Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


New online school targets Latinos
Salt Lake Tribune – May 18, 2008
BOISE, Idaho – The state’s newest virtual charter school is expected to go online this fall, buy only after a strategic campaign to recruit Hispanics and teenagers at risk of quitting or getting kicked out of public high schools. The nonprofit online charter school is part of Insight Schools, a Portland-based company that operates one of the largest networks of virtual high schools in the country. With school in Oregon, California, Washington and Wisconsin, Insight plans to open more this fall in Idaho, Minnesota and Kansas. If the Idaho school opens in September as scheduled, Green wants to maintain a Latino student population of at least 20 percent. As part of their recruiting strategy, administrator bought ads on Spanish radio stations, advertised classes with bilingual brochures and drafted Latino community leaders to serve on its board of directors. In Idaho, more than 2,100 high school students dropped out last year. Of those, 468 claim Latino heritage, according to the state Department of Education.

New schools for poor?
Rocky Mountain News – May 12, 2008
Some prominent Denver foundations are working on a plan that could create new schools for thousands of poor children in Colorado in the next few years. The loose-knit group, called the New Schools Collaborative, includes the Piton Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Daniels Fund, names known for their work in urban education. The idea is to pool money and knowledge to help jump-start the creation or replication of schools that have proved successful with students from low-income families. That includes expanding homegrown models such as West Denver Preparatory Charter School on South Boulevard, which Head of School Chris Gibbons wants to grow from a single school to three by 2015. It also includes importing to Denver successful models such as Envision Schools of California. Goals of the New Schools Collaborative have hit as high as enrolling 40,000 students in as many as 10 new schools a year for the next 10 years.

Dropout Dilemma: Parkway Spends Big to Keep Kids Coming to School - May 16, 2008
Parkway’s Fern Ridge High School is a public school with a proven track record of reaching out to students “at risk” of quitting school. When it comes to class size Fern Ridge has an eight to one student-teacher ratio. “So here you can sit down with the teacher and explain what you need help with, and they help you, instead of just giving you the quick answer for your question,” Parker explained. And, there are fewer than 100 students in the entire school. Compare that to the traditional high school and the district’s average high school class size of 23 students per class. Since its creation, in 1992, Fern Ridge’s principal says his school has served as a district-wide, “safety net” for students “at risk” of dropping out. “We’re nearing close to 500 graduates over that period now, that would have been potential drop outs before,” touts Principal Desi Kirchhofer. The most important piece? Personal relationships. Staff members work hard to show they care about each student. Fern Ridge’s success is not without cost. Over $15,000 are spent on each student at the school. Compare that to the Parkway district’s average $9,500 expenditure per-pupil. Still, the district’s dropout rate is 1.7 percent, where Missouri’s, state-wide is 4.2 percent.

Juvenile Justice

Leaving Hard Time Behind
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
When Emily Tow Jackson first started talking to leaders of local youth organization in the late 1990s about supporting their efforts to improve the Connecticut juvenile-justice system, many were skeptical that a grant maker wanted to get involved. But over the past eight years, the Tow Foundation and its grantees have won a string of victories in their efforts to persuade the state that sending kids to prison is not necessarily the best way to reduce crime. Those successes are part of a growing effort by grant makers to find new ways to help young people who get in trouble with the law. In recent years, a handful of local and national grant makers, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Eckerd Family Foundation, have produced research and financed model efforts that emphasize rehabilitation, rather than harsh punishment. Other grant makers are taking note. The number of foundation that receive information on juvenile-justice issues through the Youth Transition Funders Group, a network of grant makers focused on youth issues, has grown to 37, three times as many as in 2003.

New law lets courts blend juvenile, adult jail sentences
Sun Journal - May 14, 2008
Due to special circumstances in Armstrong’s case, he could be given a mixed juvenile-adult sentence. His pleas on unrelated burglary charges enable authorities to send him to juvenile detention, while charging him as an adult for the more serious crime. But if that had not been the situation, prosecutors would have had to choose between trying Armstrong as an adult and sending him to an adult prison, or trying him in juvenile court where the maximum penalty is incarceration until age 21. The bill Gov. John Baldacci ceremonially signed Tuesday allows a more general application of blended sentences in which prison time can be split between a juvenile and adult facility. The bill allows prosecutors, in the most egregious cases, to charge juveniles as an adult. “The juvenile will serve the initial portion of their sentence in a juvenile facility and then they will finish the remainder of their sentence in an adult facility,” Baldacci said.

Foster Care

Study: Big gaps in foster vs. traditional homes
USA Today – May 18, 2008
Children in foster care live in poorer, more crowded and less educated homes than kids in other families, often taking them from one disadvantaged environment into another, new research shows. The Annie E. Casey Foundation study is the first analyze 2006 Census Bureau date, the most recent available, for a detailed look at foster parents. “The gaps were so pervasive,” says demographer William O’Hare. O’Hare finds foster households have a lower average income,
$56, 364, than do all households with children, $74,301, even though they care for more kids. Half of foster households have three or more children compared with 21% of all other households with that many. The study also finds foster parents are more likely than others to be unemployed and lack a high school diploma.

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