Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Site To Clue Kids In About College
Hartford Courant – January 18, 2008
A website launched Thursday by a coalition of schools, state agencies and community groups tries to take the mystery out of applying for college and lining up financial aid. The site named KnowHow2Go, was announced at Bellizzi Middle School in Hartford by state Commissioner of Higher Education Valerie Lewis. The website tackles myths such as the perception that extracurricular activities can make up for poor grades and that only students with the very best grades land financial aid and scholarships. The website helps high school students browse Connecticut’s 47 colleges, choose the right college-prep courses to take, learn which entrance exams to take, and prepare for questions they’ll see on college applications. It even gives students a way to ask questions of the commissioner’s office. The website also gives students and parents links to a national website and similar websites in other states to access information about colleges outside Connecticut.

Strategy Aimed at Curbing Dropouts
The Day.com – January 20, 2008
Engaging students – and on a bigger scale, keeping students in school – was the school’s motivation behind introducing offerings like the hip-hop class last semester as alternatives to standard courses such as English 9 or U.S. History. “Those courses have all the same skills. It’s just that the content of those – the reading list, or the writing assignments – are lined to things that are greater interest to them than the (traditional) course,” said Daniel Sullivan, the school’s principal. Sullivan asked teachers to come up with ideas for new classes as part of an effort to reduce the school’s dropout rate, a task he was given when he was hired in July 2006. Sullivan outlined several strategies to combat the dropout problem in a Jan. 10 report to the Board of Education. Strategies include enforcing attendance rules, allowing students to make up credits through an online academy, engaging students through athletics and after-school activities and creating a program specifically to help freshman feel welcome. The strategies have not immediately lowered the number of dropouts, but the principal said they have helped lower the number of failing grades among the student body. A reduction in failing grades is a goal because “if you’re not passing, your odds of dropping out are greatly increased," Sullivan said.

This Bus Is Plugged In
U.S News & World Report – January 10, 2008
For the children of Grapevine, Ark., a rural town 60 miles outside Little Rock, the long, bumpy commute to school on bus No. 46 is anything but ordinary. That’s because they are solving math and science problems with teachers and university professors live via the internet. It’s what Vanderbilt University medicine, biochemistry, and pathology Prof. Billy Hudson describes as a virtual schoolhouse on wheels. The Wi-Fi technology that allows kids on the bus to connect to the internet is similar to the kind used by recreational vehicles. The bus looks no different from the others in the school district fleet, except for a cellular router and rooftop antenna that are secured to the vehicle. The online courses in pre-algebra, algebra 1, and Advanced Placement biology are offered through a private company, Aventa Learning. By making the school in essence longer and offering advanced courses online, the Hudsons hope these rural students arrive at college better prepared. The Husdsons are applying for two federal grants to expand the program to Tennessee and add other amenities to the buses such as individual lighting, power outlets, and projection screens.

Juvenile Justice

GPS technology to help monitor state juveniles
Baltimore Sun – January 12, 2008
Gov. Martin O’Malley announced yesterday a high-tech monitoring system for juvenile offenders based on Global Positioning System technology, which would enable police officers to track the exact movements of 200 of Baltimore’s most troubled youth. The monitoring program would be used to track offenders, who are mostly 13- to 17-years-old and who are on probation or enrolled in aftercare services or the Operation Safe Kids program. It is limited to those offenders who are identified as most at risk of committing violent crimes. The system would feed real-time information to a newly created unit at the juvenile services department on an offender’s whereabouts, altering the unit when he or she is not in school at the appropriate time or when a juvenile enters high-crime areas that are restricted under probation agreements.

Tales From A Trial
Metro Active – January 16, 2008
Karim Noble’s journey through the Santa Clara County courts has shown all the signs of a juvenile justice system in crisis. And with resources stretched to the limit, that crisis is likely to get a lot worse. Juvenile incarceration rates have ballooned in Santa Clara County at unprecedented rates and impacting the system for beyond what it is equipped to deal with. This clogging of the court machinery puts an emphasis on speed that calls into question the guarantee of a fair trial, even with the most well-meaning attorneys.

Foster Care

More than 1,500 foster children find a “forever family”
The Star-Ledger – January 15, 2008
More than 1,500 foster children in New Jersey were adopted last year, setting a state record and exceeding a goal set by a federal monitor, Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan announced yesterday. The record was set after the state essentially re-created specialized adoption teams that were dismantled in the early stages of child welfare reform. That decision, part of the original blueprint for the court-ordered reform, was followed by a decline in the number of adoptions by nearly 15 percent in 2005. After he was appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine in January 2006, Ryan reconstituted the adoption offices and created special teams to help complete the necessary home evaluations and paperwork for the children who had waited the longest. The teams also helped reduce the number of cases per worker. By completing 1,540 adoptions last year, the state topped its previous record, set in 2004, by 122. It’s also 140 more than what the state promised a federal monitor overseeing reforms that settled a lawsuit charging New Jersey was not protecting foster children.

Bill would encourage visits among split-up siblings
Indy Star – January 15, 2008
Some Indiana lawmakers want to change that system to encourage more contact between siblings and to allow children to request visits when possible. Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, noted that sibling bonds are often the longest-lasting relationships people have. The bill, which has yet to have a hearing in the legislature, would allow children in foster care to request visits if it is in their best interests. If the Department of Children Services denies a visit request, the child or a specially appointed advocate could petition a juvenile court to intervene.

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