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World Briefs II

Oakland Schools Report Drops Reference to Ebonics'

Los Angeles Times

The Oakland schools task force that six months ago declared the speech patterns of some black students a separate language has issued a new report that does not use the term "ebonics."

The new document, to be presented to the Oakland Board of Education on Wednesday, omits past suggestions that teachers be trained to speak black English and that the school district consider applying for federal bilingual education funds for black students.

What it does propose is a comprehensive but conventional series of moves to improve the educational achievement of the black majority in the 52,000-student district.

"I think they're trying to avoid being a media spectacle again," said Jean Quan, the president of the Oakland Board of Education.

But she said the district is not backing down from its original intent of helping improve student achievement by recognizing linguistic differences.

"Our kids don't speak standard English and we want to respect the culture they bring from home and want to use it to help them speak standard English," Quan said. "Whatever you call it, many of our children from our poorest neighborhoods don't speak standard English."

The resolution adopted in December directed Oakland Superintendent Carolyn Getridge to work with the task force to come up with policies and programs to improve the performance of black students. That process, in turn, gave the task force the opportunity to tone down its rhetoric.

Getridge's cover letter on the new recommendations states that "it is the combination of rigorous, high quality educational programs, family and community support and consistent monitoring and evaluation that will make significant and measurable improvements in the achievement of African American students."

Butterflies Navigate by the Sun

The Washington Post

In making its astonishing, 2,400-mile seasonal trek across North America, the monarch butterfly apparently practices a skill that many weekend boaters and pilots can only wish they had: the ability to use the sun as a compass.

Scientists demonstrated the insect's special talent in a study reported in the May 1 issue of the journal Nature. But to navigate properly, the researchers say, the butterfly's own internal clock also must be on the correct setting.

University of Arizona biologist Sandra Perez and two colleagues kept butterflies in darkness for six hours to disorient them. Then the scientists released the monarchs to see if the conflict between the sun's position and their biological clocks would cause confusion.

It did. The butterflies - their internal timing off by six hours - aligned their bodies with the afternoon sun and flew west-northwest, instead of their normal south-southwest migration route.

"The monarch butterfly thus joins the small group of species for which a sun compass orientation mechanism has been demonstrated experimentally," Perez said. Researchers still don't know exactly how the butterflies do this.

Even more impressive is the insect's ability to stay on course during overcast days, Perez said.