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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 08, 2016

1. Racial, Gender Wage Gaps

Racial and gender gaps in the United States have narrowed in some cases, but large economic gaps remain, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Last year, African Americans earned just 75 percent as much as whites in median hourly earnings, while women earned 83 percent as much as men. Researchers say most of the gaps can be explained by differences in education, labor force experience, occupation or industry, plus the “unmeasured” factor — discrimination. Opinions on the impact of racial or gender discrimination vary considerably across racial and ethnic groups and among women. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues involving racial or gender discrimination. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column discussing one situation, how it could be addressed and what people could learn from it.

Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Self-Driving Car Death

The driver of a self-driving Tesla Model S electric sedan was killed earlier this summer — the first known fatal accident involving a vehicle driven by computer software, sensors, cameras and radar. Federal regulators have opened an investigation into the Florida accident. The vehicle was in self-driving mode when it failed to apply brakes when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it. The National Transportation Safety Board said there was no indication that the cause was a defect in the vehicle. In a statement, Tesla said “neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.” Self-driving cars are an example of technology being used to do new things for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of technology. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay detailing how technology is being used in a new way, how that will be an improvement and tests you think should be conducted to ensure the new use of technology is safe.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Ole Miss Plaque Revised

The plaque added to the 110-year-old Confederate soldier monument on the University of Mississippi campus earlier this year glossed over causes of the Civil War, critics have argued — so Ole Miss is replacing the plaque with one providing more information about slavery. The plaque’s purpose is to provide historical context for Old South symbols and make a diverse student body feel more welcome today, according to the university’s chancellor. The first version did not do that, and has been changed. The university will retain the nickname Ole Miss and its Rebels mascot and team name, however. In many states across the South, communities are taking a new look at how they have acknowledged the actions of the Confederacy, which supported the institution of slavery in the American Civil War. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how different communities have examined or changed treatment of Confederate symbols. Use what you read to write a short editorial assessing various efforts, and debates that have occurred over them.

Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. To Quit Smoking, Just Quit

The best way to quit smoking, a new study concludes, is to quit “cold turkey.” Researchers have found that people who cut down gradually are more likely to start again later, compared to those who pick a date and quit cold. Reporting in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers note that 22 percent of those who quit cold were still not smoking six months later, compared to only 15 percent of those who stopped gradually. Smoking is a public health issue that affects many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another public health issue that is important to families or communities. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a TV or Internet ad to educate people about the issue. Write an outline for your ad, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene, detailing points you would make, and images you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Voter ID Laws Overruled

A North Carolina voter identification law has been overruled because, a federal court has ruled, its provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and a federal judge has ruled parts of Wisconsin’s new voter ID law unconstitutional because “a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to … disenfranchisement.” Several states with Republican-majority legislatures have been enacting such laws, insisting that the purpose is to thwart voter fraud. They are being challenged in federal courts by civil rights advocates who charge that, by complicating the election process, they actually discourage blacks and others who traditionally vote Democratic. Voting rights and voter participation are important issues in the 2016 race for president, especially in North Carolina, which is considered a “swing state” that could go either Republican or Democratic. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about voting rights and what Democrats and Republicans are saying about the issue. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining why voting rights and rules are important to the presidential race.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.