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NEWSROOM for August 29, 2001

Aired August 29, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes.

Today we're headed to your classroom. Here's a look at what's coming up.

Does heaping on the homework help you learn? That's up first, plus a conversation with Education Secretary Rod Paige. The credit card craze is the focus of our "Business Desk." Then we'll get a lesson in all things Russian in "Worldview." We turn back to the topic of education in "Chronicle," we'll tackle the question of testing.

The start of the school year has us tackling a few stories today related to education. First, something you're probably very familiar with, homework. Are you getting too much homework, maybe too little? Some kids complain they are stressed out by the amount of work they have to do when they get home. Others say a good dose of homework is a critical part of learning. So where do you stand?

Here's Kathy Slobogin.


KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is first week of school for 11-year-old Pace and homework is already swallowing up his life.

GINGER WADE, MOTHER: He was up until 10:15 and then I got him back up at 5:30 and then he worked until probably 7:00. And then the night before that he was up until midnight working and he got up early. You know, I mean I go to bed before he goes to bed. Pace, an A student in Atlanta, Georgia, has three to four hours of homework a night. Things like playing with friends after school are distant dream.

PACE FAGLEY, SIXTH GRADER: I probably wouldn't get to because I have too much homework.

SLOBOGIN: His mother says he gets stomach pains and headaches from the stress. G. WADE: Now I am sending him to school with, like, Tylenol to take when -- I think during the day it probably builds up to a certain point and all of this homework on his mind. I am just looking forward to the end of the school year already. The third or fourth of school, I am ready for it to be over.

SLOBOGIN: In millions of kitchens across America, homework is causing kids stress, and parents outrage. Sixth grader Tina Walsh in Kensington, Maryland, has not even started school yet but she has summer homework.

SUZI WALSH, MOTHER: I think their homework is just plain frustrating. I cannot say how many nights I found my child in tears, how many times I have yelled at her for silly things because I am mad that the homework is not done.

That was a hard one, you did great. Want to try this one? That's hard, too.

SLOBOGIN: Tina's mother says that although Tina is an A student, she needs help every night because of the quantity of homework, often with projects that are beyond the ability of an 11 year old to do herself.

WALSH: We base our lives homework when school has started. And I don't think that if it was cut in half it would make any difference to her learning.

SLOBOGIN: Homework. Is it a hallmark of higher standards and academic rigor or an unreasonable nightly trauma for Americans' time- starved families?

One recent poll found that two-thirds of parents feel the amount of homework is fine, with the rest divided. But those who feel there is too much are an increasingly vocal minority. The debate goes back at least century.

(on camera): A hundred years ago, the "Ladies Home Journal" launched an anti homework campaign claiming it damaged children's health. Now, with the push for standards and testing, schools are loading kids up with more and more work to take home. One study found that for younger students homework has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. But that's exactly the group of students it does not seem to help.

(voice-over): Dr. Harris Cooper says young elementary students should get at most, half an hour of homework a night. Cooper has done an extensive review of research on homework and it is relationship to academic achievement.

DR. HARRIS COOPER, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: In the earliest grades there really is little relationship, but then as children grow older the relationship becomes stronger and stronger until they get into secondary school and the relationship becomes quite strong.

SLOBOGIN: But even high school students can get too much. According to many parents it is not unusual for their teenagers to get three or more hours a night.

COOPER: High school students really should not be doing three or four hours of homework a night and if that is how much is actually being assigned, parents should say something about it.

SLOBOGIN: In Piscataway, New Jersey last year, they did. Parents essentially revolted against the amount of homework and Superintendent Ronald Bolandi listened.

RONALD BOLANDI, FMR. PISCATAWAY SCHOOL SUPER: It sound kind of harsh, but I think we have been brainwashed.

SLOBOGIN: Bolandi believes the system, hooked on the idea that homework equals achievement, got out of control.

BOLANDI: There is a lot of tension in those homes, you know, on weekends and nights trying to get homework done.

SLOBOGIN: Last year, Bolandi limited homework to 30 minutes a night for the youngest elementary students and a maximum of two hours a night for high schoolers. And in a move that would bring joy to many homes, homework on weekends was banned.

BOLANDI: I think on a weekend, there is a lot of things you can learn on a weekend that are invaluable that you are not going to learn in schools. You can go to cultural events, you can go to sporting events, you can go to religious events that are just as important as school.

SLOBOGIN: Piscataway families got their weekends back. But many families still struggle. Experts worry about what happens to children who face an unmanageable load of homework on a regular basis.

TINA WALSH, SIXTH GRADER: You get really frustrated and then I usually just give up.



HAYNES: And Kathy Slobogin returns later in "Chronicle" to tackle another tough education issue, standardized testing, which also is on the mind of U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige.

Yesterday, CNN's Student Bureau caught up with Secretary Paige who shared his vision on the state of U.S. education.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right next to you is Ashley Hayes (ph).


ASHLEY HAYES, STUDENT: Hi, how are you?

LIN: She is with the Cab School of the Arts. PAIGE: Yes.

LIN: And Brittany Stevenson (ph) -- she is with Grady High School.

And you have some questions for the secretary.

HAYES: Yes, Secretary, I was going to ask you -- under the there is no child is left behind plan with the national standards of accountability that you're talking about developing.


HAYES: Do you also see a move towards a nationally standardized like curriculum to make sure that these learning objectives are accomplished?

PAIGE: Absolutely not. We think that this is a state-by-state issue. Each state should set its own standards about what students in that state should learn, know and be able to do as a result of education in that state. It is a state responsibility right now. And so we support local control and flexibility, and that conflicts with a national curriculum. We don't support that.

BRITTANY STEVENSON, STUDENT: Also, Mr. Secretary, I know in your no child left behind plan, you guys have a plan to implement a standardized test nationwide.


STEVENSON: Many kids do not like taking standardized tests.


STEVENSON: And what way could you get the kids more interested in taking the standardized test or make them feel more comfortable?

PAIGE: OK. Let's deal with the nationwide concept first. It's not actually nationwide. It is state by state. Each state would have its own test aligned to its own standards. And the purpose here is just to determine what has been achieved by each student relative to the standards. And so we want to know how each student is progressing. And that's the reason -- that's the reason. None of us like tests. You know, we don't like -- we have to take a test for our driver's license.


PAIGE: We have to take a test to get admitted to universities. But it's necessary to have that kind of information.

STEVENSON: Also I wanted to know minorities don't perform as well on these types of standardized tests or testing in general. What is your position to make them -- or how are you going to go about making minorities perform better on these tests? Or what is your goals and aspirations to help us PAIGE: Well, the information that we have, and we think it's some pretty good research, shows that minorities perform well when instruction is good and also when they take high quality courses, like you are taking. The AP courses -- advanced placement courses and taking advanced courses are in math and science and social studies and things like that. When the instruction is good, minorities perform very well. So what we want to do is enhance the quality of teaching.


HAYNES: Yesterday we left you with a few tips for being smart with your credit cards, hopefully, you'll keep them in mind. Unfortunately not everyone is pennywise. Many people buy now and pay later, such is the privilege of having credit cards. But unless you pay your balance in full every month, banks and credit card companies make big money on interest you pay for borrowing. The first credit card, by the way, was introduced in 1950 by Diner's Club. Other banks and businesses soon followed.

Bill Delaney has more on the shift from paper to plastic.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To walk from one end of the U.S. economy to the other in about half an hour or so -- walk from one end of Harvard Street just outside Boston to the other, from the mostly yuppified town of Brookline, where most are quite well-off, even if they do worry about the market these days.

On to the working-class Boston neighborhood of Allston, where most people's idea of a market is still a place with tomatoes. Economic world's apart united by plastic, the all-purpose, all- American, deferred payment plan that can cover your expenses for birth, death, and just about everything in-between. In Allston, Bob Webber of Model Hardware says 80 percent of his business is credit cards.

BOB WEBBER, MODEL HARDWARE: They are such an integral part of doing business nowadays it's amazing. We process very, very few checks.

DELANEY: As for cash, well, Webber got started back in 1959, claiming now to remember a time when, he says, there was hardly any color TV, yet nearly all the money was green. Credit cards?

WEBBER: I don't even know if many people even knew what they were. I'm so smart, 20 years ago, I said, "credit cards -- they'll never catch on."

DELANEY: They've been catching people ever since, $700 billion in credit card debt in the U.S., up from 250 billion 10 years ago.

Bill Fowler of Webber hardware paid cash most of his life. Then he got send a credit card he never asked for. I'm sorry I ever took it.

DELANEY (on camera): How come?

BILL FOWLER, CONSUMER: Now I owe $5,000 on the credit card and you go and you take your grandchildren out and you buy them this and you buy them that and the next thing you no, bingo.


FOWLER: Yeah, $5,000 in the hole.

DELANEY (voice-over): In Allston, thought, where hardly anyone's rich, still buying and selling with credit cards. Sometimes like there was no tomorrow.

(on camera): Meanwhile, here at the high end of Harvard Street, credit cards are everywhere, too. You can buy a new-age book. There's a fancy Russian restaurant. But if you had a hankering for this 19th century, French, marquetry inlaid cylinder desk, you've got a problem.

(voice-over): Jeffrey Diamond, proprietor of the antique store "Room With A Vieux," just never liked credit cards.

JEFFREY DIAMOND, ANTIQUE PROPRIETOR: I deal in antiques. It's probably an antiquated theory. I kind of consider myself an island out here. I didn't want to pay any fees. To my recollection, I don't think we ever lost one sale as a result of that in 16 years.

DELANEY: On the other hand, at Diamond's new "Room With A Vieux," on Boston's historic Beacon Hill, he does now take credit cards. The tourist trade demanded it, you see. After 50 years even the most iron will seem sooner or later to turn to plastic.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


HAYNES: Later this week, Jason Bellini will bring us some all- important info on money management. In the meantime, log on to Are you a saver or a budget buster? Take our college cash quiz to find out.

In "Worldview" today, preparations to raise a sunken Russian submarine. Soviet era patriotic songs blared from loudspeakers Tuesday as a priest blessed a pontoon that will help hoist the sub back to land next month. Hundreds of officials, journalists and workers were on hand for the ceremony. The 18,000 ton Kursk sank after an explosion a year ago, killing the entire 118 man crew.

Today's stop in Russia doesn't end at the Kursk, get set to hear about the country's economy and culture. We'll take a look at the role of jazz, once outlawed in this huge country, and we'll find out how "Harry Potter" with its whimsy and wizardry is making its way to Russian borders. Plus, a Russian tax plan that even President Bush is applauding.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Were you surprised when you got your first paycheck and an amount of money had been taken out for taxes? In the United States, taxes are something we all got to pay. U.S. tax laws were ratified in the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment empowered Congress to tax -- quote -- "income from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

Today, many say filing their U.S. tax return has gotten too complicated, that there are too many confusing forms to fill out, too many numerical equations to calculate and that the tax system is just plain unfair. Some U.S. political leaders and activists advocate a more simplified tax system, which would eliminate most or all of the confusion. Many say a viable alternative is a flat tax in which everyone pays the same amount.

In Russia, a similar scenario is in the works, and Jill Dougherty has the details.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): This is one method the Russian government has used to collect taxes. Now the Kremlin has a better idea. It's urging Russians to come out of the shadows, stop hiding their income and take advantage of the new 13 percent flat tax, the lowest in Europe. It's an idea President Vladimir Putin introduced this year and even a U.S. president gives it high marks.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was so impressed that he was able to simplify his tax code in Russia with a flat tax. I'm not so sure I'll have the same success with our Congress.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): The idea behind this flat tax is simple, bring taxes down low enough so that people won't mind paying them. The more people who pay up, the more money the government collects.

(voice-over): Tatiana (ph) just got a job as a driving school instructor. Last year when Russia had a progressive income tax, she could have paid anywhere from 12 percent up to 30 percent. The new 13 percent sounds good to her.

TATIANA (through translator): My friends are all paying taxes. It used to be hard to pay because taxes were high but now it's easier.

DOUGHERTY: Some Russians are still dubious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Maybe some people will come out of the shadows but some won't. People are so used to not paying taxes at all.

DOUGHERTY: But the head of this Moscow tax office claims the whole ideology of paying taxes is changing.

OLGA SMIRNOVA, RUSSIAN TAX INSPECTORATE (through translator): We used to search people out to make them pay. It wasn't always pleasant. With 13 percent tax rate, it's positive for them, and we end up collecting more taxes.

DOUGHERTY: The man who created Russia's flat tax says it's working.

GERMAN GREL, ECON. DEV. AND TRADE MINISTER (through translator): The results are that in the first six months of this year revenue from income tax was 30 percent higher than planned.

DOUGHERTY: Next year, the Russian government will lower taxes for companies, reducing the profit tax from 35 percent to 24 percent. The Tyumen Oil Company could end up paying slightly more since it will lose some tax breaks, but one top executive calls the reduction a brilliant idea.

IOSIF BAKALEYNIK, TYUMEN OIL COMPANY: It's better because it's more transparent, it's a less complicated system, it's easier to understand, it's less prone to manipulation or interpretation.

DOUGHERTY: Russian tax authorities are hoping lower business taxes will do the same thing a lower income tax is doing: bring more taxpayers out of the shadows.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Moscow.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: More from Jill Dougherty now as we continue in Russia. This time, a look at culture. Russia has long been known for its strength in the arts, carving out an international reputation for it's classical music, ballet and drama. Lesser known, though, is Russia's attraction to jazz music. Staunch government policies kept influence of the American music style at bay during the Cold War, but the music that struck chords with its Russian fans during the height of jazz's popularity is able to be enjoyed opening today.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): They used to listen in the middle of the night. The sounds of jazz broadcast on short wave radio by the Voice of America, the broadcast jammed by Soviet authorities who called it decadent music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ellington Orchestra theme "Take the A Train."

DOUGHERTY: And if there was a voice of jazz, it was the voice of Willis Conover, the man who for 40 years introduced Russians to Duke Ellington, Count Bassey, Dizzy Gillespie -- an endless list of jazz greats.



LOUIS ARMSTRONG, MUSICIAN: Yeah, that is what you see here. CONOVER: We're happy when you're here.

ARMSTRONG: Well, you know, it's always a good chat when we meet, you know?


DOUGHERTY: He died -- a jazz fest in Moscow in his memory.

VLADIMIR LUCHIN, PHOTOGRAPHER (through translator): Oh, it's our generation. We used to listen to him on the radio when they used to haul us off to jail for listening.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Willis Conover had the largest radio audience in the world -- 100 million people listened to his jazz show, Music USA. He believed that jazz was the music of freedom, and that was a message that struck a chord behind the Iron Curtain.

VLADIMIR KAUSHANSKIY, MUSIC CRITIC (through translator): Jazz improvisation was uncontrollable by the ideological authorities. They were saying, "What is this? What are those musicians doing? Why can't we control them?"

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Composer Yuri Saulsky remembers hearing jazz for the very first time.

YURI SAULSKY, COMPOSER (through translator): When I heard that music, I was blown away. It was such a shock, completely new, a different way of thinking, a new spirit. I fell in love with it forever.

DOUGHERTY: Alexei Kozlov, one of Russia's best jazz musicians, first heard Conover's voice in 1955.

ALEXEI KOZLOV, MUSICIAN: I played all my -- and I arranged all of my music from tape recorder with the voice of Willis Conover.

DOUGHERTY: Like most Americans, sax player Michael Brecker, the U.S. star of this festival, never heard Willis Conover. U.S. law didn't allow broadcasting a government station at home. But in today's Russian jazzmen, he sees the influence of Willis Conover.

MICHAEL BRECKER, JAZZ MUSICIAN: They have a lot of soul, you know? And I think that's from having to rise above a lot of difficult circumstances.

DOUGHERTY: Russian jazz lovers today are free to listen to whatever they want. The Cold War is long over and jazz helped to win it.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Moscow.


MCMANUS: We turn the page for a story of another cultural icon. This time he's fictional. No doubt heard of Harry Potter, a young wizard in training and the lead character in a series written by J.K. Rowling. The "Harry Potter" books have made a home on countless best seller lists. Available in more than 100 countries, the books have charmed readers from Finland to Japan. But the world's largest country was missing out on the "Harry Potter" craze, until now.

Denise Dillon has the story.


DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The adventures of "Harry Potter" and his mystery and magic have cast a worldwide spell. The British children's book has sold more than 100 million copy, mesmerizing children nearly everywhere.

But on the streets of Russia, it is hard to find a youngster who knows who Harry Potter is.


DILLON: And they shake their heads when asked about the young wizard. But that is changing. An official translation of the first book of the series, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," hit book stores several months ago. A group of Moscow school children who read it are giving it rave reviews.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I liked Hogwarts and everything that was written about it. I'd like to go there myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'd like to be Harry Potter because he has so many adventures.

DILLON: Bookstore clerks say the first book seemed to cast a spell over young Russian readers and left them demanding more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): People were literally laying siege to the store asking when the second book would finally come out. Now it has arrived and is selling.

DILLON: For the second book, "The Chamber of Secrets," one of Russia's top translators who specializes in Shakespeare agreed to put the bard aside to translate the boy and his magical powers.

MARINA LIRVINOVA, TRANSLATOR: When we have evil in such a terrible form that we even -- we even can't accept the idea that every person, even very bad is in his nature, is in fact has a sparkle of goodness.

DILLON: Harry Potter's books have been translated into 42 languages from Albanian to Zulu and now, of course, Russian.

Denise Dillon, CNN.


HAYNES: Today's "Chronicle" takes a closer look at standardized testing. It's an idea being embraced by bureaucrats in Washington. They say it's a great way to measure school accountability. In out "Top Story" segment, Education Secretary Paige said testing should motivate kids to study harder and expect more of themselves, but some teachers are critical of the plan. They say that emphasis on annual testing undermines real learning.

Once again, here's Kathy Slobogin.


SLOBOGIN (voice-over): Bruce Snyder is exactly what the public schools say they need.

BRUCE SNYDER, TEACHER: I felt like it was a mission. And once I got into public education I never thought I would leave it.

SLOBOGIN: An acclaimed high school math teacher for nine years in Loudoun County, Virginia, Snyder was nominated for teacher of the year.

But this fall he won't be teaching in the public schools.

(on camera): Why are you leaving?

SNYDER: I don't believe in its mission anymore. It seems to me that the mission of public education now or what it's moving towards is to prepare students to do well on a multiple choice test, and I think there's so much more to education.

SLOBOGIN (voice-over): Snyder has moved to a private school to escape the test-dominated culture of the public schools. He says the pressure to raise test scores put a straitjacket on teachers and narrowed what students learned.

Testing is hardly new. In fact, 48 states already have some form of statewide testing. But President Bush's "Leave No Child Behind" bill mandates tests every year in grades three through eight. Some states fear that may actually undermine what they've already accomplished.

ELIZABETH BURMASTER, WISCONSIN PUBLIC INSTRUCTOR: I'd have to say that here in Wisconsin we feel it's of less of "leave no child behind" and more of "leave no child untested."

What the sun sees.

SLOBOGIN: Burmaster says Wisconsin's drive for smaller classes has shown real results, that what really matters is the quality of interaction between child and teacher, not a test given once a year.

BURMASTER: We have to ensure that we aren't just raising a generation of good test-takers, but that we truly are educating our children to take the knowledge they learn and apply it in the real world.

SLOBOGIN: The federal teaching push has raised red flags on another front, the insistence that schools show yearly progress or face sanctions.

UCLA Professor Tom Kane co-authored a study which looked at how schools would fair under the proposed federal mandate.

THOMAS KANE, UCLA: We studied school in North Carolina and Texas, two states that have been the envy of the educational world for the last five years. And we found that 98 percent or more of the schools in Texas and North Carolina would have failed the federal definition at some point over five years.

SLOBOGIN: As the final details of the new education bill are hashed out some of these concerns from the classroom may be heard.

But for teachers like Bruce Snyder, it's too late.

SNYDER: I feel sad about leaving. In a way I feel like I'm turning my back on something that's very important to me. At the same time I feel like the mission public education is taking, it's hurting our students, and I didn't want to be a part of that.

SLOBOGIN: Kathy Slobogin, CNN, Washington.


HAYNES: All right, it's not over yet. There's lots more great stuff planned for the rest of the week. As I said earlier, we'll talk money -- smart money later this week. Tomorrow, we'll talk dress codes and we'll hear more from Education Secretary Paige. And as always, is just a mouse click away with loads of interesting material. Be sure to check it out.

As for me, I'm out of here. We'll see you tomorrow.

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