Sunday, March 16, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Texas panel nixes talk of school vouchers for dropouts
The Dallas Morning News – March 12, 2008
A special state committee on high school dropouts on Tuesday appeared to nix the idea of a private school voucher program for those students, but left open the possibility of the state contracting with private firms to help dropouts complete their education. Key members of the High School Completion and Success Initiative Council said they don’t believe a traditional school voucher program could be launched without approval of the Legislature. Under a voucher program, students can attend any school their parents choose – private or public – at state expense. Other members said that private, nonprofits groups could be part of the solution if they are given contracts by the state to enroll students who have dropped out of regular schools.

Schools don’t do enough to help kids get into 4-year colleges, study says
Chicago Tribune – March 12, 2008
A large number of Chicago public high school students “sell themselves short” by attending two-year colleges, a new report says. The study, “From High School to the Future: Potholes on the Road to College,” released Wednesday, found that many study simply gave up trying to go to four-year-colleges, discouraged or intimidated by the application and financial-aid processes. The three-year study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago found that Latino students were least likely to apply to four-year schools. Among the key findings, researchers found that teachers and school culture had more influence than parents did on whether students went on to four-year colleges. As a result, the authors concluded, school must do more to help students work through the often grueling process of getting to college. Some programs include teaming up students with “coaches” who focus on getting them through the application process, easing financial-aid application hurdles, and offering visits to four-year colleges in Illinois and across the country.

Colorado School District Drops Grade System
My Fox Colorado - March 12, 2008
Adams County – One Colorado school district is going to shake things up by getting rid of grades. The move includes traditional letter grades and grade levels. The new system lets students progress at their own pace. Students will need to master 20 skill levels to graduate. They could end up graduating earlier, or later than fellow classmates. It just depends upon how long they need in order to master the skills. District administrators say the new system will focus on student’s competence, rather than achievement for grades. The district plans to start the new system for kindergarten through eighth students in 2009 and high school students in 2010.

Street violence “part of achievement gap” in urban schools
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – March 9, 2008
The toll that fear exacts on youth is becoming increasingly evidence as researchers draw a line between classroom performance and the trauma and violence encountered by urban students. It’s a correlation, the experts are discovering, that leads to under-achievement if not outright academic failure in places such as St. Louis. Preliminary research from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, for example, suggests that more than two-thirds of the city’s public school students may be suffering symptoms of trauma tied to violence. Cleveland, in fact, is among the cities seizing the initiative. Its “Children Who Witness Violence” program has been seeking to counter the effect violence has on urban youth. Los Angeles has similar project, teaming schools and social services agencies.

Juvenile Justice

States Reconsider Life Behind Bars for Youth
The Christian Science Monitor – March 12, 2008
How should a society treat its youngest criminal offenders? And the families of victims of those offenders? Half a dozen states are now weighing these questions anew, as they consider whether to ban life sentences for juveniles that don’t include a option for parole – and whether those now serving such sentences should have a retroactive shot at parole. Advocates of legislation, both in Illinois and elsewhere, note that US is the only country in the world with anyone – nearly 2,400 across the nation – serving such a serve sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile. They criticize the fact that the sentence is often mandatory, part of a system devoid of leniency for a teenager’s lack of judgment, or hope that you can be reformed. Colorado outlawed juvenile life without parole in 2006, and legislation is pending in Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, and California, while a few others states are experiencing grass-roots efforts.

Juvenile Probation Department has plan to focus on at-risk kids
Idaho Mountain Express and Guide – March 12, 2008
The Blaine County Probation Department is working with five other counties in southern Idaho to implement a plan to get low-risk kids out of the system and focus department resources on the kids who need them most. Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT) interview techniques help identify juvenile offenders at low risk for continued trouble with the law. “Studies have shown that offenders at low risk for recidivism can actually be harmed it they remain in the system,” Espedal said. Using in-depth interview techniques, PACT-trained juvenile justice personnel measure a juvenile’s risk of re-offending base on 12 parameters: criminal history, school, use of free time, employment, relationships, family, living arrangements, alcohol and drugs, mental health, attitudes/behaviors, aggression and skills. “Our goal is to use community-based resources than detention whenever possible.”

Foster Care

Georgetown University and Casey Family Programs Partner To Help At-Risk Youth
PRNEwswire – March 13, 2008
Two of the nation’s leading organizations helping young people in the foster care and juvenile justice systems have joined forces to improve the lives of at-risk youth. The Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) and Casey Family Programs have formed a three-year partnership to test innovative ideas that can improve and reform America’ child welfare and juvenile justice systems. As the partnership launches, CJJR will host the symposium “The Overrepresentation of Children of Color in America’s Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems” on March 14, 2008 in Washington, D.C. In May, CJJR and Casey Family Programs will jointly produce a research paper and sponsor a conference with the American Public Human Service Association and The Johnson Foundation. The paper and conference will discuss multi-systems approaches in child welfare and juvenile justice.

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