September 29, 2008

In Storm’s Aftermath, Cow Roundups in Southeast Texas

In Hurricane Ike's aftermath, along the Texas coasts, ranchers and cattlemen are searching for all their wayward cows.
Apparently cows float pretty well, because their four stomachs are full of air.
The piece is written with both an immediately local perspective, making it important to the people in Texas, but also translates maybe to people in the midwest, who lose cows in tornadoes, or many other farmers who can have their business wiped out by natural disasters.
In addition to talking about the cows that are lost, we also learn that the vegetation from the water has been gnarled by the saltwater.
One man, Harold Clubb from Hamshire, Texas, has only recovered 250 of his 2,700 cows. Also, the grassland he owned as pastures was nearly all destroyed by the saltwater.
“I’m 76 years old,? Mr. Clubb said, shaking his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.?
"The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with state animal welfare and agriculture agencies to mount efforts to dispose of the thousands of decaying carcasses in the area. Mr. Staples said they would begin burning the animals in trenches this weekend."

Hard stuff. it'd be interesting to have follow-up articles on this subject, exploring what this will do to grocery prices and the beef industry, that sort of stuff.

September 22, 2008

Students taking advanced math, not doin' so hot

The Star Tribune had this national trends story on its Web site Sunday about eighth graders and advanced math. Although enrollment in advanced math classes has gone up for years since the Clinton administration, the kids' grades have not been so great.
The call for more kids to take algebra by eighth grade was seen in the '90s as a "new civil right" because it was believed that algebra is a "gateway" class to higher learning. There was a push to put minority students in advanced math classes to give them more chances. A recent private study has shown, however, that kids are scoring very low and being passed on to higher-level math courses. Also, advocates of the practice of putting minority students into the classes worry this study will add fuel to opponents' arguments that minority kids don't belong in the classes.
"My big worry is people will use this to say, `Aha, see, it ain't working, let's put these kids back where they belong,'"
said William H. Schmidt, a Michigan State University professor of statistics and education.
Some think that math is a subject where you have to pass and prove you know one year's curriculum in order to be successful at the next, and if you don't eventually you'll just totally fail.
And still others think that passing through these classes is doing more harm than good, and speculate that the quality and challenge of the class is watered down.

It's interesting to read a national trends piece to see how the information is organized differently than just a straight-up report. Also, this is a really good article to serve as an example of an "attribution" story.