Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


AT&T Giving $100 Million to Fight Dropouts
The New York Times – April 17, 2008
AT&T plans to announce a $100 million gift on Thursday intended to address the problem of high school dropouts and to improve the skills of the nation’s work force. The gift, which will be distributed over four years, is among the largest corporate donations on record, but it is the second $100 million donation announced by a company this year. “We view it like any other investment we make,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and chief executive of AT&T Mobility, the company’s wireless operations. “It’s an investment in our future as well as the communities in which we work.” Traditionally, companies have been cautious about spending their money on philanthropy, worried about angering shareholders. Laura Sanford, president of AT&T Foundation, said the company had conducted focus groups last fall with investors to determine how they felt about spending on charity. “We found out that they think it’s required,” Ms. Sanford said. “They’re not going to invest in companies that aren’t socially engaged.”

Black-White Gap Widens Faster for High Achievers
Education Week – April 14, 2008
New research into what is commonly called the black-white “achievement gap” suggests that the students who lost the most ground academically in U.S. public schools may be the brightest African-American children. As black students move through elementary and middle school, these studies show, the test-score gaps that separate them from their better-performing white counterparts grow fastest among the most able students and the most slowly for those who start out with below-average academic skills. The reasons why achievement gaps are wider at the upper end of the achievement scale are still unclear. But some experts believe the patterns have something to do with the fact that African-American children tend to be taught in predominantly black school, where test scores are lower on average, teachers are less experienced, and high-achieving peers are harder to find. The two new working papers, which were presented at last month’s annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New York City, use different test date and research design to tackle that question. Yet both arrive at similar conclusions.

Brockton schools studying education options for older students, drop-outs
Enterprisenews.com – April 18, 2008
Superintendent of Schools Basan Nembirkow is hoping to introduce “twilight school” program as early as next year for older students. “If I can get a $100,000 grant, I can start this program.” Nembirkow said Thursday amid growing concern about older students attending classes with young teens. Twilight school – offering classes in late afternoon and evening – is one of the programs being considered ina study of alternate educational programs to address dropouts, older students and individual needs. But Nemibirkow agrees with other school leaders that traditional settings may not always be the answer. A coalition of social service and workforce development leaders is spearheading the study to tailor programs to fit local needs. Locally, the study is known as Brockton Working for All youth or Brockton’s Way.

Juvenile Justice

Scared straight
WACH - April 16, 2008
Thousands of young people commit crimes in South Carolina. The ones who get busted for things like armed robbery or drugs get locked up for months, sometimes year. Non-violent offenders often go through a different program. According to the Department of Juvenile Justice, more than 8,000 young offenders are on probation, parole or in arbitration programs across the state and nearly 2,000 of them are in DJJ custody. The Department of Juvenile Justice is where barbed wire and fencing surrounds the buildings. The day’s lesson? how to stay out of places like this. These Richland County students are non-violent offenders who misbehaved in school. The idea is to keep them off the wrong road through Project Right Turn, part of DJJ”s arbitration program. 16-year-old Quantavis is talking to these kids, hoping they won’t turn out like him.

Foster Care

Makeovers to turn housing for former foster children into homes
Sun-Sentinel – April 12, 2008
Owned by the state, and adjacent to the South Florida State Hospital, the duplexes have microwave ovens and a washer-dryer in each until. But the furniture, formerly used at the hospital, is more functional than comfortable. Sponsors such as City Furniture are donating new supplies. Wall paintings were donated by disabled artists at the nonprofit Ann Storck Center in Fort Lauderdale. Right now, 12 teens and young adults live in the cluster of one-story duplexes. Most share the $700 monthly rent to the two-bedroom, one-bathroom units. Young adults aging out of foster care “are often a forgotten group,” said volunteer Doug Bartel, and insurance executive and a member of Leadership Broward, the organization leading the makeover project.”You hear about the cute 6-year-old who needs to be adopted. You don’t hear much about a 19-year-old who’s working two jobs.

Lost in the system
The Denver Post – April 13, 2008
Even in a system where most workers do their best, the odds are against them – stacked by a system that is underfunded, widely dysfunctional and inconsistent, and at times seems to operate in a common-sense vacuum. Still, from counties where abuse and neglect suspicions are investigated, to courts that adjudicate those cases, to the foster-care system that is supposed to provide safe havens, Colorado’s child-protection system has one consistent theme: never enough. There are never enough caseworkers, foster parents or adoptive parents. Never enough dollars to treat emotionally damaged kids or provide services to help parents in trouble keep their kids, and almost no money for programs that prevent neglect and abuse. And there is never enough training for anybody. As they await the findings of the state’s current probe, children’s advocates and county officials cling to hope that this time real changes might result.

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