Sunday, April 06, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


State promises help with college costs for low-income students
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – March 30, 2008
Washington is stepping in to help low-income students. A new scholarship for low-income middle school students comes with a promise that if grades are kept up through high school – at least 2.0 – the state will pay for college. Children need to keep out of trouble with the law, too – no felonies. The College Bound scholarship is part of a recent string of initiatives by the state and universities trying to usher low-income students into a college education. The state began rolling out registration for the scholarship this year. The only stipulation is students need to be under the free-or-reduced lunch program. Students who enroll must continue to meet low-income criteria when they apply for college admission. The scholarship is based on a program launched in Indiana more than 15 years ago that has proved to be successful in increasing college enrollment. Oklahoma also has a similar scholarship, and California lawmakers have drafted a measure as well, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.

City students less likely to graduate than suburban kids
Los Angeles Times – April 2, 2008
Students in urban public school districts are less likely to graduate from high school than those enrolled in suburban districts in the same metropolitan area, according to research presented Tuesday. The report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research found that about 75% of the students in suburban districts received diplomas, but only 58% of students in urban districts did. The dropout rate of more than a million students each year “is not just a crisis; this is a catastrophe,” said former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance, which presented the research. Officials also pointed to the need for community involvement to help urban schools with the problem. Leaders of businesses and faith-based groups were urged to make graduation a priority in discussions with children. The alliance announced plans for dropout prevention summits in every state over the next two years to bring community, school and business leaders together “to develop workable solutions and action plans for improving our nation’s alarming graduation rates.”

Struggling Asians go unnoticed
Chicago Tribune – March 30, 2008
Because many families of Asian heritage are well-educated and have comparative material advantages, and because students in the broad Asian category often perform as well as or better than white students on standardized tests, resources are scarce for Asians who are struggling in public schools. Some educators have begun to call disadvantaged Asians an invisible minority, unseen because their low test scores are masked when lumped with higher achieving counterparts. These students, often from Southeast Asia, go unnoticed for other reasons too. Their numbers are small. There’s a dearth of bilingual programs in their languages, counselors fluent in Asian languages and culture and advocates in general. Few schools can communicate with their parents who don’t speak English. A 2002 U.S. Department of Education study – one of the rare national reports examining Asians by ethnicity – found that Southeast Asians, including Cambodians, Laotians and Hmong have reading and math scores comparable with Latino and African-American students.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile prisons to make changes
The Columbus Dispatch – April 4, 2008
The agency that runs Ohio’s juvenile prisons has agreed to improve mental health and medical treatment for inmates, reduce violence and better rehabilitate youthful offenders. The plan, filed yesterday in federal court, settles a lawsuit against the system. It calls for hiring 115 more guards to cut the ratio of inmates-to-guards and reduce assaults. More mental-health workers will be hired and therapy programs revised to increase the odds that the youths, once out of prison, won’t return. Half of those released from Ohio’s juvenile prisons return within three years. The agreement also calls for sending more young felons to community treatment facilities instead of to one of the state’s eight juvenile prisons. By agreeing to make changes, the juvenile prison system avoids a court battle with a group of child-advocacy lawyers, who sued the prison system, calling it violent and ineffective.

Foster Care

Administrators eye foster youth campus
Sacramento Bee – April 6, 2008
Sacramento educators are talking about a new school especially for foster youth. Their vision is far from reality, but this is what they picture: A college-prep high school with family-like housing, and on-site support services ranging from social workers to psychologists to physicians. “The main point is it gives the kids the stability of staying in the same school for four years,” said David Gordon, superintendent of Sacramento County schools. Some studies show that just half of foster teens make it to graduation day. Gordon wants to change that. Sixty-five percent of adults who have been through foster care switched schools seven or more times during childhood, according to research by Casey Family Programs. Other research shows that teenagers in foster care typically attend six or seven different high schools. Gordon is studying whether the Sacramento County Office of Education can open a boarding school for foster youth modeled after the San Pasqual Academy in San Diego. At that school county agencies cover educational and social welfare services. Private organizations run residential areas and job training programs.

Nonprofit works to mentor youth on way out of foster program
Bowling Green Daily News – April 1, 2008
Bellwood Community Based Services, which provides living assistance and vocational and educational training to youths transitioning from foster care, is developing a mentoring program to help make the transition smoother. The PRIDE Mentor Program will connect people between ages 7-21 who participate in Bellewood’s independent living programs with an adult mentor. The mentors are expected to spend at least four hours of face-to-fact time each month and some weekly telephone contact with the person to whom they have been assigned. Mentors would provide connections to various community resources to help youth aging out of foster care further develop parenting, independent living and vocational skills.

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