Sunday, February 17, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Chicago Looks to “Turnarounds” to Lift Failing Schools
The Christian Science Monitor – February 15, 2008
Harvard Elementary on Chicago’s South Side is one of several public schools here to get a top-to-bottom housecleaning in recent years – including replacing the principal and most teachers – in a bid to lift student achievement out of the nation’s academic basement. The drastic approach is known as “turnaround,” and Chicago is embracing it more than any US city, though it’s unproven and is controversial among teachers, many parents, and students. For an encore, the city is proposing simultaneous turnarounds at eight Chicago schools in the fall: four high schools and four elementary schools that feed into them. Even for a city that already leads the nation in school-reforms ideas, the proposal is unusually bold and sweeping. Districts across the US – many with schools facing reconstitution requirements under the No Child Left Behind law – are watching with interest. The eight schools slated for turnaround are among the worst performers in the district: At high schools, an average student misses at least 35 days of school a year, dropout rates are above 10 percent, and the passing rate on state tests hovers at about 10 percent.

U.S. specifies state higher ed spending – February 11, 2008
New legislation being considered by Congress would force states to spend a minimum amount on higher education based on their past spending – or lose some federal funds. The provision is being called a “dangerous precedent” by critics, but is seen by supporters as a stopgap for rising tuition at public institutions. The provision, part of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, would require each state’s higher education funding to be at or above the average it spent over the last five years. If states don’t commit that amount, they could lose their share of federal money from the $65 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership grant program to help low-income students. The act, which moved one step closer to giving higher education its most significant overhaul in a decade when the U.S. House passed it on a 354-58 vote Thursday (Feb. 7), boosts grant money for college students and aims to hold down the cost of tuition.

How is Dropout Prevention Working?
RedOrbit – February 3, 2008
In a city where thousands slip away from school – whether as dropouts or truants – school officials believe the mentoring and other support volunteers from Communities in Schools provide can make a difference. The program has been in Richmond since 1996. It works with more than 2,000 kids in 24 schools, and school officials hope to broaden its reach. Most recently, the city school system, Communities in Schools and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have joined forces to open a program targeted at high school students who have fallen behind in credits and are trying to catch up while juggling other demands, such as parenthood or a job. The program, called the Performance Learning Center, has 70 students, some of whom Fitrer expects to graduate this year – instead of dropping out, as he feared they might.

Juvenile Justice

County anticipates project will help reduce recidivism
KC Community News – February 7, 2008
Johnson County has applied for a Success Through Achieving Re-entry pilot project grant. S.T.A.R. will allow the county to hire a re-entry officer, Corrections Director Betsy Gillespie said. The officer will visit juvenile offenders from the area who have been sentenced to time in a state correctional facility and work with them to develop a transition plan. “They will make contact and ensure that (offenders) are developing the pieces of their plan to return to the community,” she said. Gillespie said part of the project, which is funded through the Juvenile Justice Authority, will help families travel to correctional facilities to see the juveniles. Gillespie said “a re-entry place will be established in the community before they are released.” This will be a sort of halfway house, she said. Juveniles will stay for about 90 days after release.

Foster Care

For immigrants, child-welfare solutions murky
The Columbus Dispatch – February 11, 2008
As the U.S. immigrant population has grown, so too has its contact with the child-welfare system. Advice and direction for social workers hasn’t always followed. “There really has been little guidance at the federal level, and in the states, it’s hit or miss,” said Yali Lincroft, a consultant to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child-advocacy group based in Baltimore, and a researcher on immigration and child-welfare policy. The challenges are complicated: Agencies struggle to recruit foster families from immigrant and refugee communities, hire bilingual staff and educate caseworkers in cultural differences. Federal money cannot be used for the care of undocumented children, leaving local jurisdictions responsible for the entire cost. And the strong preference for placing children with close friends or family becomes debatable when the adults are undocumented and cannot meet the foster-care background requirements.

For former foster care youth, Mi Casa is their home
Contra Costa Times – February 4, 2008
Mi Casa is a new program in Concord for young adults who have outgrown their foster care placements. Young men and women can stay up to two years at Mi Casa, where they are matched with case workers, pay a third of their income in rent and receive a $100 monthly stipend to help with groceries. In other ways, the home will operate like a college dorm, right down to a resident manager who’s also a young adult. “The most critical things these young adults don’t have are positive, support relationships,” said program manager Amy Lawrence, who works for Lutheran Social Services. “And the most important part of the work we do is being those relationship for people, and helping them build more of their own.

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