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Smoking declines at US high schools

ATLANTA – Smoking among US high school students has dropped to its lowest level in a decade, the government said last week, crediting taxes and school programs that discourage youngsters from taking up the habit. Last year, just 28.5 percent of high-schoolers in a nationwide survey reported they had smoked a cigarette in the previous month – down from 36.4 percent five years ago, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. The rate is the lowest since 1991, when 27.5 percent of high-schoolers said they smoked. The figure had climbed for most of the 1990s before reversing in 1999. The CDC said high-schoolers appear to be getting the antismoking message pushed by media campaigns. School-based antitobacco programs also appear to be sinking in.

Boston charter severs ties with Edison

BOSTON – One of the nation's largest charter schools has terminated its contract with Edison Schools Inc., a blow to the for-profit manager of public schools as it projects major losses in the coming year. Boston Renaissance Charter School, one of the first and best-known schools to sign with Edison, decided last week to pull out of its deal, which originally was set to expire in 2005. The school president said middling test scores on the statewide MCAS exam were a factor in the decision. In 2001, 69 percent of Renaissance eighth-graders failed the math portion of the MCAS compared with 31 percent statewide. On the English portion, 22 percent of eighth-graders failed, compared with 8 percent statewide. Edison projects a net loss of $32 million in its next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

US OKs international lunch program

WASHINGTON – A plan to coax millions of poor children into school worldwide by offering them free food has won the go-ahead from Congress and President George W. Bush. The new farm bill that authorizes the program allocated $100 million for it. The pilot projects include providing daily hot snacks to 250,000 young students in Nepal, and milk boxes and fortified biscuits to about 400,000 children in Vietnam. For more information go to http://www.wfp.org

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