en español: El Innovador de Texas
Texas underpaying teachers
I recently released my special report, The Cost of Underpaying Texas Teachers, which showed Texas loses $13.3 billion each year by underpaying teachers. I am calling on the Legislature to approve a $3,000 pay raise now for Texas teachers, to institute a competitive, automatic pay increase every two years, and to pay bonuses to all teachers whose low performing schools improve.
Texas ranks 33rd in these United States in teachers’ salaries. We can and we must do better. Nearly 37,000 Texas teachers leave the classroom each year taking their skills to better-paying jobs or simply quitting. To ensure our state’s economic prosperity, we must recruit, reward and retain highly qualified and experienced teachers who are fully certified, well paid and dedicated to a lifelong career with our most precious resource, our children.
Tragically, as many as 50,000 students drop out of Texas schools every year. These dropouts cost our Texas economy $11.4 billion every year. Add incarceration and welfare costs of dropouts to the costs of teacher training and recruiting and other state and federal expenses, and the annual price tag jumps to $13.3 billion.
My report showed turnover is highest where teacher pay is lowest. I would rather spend $1 billion today investing in our future by giving teachers this much-deserved pay raise, than continue paying for failed policies of the past – $13.3 billion year after year after year.
The return on our investment: keeping good teachers, fewer low-performing schools, fewer failing students, fewer dropouts and a stronger economy for the state of Texas.
As a former public school teacher and a former school board president, but most importantly as a momma and a grandmomma, my goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with the students and the teachers, where it belongs. Today, our Texas teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. Texas is great, but we can do better.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
In an effort to personalize care for patients, an Austin, Texas, doctor launched SmartCare of Texas, which allows patients to pay a flat, monthly fee and then see him as often as needed.
Dr. Sidney Robin learned about the type of practice in 1999 and traveled to one in Seattle, Wash., to learn more about it. He opened his practice in 2001.
After reviewing the Seattle system, Robin said his patient load was too high and prevented him from personalizing his attention to each patient.
“I had at least 3,000 patients,” he said. “That’s crazy. SmartCare is about 1,000 per a full-time practice.”
From humble beginnings, this style of health care is starting to flourish, Robin said.
“To the best of my knowledge, mine is the first practice like this outside of Seattle,” Robin said. “Now there are enough of us to have a national society.”
Interest from doctors in Houston and Dallas, as well as other states, is building as the SmartCare system grows, but the ramping up process has taken time, Robin said.
“Everything we’re doing is brand new,” he said. “There’s nothing off the shelf. We have to design it all.”
Fees and information are available at www.smartcareoftx.com.
For more information, contact Dr. Sidney Robin,
A new, battery-operated atomic clock the size of a grain of rice could offer more precise timekeeping in cell phones, satellite-based navigation systems and other devices.
Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Colorado, the clock measures 1.5 millimeters on each side and is 4 millimeters high.
Clocks used in most portable electronic devices are based on quartz oscillators, where tiny vibrating quartz crystals produce precise pulses. But factors such as temperature can adversely affect their accuracy. The atomic clock is accurate to within one second every 300 years, making it more than 1,000 times more reliable than an ordinary wristwatch.
“The real power of our technique is that we’re able to run the clock on so little electrical power that it could be battery operated and that it’s small enough to be easily incorporated into a cell phone or some other kind of hand-held device,” said John Kitching, an NIST physicist. “And nothing else even comes close as far as being mass producible.”
NIST scientists aim to improve the clock’s long-term stability and reduce its power consumption to the point where the clock could improve commercial and military systems that require precision time-keeping.
For more information, contact Laura Ost,
No freeze needed
The places most desperately in need of vaccines usually are the places where it is most difficult to store them. Part of the problem is that most vaccines must be kept at a cool temperature. If the temperature is not maintained, the vaccines are useless.
One United Kingdom firm, Cambridge Biostability, said some $200 million to $300 million a year is lost when vaccines’ correct temperatures are not maintained.
The company hopes to eliminate that waste with ready-to-inject liquid vaccines that would not need refrigeration.
Cambridge Biostability coats the vaccines in sugar glass, then suspends them in perfluorocarbon liquids. The technology can be used to combine several vaccines, none of which will mix through their coating before injection. Medical personnel can then transport the vaccines without refrigeration and inject them into patients.
“Apart from making vaccine distribution easier, reliable and cheaper, [the coated vaccines] will allow new vaccines to be much more easily introduced in the form of multi-component vaccines, as they do not react together when held in a sugar glass,” said Iain Cubitt, chief executive officer of Cambridge Biostability.
The company will hold its first clinical trials for the product in 2006, Cubitt said.For more information, contact Iain Cubitt,
Mornings may no longer have to begin with the sound of a blaring alarm clock or radio. London-based researcher and designer Rachel Wingfield developed a pillow and duvet that contain a light source to wake a sleeper.
Light Sleeper bedding contains electroluminescent (EL) wire, meaning the wire, blanket and pillow glow at a pre-set time, gradually getting brighter over a 15-to-20-minute period and waking a sleeper with a simulated dawn. Wingfield incorporates the EL wire into other surfaces, including window blinds.
Wingfield said the Light Sleeper bedding is designed to treat people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder that causes people to experience depression and increased levels of melatonin during seasons when days are shorter. A sleep-related hormone, melatonin is produced at higher levels in the dark and can cause depression. Light Sleeper bedding can minimize effects of the disorder by helping synchronize the body’s natural clock, or circadian rhythm, by waking to its natural stimulus, which is gradually increased light, Wingfield said.
San Francisco inventor Mitch Altman invented a new gadget that allows him to turn TVs off just about anywhere. His company, Cornfield Electronics Inc., markets the TV-B-Gone device.
It fits on a keychain and comes in two models, one designed to turn off American and Asian TVs and the other aimed at turning off European ones. The company said consumers can point the gadget at a TV and press the button until the TV goes off.
With TV-B-Gone, the company said 90 percent of TV brands usually turn off in about 17 seconds, but it can take more than a minute for some models. In October, the company sold its entire stock of remote controls in two days.
“I scrambled to get a Web provider that could handle the Web traffic,” said Altman. “And I scrambled to create an organization to handle the demand. Friends stepped up to help me out.”
By December, the company had 20,000 additional remotes and was able to handle and fill orders before Christmas, Altman said.
For more information, contact Mitch Altman,
Zyvex Corp., based in Richardson, Texas, makes tools and materials associated with the burgeoning field of nanotech. One of its products, which aids the commercial use of a strong substance called carbon nanotubes, will appear in bicycles.
Carbon nanotubes are tiny cylinders composed of carbon atoms that have a number of properties, particularly great strength and flexibility. Fibers composed of nanotubes are among the toughest materials known to science, roughly 20 times stronger than the Kevlar used in bulletproof jackets, yet they weigh less than a fifth as much as steel.
Lightness and strength are particularly important in the world of high-performance bicycles, which already use graphite composites. Zyvex supplies a nanotube additive called Nanosolve to California sporting goods manufacturer Easton Sports, which will use it to make bike components that are lighter and 15 to 20 percent stronger than their conventional counterparts. The Nanosolve additive reduces the tendency of nanotubes to clump and makes it easier to integrate them into composite materials.
Easton’s Bicycle Products Group, which makes racing bike components like frame tubing and handlebars, will use Nanosolve in a proprietary material to be featured in its 2005 line of products.
For more information, contact John Harrington,
Easton Sports Bicycle Division, 818-782-6445, ext. 758
The spotless mind
Getting rid of traumatic memories may soon be a pill away, enabling patients and victims to move on with their lives.
Dubbed therapeutic forgetting, the concept is part of a handful of controversial studies in France and the United States. Professors at Harvard Medical School and in France are using the drug propranolol to block the actions of stress hormones that etch memories into the brain.
“An excess of adrenalin creates a memory so strong that it results in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” said Dr. Roger Pitman, Harvard Medical School professor and principal investigator of the study.
By blocking the adrenalin, researchers hope to prevent or ease PTSD and painful memories that can occur from daydreams, nightmares or flashbacks from an incident.
Initial study results show propranolol reduces PTSD in trauma victims, Pitman said.
Researchers hope to use the drug as a way to help soldiers cope with the horrors of battle, as well as victims recovering from psychologically devastating experiences.
For more information, contact Dr. Roger Pitman,
A University of Washington study suggests that a new drug under development by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. can protect women from infection with the human papilloma virus, which causes most cervical cancers. Further testing of the drug will continue through 2005, with about 25,000 test subjects in 34 countries.
For more information, contact Dr. Douglas Lowy,
National Cancer Institute, 301-496-9513
Scientists at the University of Florida created a living brain from rat neurons that can fly a simulated plane. By observing how the brain connects to the flight simulator, scientists hope to understand how the brain forms neural connections and processes information. The scientists said these living brains could someday fly small, unmanned aircrafts or perform other tasks too dangerous for humans.
For more information, contact Thomas DeMarse,
University of Florida, 352-392-9235
A sunny window may let natural light into a room, but often it lets in unwanted heat as well. Researchers at University College London developed a new window coating that blocks heat but not light once the temperature rises over 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information, contact Ivan Parkin,
The University College London, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright