Sunday, April 27, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


New Plan to lessen dropout crisis
Chicago Tribune – April 22, 2008
In a last-ditch effort to strengthen the No Child Left Behind law, the Bush administration announced Tuesday that it will require schools to make sure low-income and minority students graduate from high school at the same rate as their white and more affluent counterparts. Schools that fail to meet those goals would face sanctions, according to a wide-ranging plan unveiled by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Currently, the law required that schools meet a graduation target for the entire senior class. The new proposal would require that smaller groups of students, broken down by race, income and special-education status, each meet the graduation goals. If any one of the groups fell short, the entire school would be considered failing. The proposed changes represent the most dramatic attempt by the Bush administration to hold high schools accountable for their trouble retaining and properly educating poor and minority students. Recent research has revealed as many as half of all minority students leave high school without ever earning a diploma.

Ga. Program Pays Low-Income Students to Study
NPR – April 22, 2008
Some kids in Fulton, Ga., are earning a paycheck just for doing their homework. A pilot project sponsored by a local foundation is offering a group of low-income students $8 an hour to go to after-school study sessions twice a week. Jackie Cushman, engineer of the Learn and Earn program, said she hopes the money will get the kids into the classroom, but that, once there, they’ll start to enjoy learning. Cushman launched Learn and Earn this year after an Atlanta businessman offered to sponsor it, and Creekside Middle School in Fairburn, Ga., and neighboring Bear Creek Middle School fit the right profile for it. More than 60 percent of the students are considered low-income; more than 90 percent are minorities; and the schools trail district-wide achievement rates by eye-popping margins. The students who participate in the program say it’s helping them, but some educators are troubled by it.

Connecticut Court Considers: What Is A Good Education?
Courant – April 23, 2008
Back in 1965, Bernstien had been largely responsible for crafting an article added to the state constitution guaranteeing “free public elementary and secondary schools.” But on Tuesday, the exact meaning of those words were up for debate as the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the way the state funds education. The lawsuit was brought against the state on behalf of 10 families with children in public schools and the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a group of education and municipal organizations. It claims that the state fails to maintain a suitable and substantially equal education system by providing inadequate resources and conditions for education in many school districts, leaving students unprepared for jobs or continuing education and likely politically and socially marginalized. They are seeking a wholesale revision of the way the state funds public education, although the lawsuit does not spell out specifics.

Juvenile Justice

Rising caseloads keep probation officers from involvement in children’s lives
Las Vegas Sun – April 27, 2008
Juvenile probation officers are the Jekylls and Hydes of the legal community, hybrids of cop and social worker, enforcer and buddy. But because of growing caseloads, officers in Clark County are increasingly setting aside much of their social work, causing concerns for judges, probation experts, county officials themselves. Kevin Eppenger is one of them. He took a job with Clark County’s probation department, and he had time to visit at school and in the community. His 70 cases highlight a troubling situation in Clark County. As the number of young delinquents has grown, county staffing levels have not kept pace. The number of juveniles probation officers supervise has swelled from an average of 39 per officer in 2003 to 56 in 2007. Today many officers have more then 70. But the numbers tell only part of the story. The real concern is that fewer troubled youths are getting the attention they need. The effect of those missed opportunities – on the adult criminal justice system, on taxpayers and on victims – is difficult to calculate.

Critics: Proposal to lock up teens wasteful, “punitive”
Palm Beach Post – April 22, 2008
A bill that would give judges the authority to overrule state guidelines and lock teens in state-run detention centers for a wider variety of offenses is sailing through the legislature, despite the concern of critics who warn that taxpayers will have to pick up the tab. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Adams, R-Oviedo, passed the full House unanimously, and a companion bill is moving through committees in the Senate. It applies to teens who are living at home while waiting to be sentenced for a crime, then violate a juvenile court judge’s orders by breaking curfew, skipping school or acting disrespectful in court. Under current law, judges cannot put teens in detention unless they score enough points on a standard state assessment meant to evaluate whether they are a repeat offender, threat to the public safety or a flight risk. But the bill would give juvenile court judges the power to punish bad behavior by locking teens who aren’t considered a safety risk in a juvenile detention cell. The youths could be held for up to five days for the first offense and 15 more days for a repeat violation. The Children’s Campaign Inc., an organization that lobbies the legislature on children’s issues, has fought the bill, saying it would allow teens to be detained for almost any reason. And some juvenile court judges have concerns about the proposed law.

Foster Care

Care Packages for Foster Youth
Fairfax Times – April 23, 2008
A unique community partnership between two national non-profit groups and a Fortune 500 corporation will benefit thousands of former foster youth striving to succeed in college without family support. Volunteers from the Orphan Foundation of America (OFA), troops from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC), and employees of Oracle Corporation will join forces on April 25 and 26 at Oracle’s headquarters in Reston, assembling care packages full of Girl Scout cookies and items donated by the business community for thousands of college students aging out of the U.S. foster care system. The event, called CARE & COOKIES, will tap the energy and creative talents of scores of Girl Scouts from the region, who will prepare handmade notecards to accompany a huge quantity of cookie boxes donated by the community to Girl Scout troops and by GSCNC for the unusual outreach effort. OFA stages three care package events each year with business and community partners, assembling more than 7,500 care packages for students who receive college funding through its scholarship programs and/or the Education Training Voucher support it administers.

Program caters to alienated youths - April 25, 2008
A new program aims to give a voice to youths who know what it is like to feel forgotten. “Elevate” seeks out youths in foster care or with group-home residence experience. “The ultimate goal is to give these kids an opportunity to tell their story to the public,” said Lori Frick, with the Iowa Department of Human Services in Dubuque. “It’s a chance for them to become leaders.” Elevate members will be youths 13 and older who have been involved in foster care, adoption or other out-of-home placements. Already established in other Iowa cities, the program has helped educate legislators, foster parents, human services officials, juvenile-justice authorities and members of the public about foster care and adoption from the perspective of the youth. “They will definitely be educators in the community about what it is like to be in foster care.”

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