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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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News,Science and Technology

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hispanic students in Wisconsin have made marginal improvement toward closing the achievement gap with their white classmates on math and science tests, although the same tests showed white and Asian students were still in a far better position to succeed in college or the workplace.

About 55 percent of white students and 50 percent of Asian students were proficient or advanced in math in 2012-13, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction. Those results represented improvements of 4 percent and 6 percent respectively over 2008-09 performances.

Over that same period Hispanics improved just over 4 percent. However, the number of Hispanics considered proficient or advanced was only 28 percent. Blacks also did better, improving 2.5 percent to about 18 percent overall.

The numbers appear lower than they've been in recent years because the state imposed a more rigorous definition of proficiency, said John Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction. He said the new scores were based on stricter performance measurements, which help schools do a better job of evaluating how well they're preparing their students.

"These new proficiency levels do a better job of measuring college readiness," he said. "They can be used to plan for courses and plan for future careers, and they can also be used to better provide classroom interventions."

Overall, just under half of all Wisconsin students were considered proficient in math and just over one-third proficient in reading.

The report also reinforced an earlier trend: while some voucher schools showed improvement, they still trailed public schools in general.

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge in Milwaukee has sentenced three people charged with growing hundreds of marijuana plants in the northeastern Wisconsin woods.

U.S. District Judge William Greisbach on Monday sentenced Javier Magana to five years in prison, Marco Magana to four years and Maria Hilda Magana-Mendoza to three years.

The judge sentenced two others involved in the operation earlier this month. Brian Magana got time served and Manuel Mendoza got four years and two months.

Federal prosecutors charged the group last summer, accusing them of growing marijuana on their two properties in the towns of Athelstane and Middle Inlet in central Marinette County. Police observed more than 1,000 plants at each location.

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that he won't seek to reduce funding for the University of Wisconsin System in his proposed budget amid reports of a $650 million surplus, but he hopes the money will be used to freeze or reduce tuition.

Republican lawmakers reacted with outrage Friday after receiving a nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo that said the system finished the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012, with nearly $650 million in reserve across a number of accounts, including $414.1 million in tuition. They were particularly offended because earlier in the day System President Kevin Reilly issued a statement saying he planned to recommend the Board of Regents impose a 2 percent tuition increase in each of the next two years.

"I think in light of this, I — as well as many other lawmakers, I think, in this state — would like to see these resources used at a minimum to freeze tuition if not lower it going into the next school year, and I think there is going to be a dramatic push to do that," Walker said.

Some lawmakers have called for an investigation into system finances, noting that it amassed the surplus while raising base tuition across the system's four-year schools by 5.5 percent annually since the 2007-08 academic year. Walker said he is willing to "look at the details" of how the surplus developed, but he wasn't looking for a scapegoat.

"Some people may want to try to single somebody out," Walker said. "I'm going to try and spend my time figuring out the best way to manage this going forward to keep tuition under control and still keep the University of Wisconsin one of the premier universities in the world."

UW System spokesman Dave Giroux has defended the surplus, saying the extra money gives the system a safety net during volatile financial times and only about $82 million of the tuition surplus isn't committed to a specific purpose. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau's memo noted system officials identified specific purposes for about $332 million of the tuition surplus, including technology purchases, financial aid and investing in a new program to give students credit for work experience and other life knowledge.

System officials had asked Walker for $37 million in his two-year budget for new academic programs and initiatives; he gave them about $27 million for those items as part of an overall increase of $181.3 million. Giroux said most of the $181.3 million will go toward salaries, benefits, utilities, debt and other costs.

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is declaring his trade trip to China a success, saying it has already produced tangible results.

The Republican governor points to a $200 million deal to sell Wisconsin-grown ginseng to one of China's largest medicine companies as the biggest achievement of the trip. But he says a deal in the works to sell animal feed products to a Chinese dairy company could be just as big.

He also says that he saw evidence of growing demand for iconic Wisconsin-made products, such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and he was impressed by the rapid expansion there of Wisconsin companies like Arcadia-based Ashley Furniture.

Walker says it's hard to say how much the trade mission may ultimately be worth because it could lead to opportunities down the road.

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