Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Virginia considers leaving federal education act behind
The Virginian – Pilot – February 25, 2008
The General Assembly is flirting with abandoning a landmark federal law that governs schools in the United States. The decision could make Virginia the first state to set a deadline – summer 2009 – for planning a pullout from the No Child Left Behind Act, which ties billions of dollars to federally mandated testing standards in public schools. State politicians have balked at some of those standards in the past few years. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has signed bills asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive parts of the federal law. Most of those exemptions were granted, but the notable ones that have not been approved frustrate educators and annoy legislators. Some of Virginia’s issues with NCLB are tied to testing of subgroups, educational jargon for small populations of students. NCLB holds the small groups to the same benchmarks as the total population so deficiencies in smaller samples aren’t masked by a school’s overall success.

Voucher study finds parity
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – February 25, 2008
The first full-force examination since 1995 of Milwaukee’s groundbreaking school voucher program has found that students attending private schools through the program aren’t doing much better or worse than students in Milwaukee Public Schools. The study, released Monday in Madison, is the first from a five-year project aimed at providing a comprehensive evaluation of the voucher program, which this year is allowing more than 18,000 Milwaukee children from low-income families to attend private schools, 80% of them religious schools. The authors caution repeatedly that stronger conclusions will come only when trends over several years can be examined, and not much should be read into this year’s results. But the early findings, based on examining standardized test results for voucher students and comparing them to those of a matched set of MPS students, are unlikely to be seen as good news by advocates of the program that was launched in 1990 with hopes of being a powerful step to increase educational success among the city’s children.

Real World connects with students
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – March 4, 2008
The Real World Skills and Connection Program is what educational officials are calling a new weapon in the fight to keep kids from dropping out. The program prepares high school teens to go directly into the work force after graduation. It could also be called the second-chance club, for students whose life circumstances or self-sabotaging behavior have put their high school careers in peril. The program’s $250,000 overall cost has created some hesitation among west-side school districts that haven’t enrolled their students. The pilot program started in September and has only seven students. Officials said a thorough evaluation of the program in the remaining four months will determine its status for next fall. Educators and students say the program is a success so far, but only three districts enrolled students in the program. Educators cite the high cost of dropping out to justify the program’s expense. Dropouts cost the nation more than $260 billion in lost wages, lost tax revenue and lost productivity, according to an American Youth Policy Forum. And according to a 2006 study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a dropout is more than eight times as likely to go to jail as a graduate.

Juvenile Justice

Group tries to help jailed youths
The Mercury News – February 25, 2008
Most incarcerated youths have never committed a violent act, and most suffer from mental illnesses and learning disabilities, says an interfaith group calling for greater awareness of what it terms a crisis. Congregations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York drew attention to the problem as part of Juvenile Justice Sabbath during the weekend. In 2005, some 223,000 juveniles were arrested in California – 75 percent for minor offenses such as truancy, curfew violations, and petty theft. Three-quarters of all incarcerated youth suffer from learning disabilities, but few receive services, Blalock said. Confined youths have higher rates of untreated mental illness, and are more likely to have been subjected to sexual abuse and domestic violence than their peers, Blalock said. The group is hoping the event spurs discussion and motivates congregants to reach out to young people in the detention system, said a youth minister and theological student who preached about the subject Sunday.

Murphy Takes Page From Juvenile Law
Courant.com – March 4, 2008
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy is introducing legislation in Congress today that would take Connecticut’s leadership in reforming juvenile justice programs and turn it into a national model. Murphy’s “Juvenile Justice Improvement Act” would bar states from locking up so-called “status offenders” – kids who wind up in juvenile detention not for committing any crime, but for repeatedly skipping school, running away or disobeying their parents at home. Connecticut was one of the first states in the country to ban the incarceration of status offenders when a new law took effect last October. Murphy’s bill also seeks to prevent juveniles from being incarcerated in adult jails – even those charged with murder or rape – and offers financial incentives to states that use alternatives to incarceration for kids charged with less violent offenses. Under the bill, states would be required to treat juveniles in programs that have been proven to work, rather than just sound good – something Connecticut has been focusing on for the past several years.

Foster Care

Bill Would Limit School Changes for Foster Children
Courant.com - February 29, 2008
A bill aired before the legislature’s Select Committee on Children Thursday would require the state Department of Children and Families to keep foster children in the school they attended prior to being moved into foster care or to a new foster home. Studies show that foster children perform significantly worse in school then children in the general population and frequent school changes increase the risks for failing grades, behavior problems and students dropping out, according to Stacey Violante Cote, a teen legal advocate with the Center for Children’s Advocacy at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Research shows it takes a child approximately four to six months to recover academically from a school transfer, Violante Cote said. “The educational cost of multiple transfers is potentially devastating,” she said.

Former foster kids losing N.C. benefits
Asheville Citizens-Times – February 28, 2008
Each year, more than 20,000 teens who turn 18 while in foster care in the United States can opt to remain in state custody and receive benefits such as tuition waivers, housing and training in life skills to help them succeed. But teens who are not in state custody when they turn 18 are not eligible for these services, even if the Department of Social Services is involved with the family. As child-protections agencies across the country work harder to keep children with their families and out of foster care, more teenagers will fall into that gap. “Kids aren’t ready to be on their own at 18,” Bradsheer said. “ And they shouldn’t have to be in foster care to get services they need.” “A kid doesn’t know what he or she wants at 18,” he said. Lautervach believes the state should maintain custody of youths until age 21. “You don’t make wise decisions. Most 18-year-olds just want out of the system. They don’t know what’s out there until it’s too late to go back.”

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