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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 28, 2022

1. War in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of the neighboring nation of Ukraine has spread worry and unease around the world. The unprovoked attack has caused the United States, nations throughout Europe and the multi-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to scramble to decide how to respond to the “special military operation” launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin to “demilitarize” Ukraine. Putin has long sought to assert control over Ukraine, a neighboring nation that was once part of the Russian empire when it was known as the Soviet Union. Ukraine declared its independence in 1991 after the Soviet Union broke apart as a governing state. Putin has cited Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO as a justification for intervening in the neighboring state. President Biden and other world leaders have moved to implement economic sanctions to hamstring Russia’s economy but have stopped short of ordering military action. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” President Biden said when he announced a new round of sanctions last week. As a leader of NATO and democracies around the world, the United States has been thrust into a leading role responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about steps the U.S. has taken and how other nations have responded. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing the U.S. steps, whether they are sufficient for the situation and what other moves might be needed or more effective in the future. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. And Now It’s ‘Endemic’

In the battle against the coronavirus, people have become all too familiar with the words “epidemic” and “pandemic.” Now the state of California is adding a new word to the mix. Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that from now on the state will treat the Covid 19 virus and its variants as an “endemic,” ongoing risk, rather than an emergency epidemic or pandemic. A disease is endemic if it is constantly present and manageable, while an epidemic is an outbreak that affects a large number of people within a region and a pandemic affects multiple nations. “We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” Goveernor Newsom said at a news conference. California’s first-in-the-nation decision is significant, and not just because the state has 40-million people. It could be followed as an example by other states looking to “return to normal” after more than two years of masks and restrictions on day-to-day activities. States across the nation are relaxing rules and regulations connected to the coronavirus in an effort to “return to normal.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about moves taken by your state. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend outlining how your family plans to respond to the changes, and why.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Women’s Soccer Victory

For more than 30 years, the U.S. women’s national soccer team has been one of the most successful national teams in all of sports. The women won four world titles, four Olympic gold medals and eight championships in the tournament that qualifies teams for the World Cup competition. Yet they were paid less than the less successful U.S. men’s national soccer team and sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal compensation. This month the women’s team reached a $24-million settlement with the Soccer Federation that will pay 28 players back wages to correct long-term differences in pay and provide $2-million to support women’s and girls’ soccer. Most significantly, they won an agreement from the federation that women and men will be paid at an equal rate on the U.S. national teams going forward. Though the settlement is just one-third of the $67-million the women had sought in their suit, it is considered a milestone for women’s sports that could serve as a precedent for other cases in which women are paid less than men. Equal pay is not just an issue affecting women’s sports. It is an issue that affects many career fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about fields where women and men are compensated unequally. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining ways inequality in pay could be addressed in different fields.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Alcohol and Driving

When it comes to safety, a small change can sometimes have a big effect for people. A good example is the move the state of Utah made to tighten its drunk driving laws by reducing the amount of alcohol that could be present in the blood for a person to be considered legally impaired. The change wasn’t huge, dropping the legal limit from 0.08 percent to 0.05. But it has made a big difference in highway safety according to a new study. Since the change took effect in 2017, Utah’s rate of deadly crashes dropped more quickly than in neighboring states and the nation as a whole, according to the study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA analysis also found that alcohol was less often a factor in crashes. According to the study, the fatal crash rate in Utah fell 19.8 percent from 2016 to 2019, while it went down just 5.6 percent during that period for the rest of the country. Statistics often are used to show how effective changes in policy have been. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story in which statistics are used to support conclusions about a such a change. Use what you read to brainstorm a TV ad campaign highlighting these statistics and which are most important.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Financial Literacy

Managing money is one of the most important skills students and young adults can learn. Knowing how to make money decisions and perform financial tasks helps students succeed in both careers and life. Such “financial literacy” is so important that lawmakers in the state of Florida are moving to make it a requirement for graduation from high school. Legislation working its way through the Florida Senate and House of Representatives would make Florida the sixth state to require a stand-alone course in financial literacy for graduation. The course would cover balancing a checkbook and online bank accounts, completing loan applications, understanding inheritance, buying insurance, computing federal income tax and even “contesting an incorrect billing statement,” the Washington Post newspaper reports. The proposed legislation seeks to “better prepare young people in this state for adulthood by providing them with the requisite knowledge to achieve financial stability.” Teens and young adults need money knowledge and financial literacy in many ways as they go through life. In the newspaper or online, find and read ads and stories that involve money matters that could affect you as you go out on your own. Make a list of situations and write down what kind of knowledge you would need for each. As a class, discuss which of these situations you would encounter most often or which would be most important.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.