez has participated in a support program for teenage boys called XY-Zone, which is run by Communities in Schools-Central Texas Inc. at five Austin high schools, one Austin middle school and Georgetown High School. Through the program, he said he’s learned it’s important to say no to drugs and to avoid having sex until later in life. He said he’s not participating in risky behaviors now. Before the program, he was “so-so” at avoiding such behaviors.

Communities in Schools-Central Texas CEO Suki Steinhauser said the nearly
eight-year-old program, which has expanded beyond its original mission of pregnancy prevention, is working. Last school year, 69 percent of participants in the XY-Zone decreased their participation in sexual activity, fighting, drug and alcohol use and riding in a vehicle with someone under the influence, according to an independent evaluation, she said.

“They begin to see themselves as leaders with something to contribute rather than kids who are always getting into trouble,” said Mike Hurewitz, senior program coordinator at Communities in Schools.

McDowell of LifeWorks said it’s important to invest early and substantially in the overall health of children in order for them to avoid risky behaviors as they become teenagers. She said many of the teens LifeWorks meets didn’t have a consistent, responsible adult in their childhood who made sure they were making healthy choices.

“The question we have to ask ourselves in Texas is: ‘Are we providing kids the tools that they need to avoid risky behaviors?’ ” McDowell said. “In many cases in Texas, we struggle with that.”

Other findingsMap of Central Texas

•The high school dropout rate in Travis County declined 58.6 percent from 2000 to 2005. In the class of 2005, 354 teens in the county (4.8 percent) dropped out between ninth grade and graduation. The dropout rate in Texas declined by 40 percent in the same period.

•Child poverty in Texas has increased for the fourth straight year. That means
there are more Texas children living in families below the federal poverty threshold ($19,971 for a family of four in 2005).

•Texas continues to have the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation.

Source: Kids Count State of Texas Children 2006

cmaclaggan@statesman.com; 512 445-3548

 
 
 
 

 
Find this article at:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/11/17/17kidscount.html