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'Free for everybody' party kicks off 2019 Summer Reading Club

Suds of foam drifting over the Longview Municipal Complex have annually signaled the Summer Reading Club Kickoff Party — not to mention the packed parking lot and hundreds of children.

“It is always hard to guesstimate, but I would say we’re getting close to 1,000” people, Longview Public Library Youth Services Supervisor Jenna Yeakley said of attendance at the library’s yearly bash on the library plaza.

The party serves as the opening pitch for the library’s annual Summer Reading Club, which encourages children up to 18 years old to keep reading throughout the summer. Foam frolicking, bounce houses, popcorn, Kona Ice, bubbles and sidewalk chalk are a sampling of the fun offered to children at no cost.

“My goodness,” White Oak parent Michelle Langford said Friday of the sight of hundreds of children spread across the plaza dancing, eating and racing from one attraction to another. Langford brought her infant son, Spencer, and her 6-year-old daughter, Zoey, who said she most enjoyed the bounce house.

“This is absolutely amazing, because this is free for everybody, and there’s so many littles around everywhere,” Langford said of the children. “We came a couple of days ago for when the Summer Reading Club would start, so we’re excited.”

It was the first reading club kickoff party for the Langford family, as well as for Davion Brown, a Longview parent who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Cailani, and 8-year-old son, Caleb, who was toting two DVDs to return to the library.

“We’ve never been to the kickoff party,” Brown said. “We just got here, so they really haven’t had a chance to do anything yet. … I think they’re just overwhelmed right now with all of the stuff.”

More than 2,000 young people have participated in the Longview Public Library’s Summer Reading Club each of the past two years. The library already had reached 1,066 club participants Thursday before more children signed up at Friday’s party, Yeakley said.

“We’ve hit 1,000, so now we’re once again trying to hit that over-2,000 mark,” she said.

The six-week program will culminate with an end party 10 a.m. to noon July 24 at Broughton Park. Other club activities are planned throughout the summer.

A full schedule of events is available at the library and online.

The library also offers a summer reading club for adults. Registration is available online at longviewtexas.gov/library or at the library at 222 W. Cotton St., Longview.


General
Two Longview students receive National Merit Scholarships

Two recent Longview high school graduates — and former kindergarten classmates — are among about 3,500 students across the nation to receive National Merit Scholarships.

Nitin Rangu, Longview High School’s 2019 valedictorian, will attend the University of Oklahoma on a full scholarship as part of the college-sponsored Merit Scholarship program.

Jacob Chamberlain, who graduated from Christian Heritage Classical School, will attend Northeastern University in Boston. Even though he received about $120,000 in scholarships, he said he still will have expenses

Without the National Merit scholarship, Chamberlain said he would not have been able to go to Northeastern, which is his first choice.

“If I hadn’t gotten that scholarship and hadn’t gotten the amount I did, even if I had gotten, like, $5,000 less, (going there) wouldn’t have been doable,” he said.

The National Merit Scholarship Program process begins in students’ junior years with the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Students who score in the top 1 percent in the state qualify for the program.

Rangu and Chamberlain were named National Merit Semifinalists in fall 2018.

Later, students submit SAT scores and other materials to be selected as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

Rangu said OU is giving him $116,000, and he will not have to pay for his undergraduate degree.

Getting the scholarship required sacrifices, he said.

“The summer before junior year, I was studying, like, every day,” Rangu said. “My friends would get mad at me; I didn’t really go out much that summer, but it all paid off.”

Chamberlain said he spent some time with a tutor to prepare for the tests required for the National Merit program; Christian Heritage does little standardized testing.

“(That was) the number one thing that helped me,” he said. “I always knew that I knew everything on the test, but I just always felt like I wasn’t finishing in time.”

Rangu used websites such as Khan Academy, which has short video lessons and SAT practice, and took practice tests to prepare for the PSAT and SAT.

At OU, Rangu said he wants to study psychology and later go to medical school and study ophthalmology.

Chamberlain said he will study computer science with a focus on cyber security. He will also be part of a co-op program at the university that allows students to work in their chosen field for a semester.

“It’s a full-paying job for six months, and I think it’s going to be really beneficial to get early experience, maybe even beyond internship work,” Chamberlain said. “Not only does it help you discover is this really what I want to do ... theoretically, it also can help you put yourself ahead of other college graduates in your same degree field.”

The scholarship program is helping students turn plans into reality, Chamberlain said.

“National Merit’s a great thing to help high-achieving students go to colleges they really want to go to,” he said. “It’s always unfortunate when I hear about other people who didn’t get to go to college because of money. They’re smart enough, they have all the right things going for them, they just didn’t have the resources.”


Trump says US, Mexico reach agreement to prevent tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced late Friday that he had suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico, tweeting that the country “has agreed to take strong measures” to stem the flow of Central American migrants into the United States. But the deal the sides agreed to falls short of some of the dramatic overhauls the U.S. had pushed for.

A “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration” released by the State Department said the U.S. “will immediately expand the implementation” of a program that returns asylum-seekers who cross the southern border to Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. Mexico will “offer jobs, healthcare and education” to those people, the agreement stated.

Mexico has also agreed, it said, to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of the Mexican National Guard throughout the country, especially on its southern border with Guatemala. And Mexico is taking “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks,” the State Department said.

The U.S. announced in December that it would make some asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases were being proceeded — a begrudging agreement with Mexico that has taken months to scale and that has been plagued with glitches, including wrong court dates, travel problems and issues with lawyers reaching their clients.

Homeland Security officials have been ramping up slowly, and were already working to spread the program along the border before the latest blowup. About 10,000 people have been returned to Mexico to wait out the processing of their immigration cases since the program began Jan. 29. More than 100,000 migrants are currently crossing the U.S. border each month, but not everyone claims asylum and migrants can wait an entire year before making a claim.

Any sizable increase may also be difficult to achieve. At the San Ysidro crossing alone, Mexico had been prepared to accept up to 120 asylum seekers per week, but for the first six weeks only 40 people per week were returned.

Trump’s had announced the tariff plan last week, declaring in a tweet that, on June 10, the U.S. would “impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.” U.S. officials had laid out steps Mexico could take to prevent the tariffs, but many had doubts that even those steps would be enough to satisfy Trump on illegal immigration, a signature issue of his presidency and one that he sees as crucial to his 2020 re-election campaign.

After returning from Europe Friday, though, Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico.” He wrote that the “Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended.”

He said Mexico has agreed to work to “stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border” and said those steps would “greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

The reversal marked a change in tone from earlier Friday, when his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters in Ireland before Trump took off: “Our position has not changed. The tariffs are going forward as of Monday.” Trump has often said unpredictability helps him negotiate.

The 5% tax on all Mexican goods , which would increase every month up to 25% under Trump’s plan, would have had enormous economic implications for both countries. Americans bought $378 billion worth of Mexican imports last year, led by cars and auto parts. Many members of Trump’s Republican Party and business allies had urged him to reconsider — or at least postpone actually implementing the tariffs as talks continue — citing the potential harm to American consumers and manufactures.

From the moment Trump announced the tariff threat, observers wondered whether he would pull the trigger, noting his habit of creating problems and then claiming credit when he rushes in to solve them.

In late March, Trump threatened to shut the entire U.S.-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t immediately halt illegal immigration. Just a few days later, he backed off that threat, saying he was pleased with steps Mexico had taken. It was unclear, however, what — if anything — Mexico had changed.

U.S. and Mexican officials met for more than 10 hours Friday during a third day of talks at the U.S. State Department trying to hash out a deal that would satisfy Trump’s demand that Mexico dramatically increase its efforts to crack down on migrants.

The talks were said to be focused, in part, on attempting to reach a compromise on changes that would make it harder for migrants who pass through Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S., those monitoring the situation said. Mexico has opposed such a change but appeared open to considering a potential compromise that could include exceptions or waivers for different types of cases. The joint declaration, however makes no mention of the issue.

Leaving the State Department Friday night, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said he thought the deal struck “a fair balance” because the U.S. “had more drastic proposals and measures at the start.”

Earlier, Ebrard tweeted, “Thanks to all the people who have supported us by realizing the greatness of Mexico.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also tweeted. “Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, the imposition of tariffs on Mexican products exported to the USA has been avoided,” he said, calling for a gathering to celebrate in Tijuana Saturday.

Trump in recent months has embraced tariffs as a political tool he can use to force countries to comply with his demands — in this case on his signature issue of immigration. Beyond Trump and several White House advisers, though, few in his administration had believed the tariffs were a good idea, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. Those people had worried about the negative economic consequences for Americans and argued that tariffs — which would likely spark retaliatory taxes on U.S. exports — would also hurt the administration politically.

Republicans in Congress had also warned the White House that they were ready to stand up to the president to try to block his tariffs, which they worried would spike costs to U.S. consumers, harm the economy and imperil a major pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal .

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., greeted Friday night’s news with sarcasm. “This is an historic night!” he tweeted. “Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”


General
More East Texas high schools score high in history for STAAR

East Texas high school students know their U.S. history, according to State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness end-of-course results.

Only one area school, Kilgore High School, scored below 90 percent in the “approaches grade level” category on the U.S. history test.

Union Grove High School is the only school in the area to score at least 90 percent approaches on each test.

The Texas Education Agency breaks down STAAR scores into performance categories of “approaches grade level,” “meets grade level” and “masters grade level.”

Approaches grade level means the student is likely to succeed in the next grade up with academic intervention. Meets grade level indicates the student is highly likely to succeed in the next grade level, but could still need some short-term intervention. Masters grade level means the student is expected to succeed in the next grade with little to no intervention.

When looking at how a school performed overall on an exam, students’ scores are counted from top to bottom, which means an overall score will not total 100 percent.

State averages

Overall, Texas high school students scored the highest on the U.S. history test and lowest on the English 1 test.

Students scored 93 percent approaches grade level, 75 percent meets grade level and 47 percent masters grade level on the U.S. history test. Only 63 percent of English 1 students scored at approaches grade level with 49 percent at meets grade level and 12 percent at masters grade level.

Scores improved some on the English 2 test, with 67 percent scoring at approaches, grade level 51 percent at meets grade level and 8 percent at masters grade level.

Biology and algebra 1 scores were close. Biology students scored at 88 percent approaches grade level, 63 percent meets grade level and 26 percent at masters grade level.

Algebra 1 students scored at 84 percent approaches grade level, 62 percent meets grade level and 39 percent masters grade level.

State averages were not available to compare with Longview-area school districts at the time of a previous News-Journal story looking at scores for Longview, Spring Hill, Pine Tree and White Oak ISDs.

Hallsville ISD

Despite other districts struggling in English, Hallsville High School students performed above state approaches averages on the tests. While English was still the lowest scores for the district, English 1 students scored at 81 percent approaches grade level, 70 percent meets grade level and 20 percent masters grade level.

English 2 students scored at 76 percent approaches grade level, 61 percent meets grade level and 11 percent masters grade level.

Sticking on trend, the highest scores were on the U.S. history test. Students scored at 97 percent approaches grade level, 80 percent meets grade level and 50 percent masters grade level.

Algebra 1 students scored at 86 percent approaches grade level, 50 percent meets grade level and 22 percent masters grade level. Biology students scored at 92 percent approaches grade level, 78 percent meets grade level and 36 percent masters grade level.

All tests had above state average scores on approaches.

Kilgore ISD

Kilgore High School students scored below the state approaches grade level average on each test.

Kilgore scored the lowest among area schools on the U.S. history test; testers scored 88 percent at approaches grade level, 59 percent at meets grade level and 25 percent at masters grade level.

The high school’s lowest scores were the English 1 test, with 52 percent at approaches grade level, 39 percent at meets grade level and 7 percent at masters grade level.

English 2 scores jumped some; 63 percent of testers scored at approaches grade level, 45 percent at meets grade level and 3 percent at masters grade level.

Biology testers scored at 82 percent approaches grade level, 45 percent meets grade level and 12 percent at masters grade level. Algebra 1 students scored at 73 percent approaches grade level, 37 percent meets grade level and 19 percent masters grade level.

Gladewater ISD

Gladewater High School students had some of the lowest English scores in the area. English 1 students scored at 58 percent approaches grade level, 44 percent meets grade level and 9 percent at masters grade level. English 2 students scored at 57 percent approaches grade level, 41 percent meets grade level and 1 percent masters grade level.

While student scores slipped in English, Superintendent Sedric Clark said the meets and masters grade level scores increased from last year, which pleased him.

Scores increased for the algebra 1 test, with 78 percent at approaches grade level, 61 percent meets grade level and 39 percent masters grade level.

The highest scores were for the U.S. history test; students scored at 95 percent approaches grade level, 75 percent meets grade level and 42 percent masters grade level. The U.S. history test is the only one on which Gladewater High School students scored above the state average for approaches grade level.

Biology students scored at 82 percent approaches grade level, 55 percent meets grade level and 19 percent masters grade level.

To improve scores, Clark said the district will work with students on setting goals and focusing on achieving those.

“We are building a foundation where we focus on growing,” Clark said. “We are focusing on the individual child with goal-setting and meeting the needs of the whole child.”

Sabine ISD

Sabine High School’s biology test-takers scored almost as well on the U.S. history exam. Biology testers scored at 95 percent approaches grade level, 79 percent meets grade level and 32 percent masters grade level. U.S. history students scored at 97 percent approaches grade level, 76 percent meets grade level and 42 percent masters grade level.

Results dropped some on the algebra 1 test; students scored at 86 percent approaches grade level, 59 percent meets grade level and 18 percent masters on the exam grade level.

The lowest scores for Sabine were on the English tests. English 1 students scored at 78 percent approaches grade level, 61 percent meets grade level and 16 percent masters grade level. English 2 testers scored slightly lower at 77 percent approaches grade level, 62 percent meets grade level and 5 percent masters grade level.

Students scored above state average in approaches grade level on all exams.

East Texas Charter School

East Texas Charter School scored above state average in approaches grade level in each subject, with 100 percent of students scoring at approaches grade level for the biology test and 67 percent at meets grade level and 26 percent at masters grade level.

U.S. history students scored almost as high, with 97 percent at approaches grade level, 70 percent at meets grade level and 32 percent at masters grade level. Algebra 1 students also scored in the high 90s for approaches grade level at 96 percent. Testers scored at 84 percent meets grade level and 32 percent masters grade level in algebra 1.

English scores were the lowest for East Texas Charter. English 1 students scored at 69 percent approaches grade level, 42 percent meets grade level and 8 percent masters grade level. English 2 scores rose some, with 70 percent at approaches grade level, 51 percent at meets grade level and 7 percent at masters grade level.

Gilmer ISD

Gilmer High School students scored highest on the U.S. history test; 93 percent of students scored at approaches grade level, 73 percent at meets grade level and 44 percent at masters grade level.

Students also scored well on the algebra 1 test, with 91 percent at approaches grade level, 69 percent at meets grade level and 49 percent at masters grade level.

Biology students scored at 85 percent approaches grade level, 58 percent meets grade level and 21 percent at masters grade level. Biology is the only exam on which Gilmer High School students scored below the state average at approaches.

The district’s lowest scores were the English tests. On the English 1 test, 73 percent of testers scored at approaches grade level, 59 percent at meets grade level and 13 percent at masters grade level.

On the English 2 test, scores dropped. Students scored at 70 percent approaches grade level, 53 percent meets grade level and 6 percent masters grade level.

Union Grove ISD

Union Grove High School is the only school in the area to receive a masters grade level score higher than 70 percent.

Algebra 1 students scored at 98 percent approaches grade level, 90 percent meets grade level and 71 percent masters grade level.

Superintendent Kelly Moore said the high scores are a result of the hard work of algebra 1 teacher Paula Adkinson. After an algebra 1 teacher left Union Grove midway through the year, Moore said Adkinson stepped up.

“I appreciate her work,” Moore said. “I appreciate the work of the principal — and our kids work hard and their parents. It takes a team.”

Moore said teachers help students by reviewing their weaknesses on benchmark tests throughout the year to improve in the subject matter.

Union Grove scored at least 90 percent approaches grade level in all subjects. Biology students scored at 98 percent approaches grade level, 88 percent meets grade level and 39 percent masters grade level.

While other districts struggled in English, Union Grove did not. English 1 students scored at 92 percent approaches grade level, 77 percent meets grade level and 27 percent masters grade level.

English 2 students scored at 90 percent approaches grade level, 82 percent meets grade level and 18 percent masters grade level. Almost all U.S. history students passed, with 99 percent at approaches grade level, 87 percent at meets grade level and 52 percent at masters grade level.

“It’s just a combination of great teachers, good instruction and the administrative staff working with the teachers and kids,” Moore said, “and students just working hard.”

New Diana ISD

Students at New Diana High School scored lowest on the English tests. Specifically, the English 1 test had the lowest approaches grade level score for the district at 65 percent, with 52 percent at meets grade level and 10 percent grade level at masters.

On the English 2 test, students scored at 67 percent approaches grade level, 47 percent meets grade level and 6 percent masters grade level.

New Diana High School students scored best on the biology exam; 97 percent of students scored at approaches grade level on the test, with 78 percent at grade level meets ad 36 percent at masters grade level.

U.S. history scores also were high, with 93 percent at approaches grade level, 77 percent at meets grade level and 34 percent at masters grade level. Algebra 1 testers scored at 87 percent approaches grade level, 54 percent at meets grade level and 24 percent at masters grade level.

Students scored at or above state average at the approaches grade level on exams in each subject.

Carthage ISD

Carthage High School students kept with the high U.S. history trend, scoring at 95 percent approaches grade level, 81 percent meets grade level and 44 percent masters grade level. Students scored at or above the state average in approaches grade level for each subject.

Students also scored high on the biology exam, with 92 percent at approaches grade level, 65 percent at meets grade level and 24 percent at masters grade level.

Scores for Carthage begin to drop on the algebra 1 test. Students scored at 88 percent approaches grade level, 65 percent meets grade level and 35 percent masters grade level.

English 1 and 2 tests were the lowest scores for Carthage High School. Test-takers scored at 76 percent approaches grade level for both English tests, with 58 percent meets grade level for English 1, 59 percent meets grade level for English 2 and 10 percent masters grade level for English 1 and 11 percent masters grade level for English 2.