Monday, November 26, 2007

This Week's News:Youth in Transition


Nurturing city school helps keep young mothers on track
Chicago Tribune – November 18, 2007
Welcome to the Simpson Academy for Young Women, the city’s lone school dedicated to pregnant and parenting students, where the arrival of a child often collides with childhood itself. The stolid brick building near Roosevelt Road and Ashland Avenue serves 276 girls between the ages of 11 and 18. Attendance and test scores are up; so is satisfaction. While teen birth rates are at an all-time low, nearly 10 percent of all babies in Illinois were born to teens, according to state health officials. Without a high school diploma, the chance of providing a safe and stable home for any of them is slim. Yet, only 64 percent of teen mothers in the state graduate or get a GED, according to the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. The advocacy group reported in 2006 that almost a quarter of pregnant and parenting youth in Chicago school said they were “encouraged” to leave. At Simpson, girls receive a different message: Now that you’re expecting, an education is more crucial than ever.

Standardized Tests in College?
Newsweek Education – November 16, 2007
When U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings suggested a year ago that American colleges and universities consider using standardized tests to measure performance, the outrage in academia was loud and swift. Critics worry that No Child Left Behind type of accountability measures are being unleashed on college campuses. But now some influential college leaders seem to have had a change of heart. This week, two big consortiums of public colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, agreed to launch a website that will allow applicants, their parents and legislators to compare undergraduate experiences, costs and eventually – test scores that measure “student outcomes.” Participating colleges will begin administering standardized tests to how much test scores measure writing, analytic ability and critical thinking go up for students between freshman and senior year. The site, call College Portrait, is still being tested but a preliminary version is now online.

Seeking a “Gold Standard” in D.C. Charter Education
Washington Post – November 19, 2007
Now, some charter leaders in the city that is a national epicenter for their movement are planning to take the next step in this sifting process. They say they want to create a “gold standard designation,” to publicly identify for the first time which charters are doing the most to raise teaching quality and academic achievement for low-income students. Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, likened the initiative to a certification system to show “what high quality really means in terms of children of color from impoverished backgrounds, which is the vast majority of the students charter schools educate here.” National charter school leaders say the idea of certifying their best, already used in California, is likely to spread as the 4,000 U.S. charter schools face a strong pushback from traditional public school advocates. National research show that charter schools on average are no better at raising achievement than regular public schools. But high-performing charter groups such as KIPP, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, Aspire, YES and Green Dot say they are not average.

Juvenile Justice

California: a leader in number of youths in prison for life
Los Angeles Times – November 19, 2007
California has sentenced more juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole than any state in the nation except Pennsylvania, according to a new study by the University of San Francisco’s Center for Law and Global Justice. California currently has 227 inmates serving such sentences for crimes committed before they turned 18; Pennsylvania has 433. The study, titled “Sentencing Children to Die in Prison,” also found that the United States has far more juveniles serving life terms than any other country – 2, 387 at present –with Israel running a distant second at 7. In the United States, life terms have fallen disproportionately on youths of color, with black juveniles 10 times more likely than white juveniles to be given a life without parole sentence, the report found. In California, black juveniles are 20 times more likely to receive such sentences.

Juveniles languish in adult jails
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – November 19, 2007
Laws passed in the mid-1990s to toughen sanctions on youthful offenders have created a backlog of teenagers awaiting trial or serving sentences in adult facilities. At any given time, the nation’s jails house 7,500 teenagers, including many how have not been convicted, according to a study released last week. Liz Ryan, of the Campaign for Youth Justice in Washington, D.C., said, “At a minimum, we shouldn’t do any harm to kids that haven’t been convicted of anything.” Her nonprofit advocacy group looked at government data on incarcerated youths and found teenagers were 36 times more likely to commit suicide in adult jails than juvenile facilities, and they were 34 times more likely to re-offend if they had been tried as adults. Youth made up 1 percent of the incarcerated population, but they made up 21 percent of “substantiated victims” of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in 2005, the study found.

Juvenile offenders start life over with a crochet hook
The Christian Science Monitor – November 21, 2007
South Portland, Maine – At first glance, stubborn cowlicks and goofy humor are the most unruly things noticeable about the teen-age boys gathered in a late afternoon meeting of the Blank Project at the Long Creek Youth Development Center. The Blanket Project is for those who earn it through good behavior – and once involved, they’re careful not to lose the privilege. Yes, it’s touchy-feely, but the program is about more than making the boys feel good. “It helps the kids build those skills they’ve not been exposed to at all, or have had no opportunity to practice,” says Dan Reardon, a consultant and former CEO of the Bass shoe company who has volunteered 20 hours a week here as a mentor for more than a decade. “To create something from beginning to end, being able to give to their families and communities, talking for hours and hours – those are the social skills that will help make them successful outside. That’s restorative justice – to make everybody whole.” The blankets – dozens of them crocheted, dozens more cut-and-tied fleece – are largely given back to the communities in which crimes were committed. They go to homeless shelters, day-care centers, and retirement homes.

Foster Care

Nebraska wins award for number of foster children adopted
Omaha World-Herald – November 17, 2007
Nebraska won a $336, 000 award from the federal government for getting a record number of foster children adopted last year, state officials announced Friday. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services helped 456 children into new, permanent families during the calendar year of 2006. Atkinson said several factors contributed to the increase in adoptions. Among them was a directive from Gov. Dane Heineman to find permanent homes for children who had been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months. Another factor was the department’s effort to improve its performance on a coming federal review of the state’s child welfare system. The review will look at several measurements related to adoption.

Educator, producer work to open residential school
Mail Tribune – November 25, 2007
A Southern Oregon educator and a film producer have taken steps to establish a residential high school in hopes of improving the lives of the state’s homeless, foster and adjudicated teenagers by teaching them filmmaking. Steve Pine, regional coordinator for career and technical education at Southern Oregon Education Service District, and Sam Baldoni, owner of Inspired Films Inc., hope to launch the Oregon Youth Academy for grades nine through 12 as early as fall 2009. Homeless, foster and adjudicated youth are among the most likely to drop out of high school, Pine said. Dropouts cost society millions in welfare, criminal prosecution, incarceration and lost wages over time, Pine said. “How can we build a future for kids who have had no opportunities, no parenting, no mentoring, who bounce around from foster home to foster home?” “Then they age out. They get pregnant. They’re on welfare. They go to jail. It adds up. What we can do is open an academy and take in 200 to 400 at a time, change their lives and in turn, they can help others.”

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