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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  September 6, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> stewart: on this edition for sunday, september 6: thousands of migrants and refugees are welcomed in austria and germany, as the four-and-a- half-year civil war in syria continues. and, does requiring extra reading time after school improve students' reading proficiency? next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. judy and josh weston. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support has been
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provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios in lincoln center in new york, alison stewart. >> stewart: good evening, thanks for joining us. i'm alison stewart, in for hari sreenivasan. pope francis is calling on every catholic parish in europe to shelter at least one family of migrants or refugees pouring into the continent. today, during mass at saint peter's square, the pope announced the vatican itself will house two families who, he said, are "fleeing death by war and by hunger." >> ( translated ): the gospel calls us to be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned to
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give them concrete hope. >> stewart: francis also criticized hungary's plan to complete a 108-mile fence along its southern border with serbia, where many are crossing from macedonia, which neighbors greece, the busiest entry point into europe, by boat. in greece today, the government ferried 1,700 more people held at the island of lesbos, to athens. greece has transported 13,000 migrants and refugees to the mainland this week. so far this year, an estimated 300,000 people fleeing war-torn syria, libya, iraq, and afghanistan have arrived in europe, including 100,000 in the past month. this weekend, at least 12,000 refugees have crossed by train and bus from hungary into vienna, austria. but hundreds who have registered for asylum in hungary have been placed in refugee camps. germany is the desired final destination for many asylum seekers, and as itn's sangeeta kandola reports, so far the country is offering a warm welcome. >> they were greeted by cheers,
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banners and sweets across germany. the estimated 6,000 refugees who had made the exhausting journey by foot, bus and train to get here. in a country which says it can't cope with the influx. >> they were on the receiving end of scenes like this, relief. >> great, i feel great. >> finally. >> after days of confrontation with police, hungary opened its borders with austria and bussed and trained thousands of people who had begun walking to the frontier. those arriving in munich and vienna, mostly syrians fleeing the war there have been sent to reception centers to be registered, to seek food and clothing. >> german chancellor merkel is to hold talks with her coalition partners on a crisis that has
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divided the eu, the european commission she has been push fog arco at that system for dividing the people reaching europe between member states. but this is going to -- .. in the meantime, thousands more are continuing to make the journey, risking life and limb in search of a better life. >> >> stewart: the biggest catalyst for the mass migration to europe is syria's civil war, which is believed to have killed 250,000 people and driven an estimated 11 million syrians from their homes. secretary of state john kerry warned russia's foreign minister this weekend about reports of russia increasing specific types of support for syrian president bashar al-assad's regime. kerry says the increased support could escalate the conflict and the refugee crisis. joining me now from washington to discuss the war in syria is anthony cordesman, who is the arleigh a. burke chair in strategy at the center for
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strategic and international studies. >> stewart: so secretary of state kerry's concerns, at this point in the conflict, what would a russian infusion of support for a ass saddam husseis army and regime mean? >> people are concerned there is evidence that he may be providing or putin may be providing something like a thousand people's worth of prefabricated housing. that is, has led some analysts to believe that in russia may be deploying air units and modern aircraft or a new kind of advisory team. any buildup will help assad ride out or survive at least for a while the opposition. any kind of active air presence represents syria's problems for the united states, for turkey, for the other coalition countries flying air sorties because of the risk that there
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might be some kind of incident between the russians and the air force's operating against the islamic state. no matter what happens, that kind of operation would present problems for the united states because our arab allies, particularly saudi arabia, kuwait and the united arab emirates are supporting some of the forces on the ground that are opposing assad directly. >> stewart: this conflict began in 2011, it is 2015. at this point, what stands out to you as a major issues keeping us from a diplomatic solution here? >> i think there are several reasons, but the most important one is no one has emerged as a credible alternative. syria is now divided really into four parts. there is a kurdish area, the kurds have no great incentive to be a part of syria. they were treated as second-class citizens before
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this began, and many didn't even have identification papers. you have the islamic state, which occupies a significant part of eastern syria, particularly along the river area. it has a, it is not a densely populated area but one the islamic state can actually control. and then you va mix of some 26 to 35 different opposition groups who are doing most of the fighting against assad. they are more in the central heavily populated areas of syria, but they have almost nothing in common with the assad regime, with the islamic state or with the kurds .. there are troops outside of syria that claim to represent the opposition, the fact is that many of them were tied to more moderate, secular military movements whic which have effecy been defeated and virtually
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disappeared. >> stewart: there has been quite a bit of criticism about neighboring countries not stepping in to help ease the humanitarian crisis, saudi arabia, qatar, the united arab emirates. what is your analysis of why these countries have not stepped in and stepped up? >> all of them, frankly, are deeply concerned a @what these refugees might be and who they might have alignments with. all of them are dealing with their own problems, iran, yemen, islamic state groups, al qaeda in the arabian pens la, all of them to be, tend to be closed societies which security puts tight limits on any form of immigration. >> stewart: anthony cordesman, thank you so much for helping us understand it a bit more. >> thank you. >> >> stewart: as kids across the country head back to school, we
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are going to examine a first-of- its-kind program meant to boost reading skills. florida requires its lowest- performing schools to lengthen their school day for one hour to focus on reading. the mandate applies to the state's 300 lowest-performing schools, as ranked by their standardized test scores. as you'd expect, a lively debate is underway about the wisdom and effectiveness of the plan. tonight's updated signature segment, which we originally broadcast last year, revisits this approach. jaylon jenkins just started third grade. and every day after school, he does homework with the aunt that is raising him, antonia williams. >> remember, we talked about the tenses, from ride to... >> r, o, d, e. >> i'm not a tyrant. when he first comes home i normally have... let him have a 20-minute break. he gets a snack. you want apple? and then we start his homework. i'll give him a break in between because it's a lot to retain and to comprehend, so this is our... this is our daily schedule. >> stewart: a schedule that already includes an extra hour
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of reading every day, for jaylon and for every other student at his school: phillis wheatley elementary in apopka, florida, just northwest of orlando in orange county. antonia, what did you think when you first heard that jaylon's school was going to require one extra hour of reading? >> i was like, "yes." >> stewart: yeah? >> i was, like, "yes." i mean, what else would a child be doing that hour after school, you know? yes, it would be a longer day and i was concerned about him being focused and staying on task for such a long time. but he's in a structured environment. you know, it's not like they're on the playground for an extra hour. they're reading. >> stewart: has he asked you why he stays an extra hour? >> i don't even think he realizes it. >> stewart: the extra hour of reading at wheatley elementary is not voluntary. a 2012 law required the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools in florida to add an hour of reading instruction. the rankings were determined by the state's standardized reading test results. the expansion is estimated to cost more than $4 million
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annually for wheatley and 19 other public schools in orange county, florida, the tenth largest school district in the country. >> what do you think it is? >> stewart: when we visited phillis wheatley last year, sean brown was the school's principal. >> once we hit that last hour of the day, it's strictly reading. >> stewart: from fourth graders working on reading comprehension questions... >> we could eliminate underground... >> stewart: ...to first graders just learning the basics... >> they get darker and darker... >> stewart: students, taught by teachers from the school... >> hare... >> hare... >> stewart: read, read and read some more. >> we want to hone in on the reading skills and then just push the students academically as much as possible. >> stewart: a high-poverty school where all students get free breakfast and lunch, phillis wheatley elementary is in a neighborhood with a high crime rate and is the type of school administrators think could particularly benefit from the extra reading time.
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do you think your students need this extra hour? >> yes, i do. >> stewart: why is that? is it... is it because they're so far behind? is it just not enough time during the day to teach these kids? >> there's several reasons. i know that with poverty and adding things of that nature, i know that a lot of our students, they're so much further behind a student that has two parents or a student that has a high working-class family. so this is the mechanism that will help close that gap between the students that are living in poverty and students that are not living in poverty. >> stewart: after instituting the hour of extra reading every day in 2012, wheatley saw the number of children reading a grade level go from 26 percent to 41 percent. such a big improvement that te the followinged from the year. up to 38 percent the following year. statewide, in the first year, 76 percent of schools with extra
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reading time saw an improvement in kids reading at grade level. 69 percent of the low performing schools also saw it increase in the second year. >> the >> the results have turned out to be dramatic. >> stewart: republican state senator david simmons is the force behind the state law adding the extra hour. the son of two public school teachers, he says he first heard about adding extra time from a principal at a struggling orlando school. >> and in talking to him, he said, "if i just had more time with these children, i could make a big, big difference with them." and he said, "it's not that they can't learn. it's they don't have enough time to learn." >> stewart: last year senator simmons pushed to expand the number of elementary schools required to have extra reading time from the 100 lowest- performing to the 300 lowest- performing, including phillis wheatley. by expanding the list, simmons believes schools that improve their test scores one year won't lose the extra reading time the next. this year the same 300 schools will provide that extra hour of
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reading time. when you first presented the idea of this additional hour of reading to your colleagues, what kind of questions did they have for you? >> is it gonna work? >> stewart: make the case for me. >> okay. certainly. other nations, industrialized nations, send their children to school, all of their children, significantly longer than we do here on average in the united states. we're talking about trying to cram a huge amount of information into the minds of these children in a limited amount of time. it's like trying to put 25 pounds of sugar in a 10 pound sack. >> senator simmons is looking at a piece of fool's gold, and he believes it's real genuine gold. >> stewart: rick roach served on the orange county school board for 16 years. the retired teacher and guidance counselor is not convinced mandated extra reading time is the solution that it seems. >> i don't think it has true educational value. and i think it could be more
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helpful if you just take your eyes off of a test score. it doesn't necessarily mean that that child comes out of there a better reader or has developed a love of reading. it simply means they've jammed up a raw score on a single measure test. >> stewart: and there's the question: who gets to decide the best way to help kids learn? what was the debate like or the discussion like when it first came up-- "should we have kids read for an extra hour after school?" >> please... i have to laugh at that one. there was no debate on that. there was simply... the command came down from the hill, "thou shalt put an extra hour into the school." there was no debate, the board didn't discuss that. local... there was no local feedback into that. not to mention the fact that many people who make these laws never taught one day in a classroom. >> stewart: there are other concerns as well: dirict
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officials find out which schools are required to add the extra reading hour just weeks before school starts. bus schedules have to change and teaching staff secured. some parents voiced concern over the exhaustion level of kids whose days are pushed an hour later, and the reduction of family time. and while kids who scored the highest level on the reading section of the state's standardized test can opt out, for the most part, everyone is required to stay the extra hour. roach says the data that supporters cite only tells part of the story, and that similar students without the extra hour of reading have shown improvement in proficiency in the past few years. if something like this happens and it helps anybody, isn't it worth continuing and trying? >> you know, i think few people would disagree with the fact that we're going to give kids who may be low readers extra time to read. but there's a consequence to that. you may in fact drive up a reading score, but you also lose
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other-other features as well. if they'd gave us some options... you could've extended the year by 20 days and kept the same number of hours if you let local control come into play for the same money. >> stewart: the criticism i've heard from a couple of different folks who are involved in education that they work on the local level, they're in the schools, and the idea that they have to take this money, come up with it and put it just on reading, everybody supports reading but perhaps that's not what their school needs. >> if the vast majority of your students have on our tests, you know, standardized tests, shown that they cannot read at grade level, then they need reading instruction. that's a simple fact of life. >> thumbs up if you remember and you understand. >> stewart: and there's still the issue of funding-- who pays for it now and in the future. what would it take for this program to be guaranteed
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funding? right now it's year to year to year if the district can come up with the money. >> i can tell you that it is my commitment, now that we are seeing the performance, that we will in fact dedicate the funding for this in order to get this accomplished. >> stewart: but this year state legislators did not earmark new money for extra school reading time. senator simmons had also proposed expanding the mandate to include summer reading instruction and notifying schools no later than july if they must add the extra hour of reading in the fall. but the amendment was not successful. amidst the debate, phillis wheatley elementary is committed to keeping the extra hour, and has sought a federal grant to make sure wheatley can pay for the longer school day whether it is mandated to or not. and it isn't lost on anyone that the school is named after phillis wheatley, a former slave who became a writer, the first african-american woman poet to be published.
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>> stewart: watch our report about a west virginia school district that has students in class year-round. visit pbs.org/newshour. >> stewart: from measuring the reading skills of elementary school students, we turn to testing high school students eyeing college. this year's scores for the s.a.t., the standardized test taken by a majority of prospective college freshmen, were released this week, and they are the lowest since the test was revamped a decade ago. this year, the average total score was 1490 out of a possible 2400, down from 1497 last year and 1498 the year before. the average math score was 511 out of a possible 800, the lowest since 1999. the average reading score was 495, the lowest since 1972. what do these numbers mean? joining me now to discuss that is "bloomberg news" reporter janet lorin. >> anything significant change about the test in the past year or two that would point to this decline? >> we know more people are
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taking the test. this year we had record number of test takers and part of the reason was because the college board was able to get more states to pay to take -- for every student to take the test. >> stewart: okay. >> so we have more people taking it, the socioeconomic diversity is going to be different and that could be certainly one reason for it. next year we are going to see pretty significant changes with the sats starting in march, it is going to be a completely new test. it is actually going to look a lot more hike the act, it is, its competitor, you won't be penalized for wrong answers. those esoteric words that everybody studied for will be gone and testing more, supposedly, what you know in school, and there will be an optional writing test. >> stewart: let's talk about that population a little bit. so the population expanded and you had more students who were perhaps underserved? >> yes. >> stewart: taking the test. a. yes. when the state is paying for every student to take the test, you have a range of students
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taking it, rather than, you know, typically more wealthy students who are taking it and also have gotten a lot of test prep. one thing we hear a lot of is that high test scores correlate with income, so it shouldn't be surprising that wealthier kids do better on this test. in fact, in the last couple of years we received quite a number of very selective colleges say we are not going to use this as a herb for admissions. schools with such brand names like wesley and connecticut and brandeis. >> stewart: so how is the sat going to stay relevant if you have competitive colleges saying, you know what? it is optional? >> that's a good question. for some schools that attract, you know, 30,000 applications, they still want some, some measure in addition to your grade point average and other things. you know, it is a way to benchmark students and when they are getting thousands, it is just practical to keep that requirement in there. >> stewart: so this writing portion of the test has been in for about the past decade, did
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it have any influence on the lower end of the test scores? >> well, the writing test you can see from the charts has gone down, and -- some people had krilt sized it because the results could be gamed. it is writing, you know, not necessarily about anything that would be fact based, but it would be sort of like an essay and a criticism was you could actually memorize a couple of points to include and it didn't actually matter if it was factual and, you know, it wasn't necessarily scored about an excellent piece of writing. it was did you use some big words and things like that. >> stewart: so folks on the college board and sat, what do they think about these scores? how are they deciding to address this issue? >> well, they say, you know, of course it is not good, that the scores are down but perhaps there is a reason why they are changing the test to measure, you know, learning in a better way. >> stewart: janet lorin from bloomberg, thanks for sharing your reporting. >> thanks for having me.
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>> >> this is pbs newshour weekend, sunday. >> stewart: the international agreement that aims to limit iran's nuclear weapons program has gained one more prominent supporter. former secretary of state colin powell told nbc's "meet the press" today it's a "good deal" that will reduce iran's stockpile of enriched uranium and shut down its plutonium reactor. >> the real issue, i think, that came down to the opposition is "how do you verify it?" and i'm reminded of what my former boss, ronald reagan, used to say when he talked to the soviets, "trust but verify." with respect to the iranians it's don't trust, never trust, and always verify. and i think a vigorous verification regime has been put in place with the i.a.e.a. and other international organizations. >> stewart: president obama has already secured enough senate votes to sustain a promised veto of any legislation that would block the deal. reuters reports, lawyers for the kentucky clerk jailed for
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refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples filed court papers today seeking her release. kim davis is spending her fourth day behind bars for contempt, after ignoring a federal judge's order. davis has cited her christian beliefs as the reason she opposes gay marriage. in his notice of appeal, davis' attorney calls the contempt charge "unlawful." ben kuroki, who overcame discrimination to become the only japanese-american to fly missions over japan during world war two, has died. born in nebraska to japanese immigrants, kuroki enlisted in the u.s. army after pearl harbor, and pressed commanders to train as an air gunner. kuroki flew 30 bombing missions over europe and north africa and then received special permission from the secretary of war to participate in 28 raids over the pacific. in 2005 the army awarded him one of its highest honors, the distinguished service medal. kuroki died tuesday at his home in california. he was 98.
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>> stewart: and finally, if you one of the 30 million americans driving 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, you will be pleased to know gas prices are at their lowest level in 11 years. the national average for a gallon of regular unled is $2.40, which is a dollars less than a year ago. south carolina has the best deal at $1.98 a gallon but if you live in california, nevada, hawaii or alaska, you will pay more than $3 a gallon. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend, i am alison stewart, hari sreenivasan will be back next week. thanks for watching. >> captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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>> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. judy and josh weston. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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[instrumental music] ♪ in every culture, people have found symbolic sacred places where they can recognize the beauty, the enormity of the universe coming together as a focus. (male narrator) around the world, people of all beliefs protect their places of connection, rejuvenation, and spirituality. but some sacred sites have become an unholy battleground of land rights and religious dogma. in ethiopia, sacred areas that are sanctuaries of biodiversity are under attack by a wave of religious fundamentalism.

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