Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Break

The Youth in Transition Blog is taking a Holiday Break and will return after the Holiday Season. Look for headlines in your email inbox in January.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Early alerts should help shape education – December 8, 2007
Indiana stands ready to roll out a computer-based teaching tool that can serve as an early warning system for student learning problems. The system is designed to give quick tests to students throughout the year, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed. The tests will make sure children are learning what they should and reveal what they’ve missed. The program will be phased in over four years, beginning in the fall of 2008, for schools that wish to apply for the program, which will offer a variety of teaching aids on subjects such as math, science and social studies.

Adult education bringing hope to young dropouts
The Post and Courier – December 10, 2007
Unlike the dropout stereotype, James isn’t wasting his days lounging on his couch or stirring up trouble on the streets. Instead, he’s focused on earning his GED by taking classes at Dorchester County’s Adult Education Technical Assistance Center. He receives one-on-one attention in smaller classes and said he’s learning in an environment geared toward his needs. Students like James were once a rarity in South Carolina’s adult education programs. The centers were designed to help adults move up in the workplace, and partnerships with business and industry were the norm. Adult education programs today, however, have positioned themselves to meet the needs of the state’s multitude of high school dropouts. Part of the new young adult effort includes the recent hiring of transition specialists, who play a similar role to school guidance counselors, at each site across the state. Theses employees assist in organizing college tours, preparing resumes, formatting job applications and teaching interview skills. Students are encouraged to keep in contact with the transition specialists even after they earn their GEDs.

Colleges set up charters as pipeline for students
Sacramento Bee – December 8, 2007
Frustrated with students who come to college ill-prepared and an applicant pool that lacks the diversity of the nation’s high schools, universities around the country are creating their own K-12 schools. All of them focus on steering disadvantaged kids toward the university gates. And educators say they are making headway. “The reason these are happening more is that the universities are trying to do something to increase the number of minority students that come on their campuses and can be successful,” said Rob Baird, who funds school-university partnerships as vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. “Universities are now seeing these schools as laboratories for learning how to do something about remedying the achievement gap between more affluent, typically majority-population kids, and poor, urban, minority kids.”

School programs prevent dropouts with flexible hours
Houston Chronicle – December 12, 2007
It’s shortly after 1pm Wednesday, and while most of her peers across Texas are in school, 18-year-old Angelina Banda is driving to her $7.50-an-hour job at Home Depot. “I need Pampers,” said Banda, who has a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. The young mom is enrolled in a special program at Houston’s Furr High School, which allows her to attend class in the morning and work in the afternoon. Similar programs designed to keep teems from dropping out of school could become more popular thanks to a new law that makes it easier for districts to obtain state funding for students with nontraditional schedules. State Rep. Scott Hochberg, who proposed the bill, said he hopes it encourages districts to offer evening or weekend classes for students who must work to support their families and cannot attend school during the conventional 8am to 3pm day.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice Day urges students to make healthy choices
The Huntsville Item - December 14, 2007
Students at the Huntsville Transitional Disciplinary Academy literally came face-to-face with reality Friday during the school’s first Juvenile Justice Day. During the program, representatives from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and several parole officers discussed law-related issues and life decisions with the students. “The primary purpose of this event is to help students make healthy choices and to help them understand the dynamics of the law,” HTDA counselor Chris Tyson said. “We want to dare our students to have big dreams and to preclude them from getting into the penal system. “It’s so
important that we reach these kids while they’re still at this age, because if we talk to them while they’re in the seventh and eighth grades, we can hopefully prevent them from being involved in criminal activities later on.”

Ohio receives grant targeting mental health improvement in juvenile justice system
Wilmington News Journal - December 14, 2007
Ohio has been selected as one of four states to participate in a national and statewide collaborated effort to reform mental health services for youth involved in the state’s juvenile justice system. Ohio was chosen in a highly competitive process by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to participate in the Models for Change action network to improve mental health services for young offenders. “About 70 percent of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have suffered with a mental health disorder. We have to improve the level of service offered to this population,” said Department of Youth Services (DYS) Director Tom Stickrath. “We anticipate that the Models for Change grant will allow Ohio to find new ways to identify and treat youth involved in DYS and the juvenile justice system as a whole with serious mental health needs and ultimately develop a more effective juvenile justice system.

Foster Care

Advocacy group seeks more info on abused foster kids
Detroit Free Press - December 14, 2007
The state and a New York-based children’s advocacy group are again at an impasse in the federal lawsuit that could result in radical, court-ordered reforms of Michigan’s foster care system. A U.S. district court magistrate in Detroit is to hear oral arguments today by the state Attorney General’s Office, representing the Department of Human Services, and Children’s Rights, the group pressing a class action on behalf of Michigan’s nearly 19,000 foster kids. Sara Bartosz, a Children’s Rights attorney, said her group has taken about 30 depositions from DHS officials about the foster care system. “What we’re seeing loud and clear, is a system that is not managed and staffed and resourced in a way to do its basic mission and do it safely,” Bartosz said this week.

Country singer helps students keep the beat
The Barnstable Patriot – December 14, 2007
Jimmy Wayne’s life sounds like something straight from a country music song, which is perhaps why it’s so fitting that country is his chosen genre. Wayne’s experiences include being a witness to serious domestic violence, having a parent in prison, being a victim of child abuse, spending time in foster care and being homeless. With such a past tucked beneath his belt, it’s a wonder the singer never threw in the proverbial towel, or mic. To the contrary, Wayne channeled his experiences and now speaks about them, and about overcoming them, to students throughout the country. On Wednesday Wayne made a special stop at the Performing Arts Center at Barnstable High School, where he performed a show for 957 Barnstable Middle School Students.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Finding answers to dropout problem
Argus Leader – December 1, 2007
More then 10 percent of South Dakota teenagers quit high school before graduating, a choice that costs them $10,000 a year in earning power for the rest of their lives. As dropouts, they’re more likely to go on welfare, more apt to encounter social and financial difficulties – and now, they’re at the center of a statewide effort to change the way people think about education. The issue is no longer South Dakota’s dropout age, which had been 16 since World War II. The legislature voted this year to raise that age to 18 starting in 2009. The issue now is how educators will adapt to serve a captive audience that soon will include many students who under the old dropout law might have quit school at age 16 or 17. Career training, online coursework, internships and greater use of alternative schools all stand to address a root problem – that “some kids leave us because they’re bored,” Pogany said.

Drop-Out Prevention
KALB-News 5 - December 6, 2007
A Louisiana program designed to prevent students from dropping out of school and to encourage drop-outs to return to the classroom has received national recognition. The National Jobs for America’s Graduates Program awarded the Louisiana chapter its highest honor, a Five for Five National Performance Award and Top Five for Positive Outcomes Award for a 90% graduation rate among JAG students in Louisiana. The JAG program provides students the instruction they need to receive their high school diploma or GED. The program also helps students find jobs in high demand/high wage areas of the Louisiana economy. The Louisiana program also received a national grant to implement a research-based pilot of the JAG Out-of-School Model to encourage high school drop-outs to return to school and explore careers in the financial sector. The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the grant to just three states, Louisiana, Ohio and Florida. The project is aimed at serving 150 out-of-school youth over a two-year period.

School issues call for fathers to become visible in kids’ lives
The News-Press - December 5, 2007
Lee Middle School will launch a pilot program Thursday that will not only help its students educationally, but restore fractured relationships with their fathers. The missing male role model, often lost or discarded along a child’s educational path, will get another opportunity at Lee Middle with a program called “Fathers Supporting Education.” Whether it’s spell checking homework or showing up to chat at “Doughnuts for Dads,” Lee Middle wants to repair, rebuild and reattach the educational bond between absent father and their children. “Our children are failing in the school system and life. The only people that can be held accountable for this are our men.” Felton says 71 percent of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. He surveyed Lee Middle’s 605 students and found 70 percent want a male role model to help with education.

Juvenile Justice

Are we too tough on kids who commit crimes?
The Associated Press/Pioneer Press – December 2, 2007
A generation after America decided to get tough on kids who commit crimes – sometimes locking them up for life – the tide may be turning. States are rethinking and, in some cases, retooling juvenile-sentencing laws. They’re responding to new research on the adolescent brain and studies that indicate teens sent to adult court end up worse off then those who are not: The get in trouble more often, they do it faster and the offenses are more serious. Some states are reconsidering life without parole for teens. Some are focusing on raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, while others are exploring ways to offer kids a second chance, once they’re locked up – or even before. The MacArthur Foundation said in a report to be released this month that about half of the states are involved in juvenile justice reform. And a national poll, commissioned by MacArthur and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy and set for release at the same time, also found widespread public support for rehabilitating teens rather than locking them up.

Marathon County Officials Credit Restorative Justice Program for Drop in Crime by Kids
WSAW NewsChannel 7 – December 6, 2007
More kids are keeping themselves out of trouble, at least in Marathon County where county workers say fewer kids are finding themselves in the juvenile justice system. Social services has found it is often best to put delinquent youth in alternative programs. For some kids, a little counseling can stop them from ever committing another crime. For others the threat of finding themselves in the courtroom can work, but for a few, there’s only one option. Nonetheless, most county employees who work with juveniles strongly believe court isn’t the best option. And that’s why the district attorney’s office is so thankful for the Restorative Justice Program. “They meet with their victim, they apologize to the victim for what they’ve done, and the victim can make a request such as restitution or completion of community service as a way for making amends for what they’ve done,” Bogen said. The alternative programs are starting to work. County employees are seeing fewer children go through the justice system and end up in cell blocks.

Foster Care

Preteen perfects art of holiday giving
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – December 7, 2007
When Maddi became a foster child nearly a decade ago, the little girl treasured a special coloring book and box of crayons. Coloring somehow cheered her. She colored a lot. So Madison decided to find ways to lift the spirits of foster children during the Christmas season. The project she initiated, now in its third year, has become one of the most significant and inspirational efforts in Western Pennsylvania to help children in need, child welfare officials say. This year, 330 children in the Allegheny County Children Youth and Family’s foster care program will receive bundles of art supplies and other gifts from the drive organized by Madison and conducted with the help of her family, friends, neighbors, classmates, teachers and church groups.

Program helps those aging out of foster system
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – December 5, 2007
Mike Fogelbach is enjoying the fruits of his labor, and all without living paycheck to paycheck – not bad for someone who left the state foster care system in October after seven years in group homes and independent living programs. Fogelbach, 21, has gotten what he has through his drive and work ethic but also with the help of a United Way of Greater St. Louis pilot program that aims to help teens and young adults who are homeless or aging out of the foster care system. The program teaches life skills to give them a better start at living on their own. And it offers an incentive in the form of up to $2,000 in matching funds toward a financial goal set by program participants. The United Way program challenges participants to save up to $1,000 in what’s called an Individual Development Account for things such as a down payment on a car or an apartment deposit. The money’s locked away until they’ve attended enough classes and met all the program requirements, when the United Way matches $2 for every $1 saved by the participant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Longer school day appears to boost MCAS scores
The Boston Globe – November 30, 2007
Last fall, 10 Massachusetts public schools embarked on an experiment: Lengthen the school day by at least 25 percent, give students extra doses of reading, writing, and math, and let teachers come up with ways to reinforce their lessons. The extra times appears to be working. As a whole, schools with longer days boosted students’ MCAS scores in math, English and science across all grade levels, according to a report to be released today. And they outpaced the state in increasing the percentage of students scoring in the two highest MCAS categories. School systems across the country are watching Massachusetts, the first state to adopt and fund longer days in multiple districts. Leaders and educators in at least a dozen states – including New York and Rhode Island – are considering replicating the efforts. And US Senator Edward M. Kennedy is urging Congress to pass a bill that would make longer school days a key reform strategy. The bill would give states and school systems across the country seed money to extend their days.

High-Quality After-School Programs Tied to Test-Score Gains
Newsweek – November 28, 2007
Disadvantaged students who regularly attend top-notch after-school programs end up, after two years, academically far ahead of peers who spend more out-of-school time in unsupervised activities, according to findings from an eight-state study of those programs. Known as the Promising Afterschool Programs Study, the new research examined 35 programs serving 2,914 students in 14 communities stretching from Bridgeport, Conn., to Seaside, Calif. The programs, all of which had been operating at least three years when the study began, were selected because of a record of success. The researchers found, over the course of a three-year project, that the more engaged students were in supervised after-school activities, the better they did on a range of academic, social, and behavioral outcomes.

The Top of the Class
Newsweek – December
The complete list of the 1,300 top U.S. Schools – Public schools are ranked according to a ratio devised by Jay Mathews: the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2006 divided by the number of graduating seniors. All of the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000; they are in the top 5 percent of public schools measured this way.

Juvenile Justice

Parole proposed for youths who kill
Chicago Tribune – November 27, 2007
There are at least 103 Illinois inmates serving sentences of natural life for crimes committed before their 18th birthday. These inmates are getting new attention from human-rights groups and policymakers who question whether juveniles should be locked up for life. In Illinois and other states, some are seeking to change the law to give these inmates a shot at parole. Lead by such well-known advocates as Bernadine Dohrn and Randolph Stone, The Illinois Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Children is scheduled to issue a report on the topic by year’s end. Joining the effort is state Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago), who introduced a bill that would have allowed juvenile lifers a shot at parole after serving 20 years in prison. He tabled the bill because of sharp criticism from victims rights groups who said they were not consulted about the proposal. Molaro hopes to revive the effort early next year and vows to work with law enforcement officials and other critics. Similar proposals have been introduced in California and Michigan. Last year, Colorado eliminated juvenile life sentences and, instead, gave future juveniles convicted of murder an optional parole hearing after 40 years in prison.

Adult System Worsens Juvenile Recidivism, Report Says
Washington Post – November 30, 2007
Youths tried as adults and housed in adult prisons commit more crimes, often more violent ones, than minors who remain in the juvenile justice system, a panel of experts appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report. Longer sentences and the transfer of juvenile offenders to the adult system gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s as youth crime increased. The trend raised fears in statehouses and in Congress about young predators, and laws to push more juvenile offenders into the adult system flourished. Those laws have not deterred other youths from committing crimes, nor have they rehabilitated the youths sentenced under them, said Robert L. Johnson, dean of the New Jersey Medical School, a member of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, which was assembled by the CDC. The two reports come as the Senate prepares to consider reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act which, in part, calls for youths in adult jails to be housed separately-something that does not always occur.

Foster Care

Report: High rate of ID American Indian children in foster care
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – November 25, 2007
American Indians represent 1 percent of Idaho’s child population but make up 6.6 percent of children in the foster care system, two child advocacy groups say. The National Indian Child Welfare Association, and Kids Are Waiting, released the report last week. To help reduce the number of American Indian children in foster care, the groups said, tribes should have direct access to child welfare funding made available by the federal government. “Agencies working with Indian children are unfamiliar with tribal culture and child-rearing and often are removing children when they don’t need to be,” said David Simmons, director of government affairs and advocacy for the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Foster kids, meds merit exam
The Oregonian – November 27, 2007
Salem - Oregon lawmakers said Monday that they’re determined to fix problems with the state’s oversight of psychiatric medications given to children in foster care. Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said the Legislature will hold hearings when lawmakers reconvene in February to examine how well the Department of Human Services supervises the use of mental health medications. Courtney’s announcement follows a story in The Sunday Oregonian that found more than one in four children in foster care in Oregon take drugs to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. The newspaper found that 2,400 children in foster care received these drugs in a recent 12-month span – a rate more than four times that of other Oregon kids.