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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 20, 2001

Aired February 20, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Hello from Atlanta. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Tom Haynes.

Today's show features a topic near and dear to our heart: education. Here is what's ahead.

WALCOTT: In today's news, U.S. President Bush hopes to score high marks with his education proposal. We'll check out whether his plan makes the grade in one Texas school.

HAYNES: Another major social issue is the focus of our "Health Desk" today: how millions of Americans cope in their day-to-day lives without health insurance.

WALCOTT: From concerns over health care to fear of a disease: "Worldview" weighs in on the dangers posed by mad cow disease.

HAYNES: Then, in "Chronicle": how an agency created over a century ago is still providing help for African-Americans today.

WALCOTT: In a week devoted to education, United States President George W. Bush embarks on a two-day trip to promote his education- reform plan. His first stop is at an Ohio elementary school. From there, he travels to Saint Louis, Missouri and then Knoxville, Tennessee.

Mr. Bush has a few changes in mind for American schools. Among them: annual tracking of student performance. Under his plan, students in grades three through eight would be tested every year in reading and math. The president also wants federal funds to be pulled from public schools that fail to meet certain academic standards three years in a row.

Students at those schools then would be allowed to use federal dollars -- in the form of vouchers -- toward enrolling in another school. Critics say the president's plan would encourage parents to send their children to private schools. Mr. Bush focused heavily on education initiatives during his presidential campaign and has continued to do so since he took office last month. He recently sent Congress a federal budget proposal which includes about $48 billion in extra spending on education.

HAYNES: Some teachers' unions worry about the cost and benefit of President Bush's proposed annual testing plan. They also question whether Mr. Bush's plan will encourage parents to choose private schools over public schools. Still, many agree with Mr. Bush that something must be done to improve American schools.

Kathy Slobogin looks at the educational system in Houston, Texas, which has many similarities to the president's plan.


KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Practice makes perfect. It's a lesson these children at Parker Elementary School in Houston have learned well. Parker is a music magnet school and a prime example of the Texas success story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Heidi (ph) must have carried Dizzy (ph) down the rope!

SLOBOGIN: The curriculum here is rich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It says right here that Dizzy was afraid of heights.

SLOBOGIN: These fourth-graders are learning how to write a mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: What is a suspect?

SLOBOGIN: More than 90 percent of the students here pass the state's mandatory annual tests.


SLOBOGIN: Annual testing is the centerpiece of President Bush's education reform proposal. And his model is Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: What time does our program start?



SLOBOGIN: Children here are tested every year from third to eighth grade, and again to in order graduate from high school. The test is known as the TAAS: Texas Assessment of Academic Skills.

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: What is half past 10:00?

SLOBOGIN: Schools and their principals are held accountable for the scores. And the scores have climbed: from 53 percent of Texas children passing the TAAS in 1994 to 80 percent passing last year. But there's another side to the Texas success story.

Critics say, for many Texas children -- especially where the scores aren't high -- the tests dominate the curriculum. Children spend hours in intellectually deadening practice tests, instead of learning.

LINDA MCNEIL, RICE UNIVERSITY: It is really putting our best teachers and principals in a real box, where they're having to choose between teaching to a substantive curriculum or just teaching to a format that produces test scores.

SLOBOGIN: Linda McNeil of Rice University says principals' and superintendents' job security depends on delivering strong scores.

MCNEIL: The more the principal is worried about the test scores, the more they pressure the teachers to just use commercial-test practice materials day after day rather than have the children read a science lesson, a short story, anything that you and I would consider purposeful reading.

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: Now, on a standard persuasive essay, all you really need to provide is five paragraphs.

SLOBOGIN: These sophomores are getting ready for the TAAS test: learning how to write an essay and how to win a passing score. There's a formula: five paragraphs with five sentences each, three examples per paragraph. To some, it might seem formulaic. To others, it's at least a clear blueprint.

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: Once you fill these in with actual sentences, you have your essay staring you in the face.

SLOBOGIN: Principal James McSwain is one who feels the tests, drill preparation and all, are working.

JAMES MCSWAIN, PRINCIPAL, LAMAR HIGH SCHOOL: Education in Texas has improved. It has drastically improved because of accountability, because of testing.

JIM NELSON, TEXAS EDUCATION COMMISSIONER: I think it's -- it's probably the most important thing we've done in Texas in the last decade, is assessing of each and every grade level each and every year.

SLOBOGIN: Jim Nelson is the Texas commissioner of education.

NELSON: Are there places where they focus too much on the tests? I'm sure that's true. I mean, anecdotally, you hear that, no question about it. But I also think that it's fair to say, if they're teaching the curriculum, and the tests cover the curriculum, and if everyone agrees that these are the things that we want our children to know and to learn, what is it about being tested on that that's not appropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: The more spices, which means the more writing that you include in here, is the better paragraph that you make.

SLOBOGIN: Several researchers have examined whether Texas children are really progressing or just learning to take the Texas test. A RAND study found the dramatic Texas gains didn't show up in an independent test: The National Assessment of Educational Progress. And other measures of academic achievement don't seem to match either: Texas SAT scores have remained flat for a decade.

A Texas college-readiness test is failed by half the students.

WALTER HANEY, BOSTON COLLEGE: The state test is showing one thing. All the other tests are showing something quite different.

SLOBOGIN: Walter Haney of Boston College, who spent two years studying Texas schools, says the pressure to improve test scores inflates the results.

HANEY: When you have such dramatic sanctions attached to test results, there are a lot of ways of raising average test scores without improving the actual learning of students. Unfortunately, that seems to be what's happened in Texas.

SLOBOGIN (on camera): The strongest indictment critics make of Texas testing is for something it doesn't measure: the number of students dropping out. "Leave no child behind" is President Bush's education motto. But here there's evidence many children are left behind.

(voice-over): The state's Texas Education Agency says its official dropout rate is about 9 percent.

HANEY: I would only say that I and other observers have concluded that the TEA's dropout statistics are highly misleading.

SLOBOGIN: Haney has looked at 20 years of Texas enrollment figures. He says 25-30 percent of Texas students fail to graduate from high school. For minorities, it's worse: 40 percent.

MCNEIL: Twenty thousand freshmen.

SLOBOGIN: McNeil also studied enrollment and found many Houston schools lose half their students.

MCNEIL: Eight thousand seniors.

NELSON: The dropout problem is not as big as our critics say, but it's big enough.

SLOBOGIN: Commissioner Nelson says the dropout problem doesn't take away the need for testing.

(on camera): Of what use are test scores in terms of accountability if you're losing so many kids?

NELSON: Well, I'm sorry, I don't buy into that analogy, because I think if you don't know how the kids are doing, how in the world are you going to know whether or not they have the chance to be successful or not?

SLOBOGIN (voice-over): But Linda McNeil thinks the tests mislead the public.

MCNEIL: A cop-out, a dodge, an attempt to give the appearance of a fix without getting really serious about what the long-term losses are going to be, to produce these short-term numbers.

SLOBOGIN: As Congress takes up the president's reforms, it must decide whether accountability tests are a true yardstick for children or just another education gimmick that leaves deeper problems in our schools untouched.

Kathy Slobogin, CNN, Washington.


WALCOTT: While President Bush is encouraging more testing for students in grades three through eight, the president of the University of California is calling for an end to using a popular test for college admission.

Christy Feig reports on why that university president wants to do away with SAT's and reaction to his plan.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, students are groomed for the test their college acceptance depends on; one of them: the SAT. The Princeton Review teaches students how to do well on this test and they agree with the University of California, which thinks the test isn't a good judge of what students have learned.

JOHN KATZMAN, CEO, PRINCETON REVIEW: The way to judge a test, then, is not by how accurate or precise it is, it's by, what is the behavior that it encourages? Does it encourage to do great things -- learn Shakespeare -- or does it encourage them to do silly things like learn analogies?

FEIG: There are two parts to the SAT test. SAT I studies verbal and mathematical reasoning. The second looks at knowledge of individual subject. Gaston Caperton is president of the College Board, which develops the test. He says the test is essential.

GASTON CAPERTON, PRESIDENT, COLLEGE BOARD: To drop SAT I would be like deciding not to include grades in the application process.

FEIG: Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California, favors dropping the reasoning portion.

RICHARD ATKINSON, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: I was a little horrified to think of these students of age 12 spending so much of their time studying verbal analogies.

FEIG: Even students at UCLA, one of Atkinson's eight undergraduate campuses, have mixed opinions.

KARINA POWELL, UCLA SOPHOMORE: I took it three different times just to up my scores so I'd have a better chance to getting in to different universities.

EDUARDO SANTOS, UCLA JUNIOR: Before eliminating the test, I think you need to come up with some new plans, new ideas on what level -- what kind of criteria you're going to have for admissions.

FEIG: Atkinson wants to replace the test with one based more on what students learn in high school.

The American Council on Education says that should work.

STANLEY IKENBERRY, AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION: So high school grades, high school rank in class and the specific courses that you've taken in high school turn out to be the very best predictors of how well you'll do in college.

FEIG: If the University of California approves the decision to discontinue the test, it could go into effect as early as 2003.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.


HAYNES: If you've ever been sick or injured, you know how important it is to have health care. Now imagine this: What if your parents didn't have health coverage and couldn't pay for a doctor's visit or the medicine that you need? Well, that's the sad reality for many working American families who can't afford insurance.

Maria Hinojosa explains.


MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the outside, things look good for the Druss family (ph). They can afford a nice house in Queens, fun toys for their boy. But when it comes to health insurance, this working family spent years doing without.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband has trouble with his back. I have allergies, terrible allergies. I have a cyst in my breast. I can't go for follow-up yet.

HINOJOSA (on camera): There are 43 million Americans living without insurance. About 80 percent of them are working families. Families who received plenty of attention during the heat of the presidential campaign and who wonder now what will happen to their issue.

STEVEN A. SCHROEDER, PRES., ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: The fear would be that the issue goes underground. But I don't think that's going to happen because it's just such a fundamental issue and so many people are at risk. And this is a window in time now.

HINOJOSA: Recently, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invited rivals in the health insurance debate to propose solutions and to hear directly from the uninsured. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had the flu. We've had -- I recently sprained my thumb. But you just kind of deal with it because you can't afford all the bills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try not to get sick. I rely on my vitamins. I try to eat healthy. You know, that's about it -- and just pray to God.

HINOJOSA: The insurers, doctors, policy-makers and activists agreed on little except this: Insurance costs money.

CHIP KAHN, PRES., HEALTH INS. ASSN. OF AMERICA: To get low- income Americans covered, particularly, we're going to have to have some kind of action, some kind of help for them to pay the premiums. We can provide coverage, but we can't mint money.

HINOJOSA: Robert Druss knows all about costly insurance.

ROBERT DRUSS, UNINSURED WORKER: The key is watch yourself when you do work. When you're climbing a ladder, holding something heavy, you have to think of that in the background, that there's a possibility you can get hurt. And you don't have coverage, so you watch what you do.

HINOJOSA: And wait to see if anyone comes up with a way to insure the uninsured.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York


WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today: Our topics are health and safety. We'll visit Europe, a region dealing with mad cow disease. How is that impacting blood donations around the world? Find out coming up. Plus terror in Spain: Is politics putting people in peril?

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: There is a side of Spain not mentioned in the tourist brochures that draw thousands of visitors there each year. More and more often, ethnic violence is in the headlines. Last year alone, two-dozen people were killed by a radical group fighting for an independent Basque state straddling northern Spain and southwestern France. It was one of the bloodiest years ever in a campaign of violence that's gone on for more than three decades.

About three million people claim to be Basque. They are the oldest indigenous ethnic group in Europe and have lived in the same region since the beginning of recorded history. While many support independence, the vast majority oppose the use of radical, violent tactics.

We get more on the situation there from Al Goodman.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Spaniards, hardly a day goes by when they are not confronted with the issue of Basque separatist violence: from a car bomb that killed four people in Madrid last October, an attack claimed by the separatist group ETA to the peace march of an estimated 900,000 people in Barcelona last November in protest of ETA's assassination of a former health minister.

Polls show about three-quarters of Spaniards say terrorism is Spain's biggest problem.

JOSE MARIA AZNAR, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are not going to allow them to impose terror on our country. We will fight them with all the moral and material force of the state of law.

GOODMAN: Law enforcement has scored some victories. Despite dozens of arrests in recent months, the violence has escalated. Central issues in the separatist dispute are these: Who is a Basque? And what is Basque territory? This mayor is a leader of the radical left Basque Nationalist HB Party.

LOREN ARKOTXA, HB NATIONALIST PARTY: If we don't go to the roots of the problem, this problem is never going to be solved. And there's going to be more killings, more killings -- shamefully -- but more killings.

GOODMAN: Spain officially recognizes three provinces as the Basque country. But separatists also want another Spanish province, Navarre, and a part of France added, a homeland, they say, for three million Basques.

XABIER ARZALLUZ, BASQUE NATIONALIST PARTY (through translator): Prime Minister Aznar denies there's a political problem, which is notable in a country where, depending on who does the poll, 30 or 40 percent say they want an independent Basque country.

GOODMAN: But the conservative government in Madrid says this is really not a political problem. And it is betting the police will crush ETA with the help of widespread public outrage about terrorism.

CARLOS ITURGAIZ, POPULAR PARTY, BASQUE REGION: The government has said and our party has said that we are not to give anything to these terrorists.

GOODMAN: Basques are an ancient people, wedded to the land and the sea. Their hills isolated them from Europe, although, in the Middles Ages, they did embrace Roman Catholicism. Entire museums here are dedicated to defining the Basques.

AMAIA BASTERRETXEA, DIR., BASQUE HISTORY MUSEUM: The most important thing for us is our language, because we are living for -- through the years.

GOODMAN: Modern Basque nationalism sprang up here a century ago as immigrants came for factory jobs. The violent faction, ETA, started killing 32 years ago when General Francisco Franco still ruled Spain. Franco suppressed the Basques and their language. But much has changed since Franco's death. In democratic Spain, public schools like this one in San Sebastian teach almost exclusively in Basque.

ANE IRURZUN, SECOND GRADE TEACHER (through translator): Some students speak Spanish because their parents don't know Basque. But the majority prefer to speak Basque because it's easier for them.

GOODMAN: At least two children in this school have relatives in jail for collaborating with ETA. ETA and Basque nationalist political parties say running the schools and the broad autonomy granted to the Basque region is not enough: that despite a Basque parliament and police force. The region has even attracted a famous museum.

(on camera): The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is the image the Basque people want to project: modern, dynamic. But in the streets here, there is a different reality: tension, even fear, and a lot of anger on all sides of the conflict.

(voice-over): Hopes for peace that grew during a 14-month ETA cease-fire were shattered a year ago by a car bomb in Madrid. The government and ETA blamed each other for wrecking the cease-fire. Now hundreds of local officials who oppose ETA must go everywhere with bodyguards.

MARIA SAN GIL, DEPUTY MAYOR, SAN SEBASTIAN (through translator): The worst for me is the weekend, when I stop being a politician and I'm just a mother. I think it's terrible for my kids to grow up, as my son says, "always with mommy's friends."

GOODMAN: Several world leaders and human-rights organizations have called on ETA, blamed for about 800 deaths, to stop killing. Those captured by police are imprisoned in jails across Spain to prevent them from collaborating behind bars.

But relatives of the 420 ETA prisoners, and at least one human- rights organization, say the dispersal is inhumane.

ESTEBAN BELTRAN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Every prisoner has the right, according to international law, to be close to the families.

GOODMAN: Then there is the issue of the ongoing so-called low- level violence, in which pro-independence Basque youths attack businesses, city buses, even homes on both sides of the border. There is no agreement either within the regional Basque Parliament. Its membership is fractured into seven parties, split into two main camps, with nationalist parties holding the majority and parties loyal to Spain the remaining seats.

But even the nationalists are split, forcing the Basque regional president to call early elections sometime this year. Polls predict little change in the regional Parliament's makeup. Many leaders here accuse the HB radical left party of being the political wing of the armed separatists. This mayor denies it. But, he adds, there is a war on. ARKOTXA: I am involved somehow in this war. My sons and my daughters are still in the same war. And I have two grandchild, which I don't want them to be involved in this war. But I want them to be involved in the construction of the Basque country.

GOODMAN: But for some, the struggle is over. At this cemetery, people killed by ETA are buried not far from a member of ETA. In life, they stood at opposite poles. Here, they are simply Basques.

Al Goodman, CNN, San Sebastian, Spain.


BAKHTIAR: We'll have more on Spain tomorrow as we find out how people cope while they're living in fear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Edurne Uriarte (ph) teaches political science, is a Socialist Party member and writes a newspaper column. The mother of a young son, she survived an ETA assassination attempt last December. Her bodyguard spotted a bomb in a university elevator.


You think all the time that perhaps this day you could die.


BAKHTIAR: For her story and the stories of others facing terror everyday, tune in tomorrow.

WALCOTT: You've heard a lot about mad cow disease here on CNN NEWSROOM. It's been found in more than a dozen countries in Europe. For more information, check your NEWSROOM archives for February 12. The human form of this disease has turned up in Ireland, France and the United Kingdom. And that has some people worried about the blood supply. What effect will the scare have on blood donations?

Elizabeth Cohen takes a look.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no way to test blood to see if it's infected with the human form of mad cow disease. And that's why the American Red Cross wants stricter rules on who can donate blood.

Mad cow disease has been found in cattle in 13 European countries. The human form of the disease -- scientifically known as variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease or vCJD -- has been found in three countries: the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. It's never been proven that blood transfusions can spread the disease. But still, the American Red Cross is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban blood donations from anyone who spent time in Western Europe from 1980 to the present. Already, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada ban donations from people who spent an accumulated time of six months in Great Britain from 1980 to 1996. The Red Cross would like the new rules to apply to anyone who's been in Western Europe for as little as two or three months.

DR. BERNADINE HEALY, PRES., AMERICAN RED CROSS: This is a prudent step for us to take. It is a logical extension of what we are already doing in the United Kingdom. It is a cautious step in terms of trying to keep any form of CJD out of the human blood supply in this country.

COHEN: Dr. Bernadine Healy says the proposed new rules would cut down on potential donors by about 6 percent. She says any reduction is a problem because there's already a blood shortage. But she says safety comes first.

(on camera): One major problem for the blood supply is that the incubation period for mad cow disease is so long. People can be infected for anywhere from five to 20 years and still feel perfectly healthy. They wouldn't even know not to donate blood.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


HAYNES: OK, let's try an experiment. Let's travel back 136 years. Now picture this: You've never been formally educated. You've been denied rights as a citizen. And you're not even considered a full-fledged human being. Matter of fact, you've spent some or most of your life as a slave, in someone else's personal property.

Now, for the first time, you have new rights and privileges, but you're unsure how to use them. Well, that was the case for the millions of slaves who were granted their freedom after the U.S. Civil War. NEWSROOM's Michael McManus has the story.


MICHAEL MCMANUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The year was 1865. The Civil War was over and four million slaves had to integrate into a free society. And because of this, the Freedmen's Bureau was born.

FRED MORSELL, HISTORIAN: That you hold these truths to be self- evident: that all men are created equal.

MCMANUS: Fred Morsell is a historian who brings words to life by performing famous speeches by Frederick Douglass.

MORSELL: The Freedmen's Bureau was a variety of different programs designed to help blacks get themselves involved in the American culture in a very, very immediate way.

MCMANUS: Headquartered within the Defense Department, then called the War Department, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands was the government's answer to African-American's thirst for freedom, knowledge and rights.

PROF. JAMES HORTON, HISTORIAN: Educational opportunities, from the hospital care, from a variety of legal services, I mean, the Freedmen's Bureau was really a multiservice provider.

MCMANUS: Author and Professor James Horton believes education was a large plank in the Freedmen's Bureau platform.

HORTON: And one of the things that the Freedmen's Bureau did very well was to set up schools that educated people: 4,000 schools the Freedmen's Bureau had established by the time it came to an end.

MCMANUS: Some continue on today, including Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and Howard University in Washington, D.C. Many smaller schools were located in Freedmen's villages: self-sufficient African-American communities.

(on camera): Following the Civil War, the U.S. government built a Freedmen's Bureau camp here on the former property of the Southern general, Robert E. Lee.

(voice-over): This village was complete with living quarters and a hospital.

KARYN BYRNE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: Once the slaves came to these places, it would be a chance for them to gradually acclimate into freedom, receive the skills that they needed to go on and have successful lives elsewhere.

MCMANUS: Before the Civil War, individual help was a state issue. The Freedmen's Bureau changed that after creating a new welfare policy of providing for its citizens on a federal level.

HORTON: This was a situation where the federal government really had very little choice but to become directly involved in the lives of individuals. And the Freedmen's Bureau represented the institution by which they attempted to do that.

MORSELL: That it showed what blacks were capable of doing, that they did -- once they were given an opportunity, they can go forward and do an awful lot that they had been denied.

MCMANUS: The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands closed its doors seven years after it's inception for lack of funds and congressional support. But the help and hope it created over a century ago continues today.

Michael McManus, CNN NEWSROOM, Arlington, Virginia.


HAYNES: Now, in November, then President Bill Clinton signed into law the Freedmen's Bureau Records Preservation Act. This law requires the National Archives to take action to preserve the records of the Freedmen's Bureau.

WALCOTT: An important American legacy.


WALCOTT: And that wraps up today's show. We'll see you back here tomorrow.



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