Monday, March 24, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Schools to catch a break on No Child standards
Chicago Tribune – March 19, 2008
Under a plan unveiled by U.S. Sec. of Education Margaret Spellings, states would be allowed to differentiate how they label – and punish – schools, based on the degree to which a given school fails to meet No Child Left Behind standards. A school that missed only one achievement target, for example, could get a more favorable label and less severe sanctions than a school that missed several achievement goals. “This will not change the guts of No Child Left Behind accountability,” Spellings said. “However, it gives states the opportunity to describe the range of schools that meet and do not meet in different ways.”Some educators and policymakers praised Spellings’ proposal. But Michael Petrilli, who served in the Education Department during President George Bush’s first term and now works for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, likened it to a “suburban schools relief act.” “This proposal creates a real risk that we could step back from the pressure currently on suburban schools to close the achievement gap and get all students up to proficiency,” said Petrilli. “Depending on how it’s implemented, you can imagine suburban schools that are not making the grade for African-American or poor students, for example, will no longer feel the pressure under NCLB to address these problems.”

States’ Data Obscure How Few Finish High School
The New York Times – March 20, 2008
Many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so serve that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later. California, for example, sends to Washington an official graduation rate of 83 percent but reports an estimated 67 percent on a state web site. Delaware reported 84 percent to the federal government but publicized four lower rates at home. The multiple rates have many causes. Some states have long obscured their real numbers to avoid embarrassment. Others have only recently developed data-tracking systems that allow them to follow dropouts accurately. The No Child law is also at fault. The law set ambitious goals, enforced through sanctions, to make every student proficient in math and reading. But it established no national school completion goals.

Reports says high school dropouts cost states millions
Axcess News – March 23, 2008
The Alliance for Excellent Education last week released its 2008 state reports, which included dollar amounts states could save by increasing their graduation rates. “There is a direct dollar and cents reason to improve education, especially middle and high school. If you don’t these are the costs taxpayers will be paying,” said Bob Wise, president of the alliance and former governor of West Virginia. The reports are meant to show the link between education and the economy. Wise said dropouts are more costly health care consumers and more likely to use government paid health care such as Medicaid. The report also revealed that raising the graduation rate by 5 percent for male students would save South Carolina $151 million in criminal justice spending and additional tax revenues each year. Teaching a child is less expensive than incarcerating a child.

Juvenile Justice

Sins against kids
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – March 20, 2008
JUSTGeorgia – a coalition of Voices for Georgia’s Children, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and Emory’s Barton Child Law & Policy Clinic – is offering up a new code. Among the controversial changes is raising the age of minors from 17 to 18 in the eyes of the law. In the proposed code, a 17- year-old would be defined as a child. That doesn’t mean that a 17-year-old would never be treated as an adult, but the case would begin in juvenile court. The new code also repeals the “seven deadly sins” law, giving discretion back to judges as to which young offenders ought to be transferred to adult court. The new code also mandates that 13-year-olds – regardless of the crime – cannot be tried as an adult. The proposed changes to the code will not only help teens themselves. They will also make the community safer. In a review published in the fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens handled in the adult court system were 34 percent more likely to be rearrested than their peers who went through the juvenile justice system, concluding, “Available evidence indicates that transfer to the adult criminal justice system typically increases rather than decreases rates of violence among transferred youth.”

Agencies Partner To Keep Youths Away From Jail
The Washington Post – March 20, 2008
Alarmed by the percentage of young, black males incarcerated in Prince George’s County, several county agencies are teaming up o try to reduce the numbers and prevent others from getting into trouble. The new Disproportionate Minority Contact Council is made up of representatives from the Commission for Children, Youth and Families in the county’s family services division, the Community-Public Awareness Council and the county police’s Youth and Family Services Division. The council will examine what happens to juveniles from intake to detainment and look into diversionary and intervention programs to keep youths out of the system. For instance, the Community-Awareness Council runs an invention program in cooperation with the county. Juveniles charged with misdemeanors, such as shoplifting and loitering, sit before panel of peers and adults who decide how the youth can make up for their behavior in the community without getting the juvenile justice system involved, director Phil Lee said.

Foster Care

“Overstressed” Dependency Courts Need Help, Commission Says
Metropolitan News-Enterprise – March 17, 2008
California’s dependency court system is in crisis, forced to get by with too few judicial officers, too few lawyers, and a lack of other resources needed to achieve its goal of reunifying families where possible and finding permanent placements otherwise, a state commission has preliminarily concluded. The “system is overstressed and underresourced,” the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care said. The commission, appointed by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Friday submitted its draft recommendations for public comment, which is due by May 13. “Far too many of our state’s children find themselves in a “foster care limbo,” shuffled from place to place, separated from their siblings, friends and schools. There are nearly 80,000 children in foster care in California, which is more than any other state in the country, the commission reported. Half of them have been in foster care for more than two years, and 17 percent have been in foster in excess of three years. “The commission has kept the focus on children,” Moreno said, “We drafted a set of comprehensive and strategic recommendations that we believe will improve the judicial system and how we work with our partners.”

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