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.

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