Sunday, June 22, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Report Finds Little Gain From Vouchers
The Washington Post – June 17, 2008
Students in the D.C. school voucher program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, generally did not better on reading and math tests after two years than public school peers, a U.S. Education Department report said yesterday. The findings mirror those in previous studies of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed by a Republican-led Congress in 2004 to place the District at the leading edge of the private school choice movement. It has awarded scholarships to 1, 903 children from low-income families, granting up to $7,500 a year for tuition and other fees at participating schools. The congressional mandated study, conducted through the Institute of Education Sciences, the department’s research arm, compared the performance and attitudes of students who had scholarships with those of peers who sought scholarships but weren’t chosen in the lottery. This afternoon, a House Appropriations subcommittee will consider President Bush’s request for $18 million to continue the program.

Personal approach helps lower dropout rate
Hattiesburg – June 22, 2008
The Petal School District saw a 10 percent decrease in high school dropouts from 2006 to 2007, and officials are pointing to personal meetings with parents with parents and students as the cause. The dropout rate in the Petal district was at 1u.7 percent in 2006 but dropped considerably to 7.3 percent in 2007. Jack Linton, the assistant superintendent for Petal schools, said the district took a much more serious approach to speaking with parents and students face to face and working out alternative plans to keep students in school. “We have to put a face with a name and that’s what makes a difference,” Linton said. He said a movement by multiple members in the district to meet personally with families has helped the dropout rate. “Out counselors and principals have been calling and getting parents and students to come in to talk about why they need to stay in school,” Linton said. “Sometimes they stay and sometimes they go with an alternative option.” “One of the things we’re doing is an exit interview where we meet with the parent and ask the student about six or seven questions about their experience in high school to find out what we can do better.”

Ore. Students set to get choice of graduation test
Associated Press – June 21, 2008
When Oregon education officials set out to devise a graduation testing requirement for high school students, they looked to other states for inspiration – on what not to do. “We didn’t think any one test should determine whether someone gets a diploma,” said Duncan Wyse, vice-chairman of the Oregon Board of Education. So board members chose a different route. This week, they approved a plan that lets students pick from three options: a national test, state assessment or a local version, such as a student portfolio, to show colleges and employers they have mastered reading, writing, applied math and speaking skills. Passage on any one of the three, along with fulfilling course requirements, would guarantee a diploma. The plan makes Oregon one of several states moving past the “one-size-fits-all” high-stakes testing that became commonplace in many U.S. high schools in the 1990s. In Pennsylvania, the Board of Education is considering a three-pronged approach similar to Oregon’s plan, while in Maryland, students who can’t pass the state tests could be allowed to do a senior project instead. But some say such choices allow some students – and states – to take the easy way out.

Juvenile Justice

Juveniles entitled to jury trials, Kansas court says
The Kansas City Star – June 21, 2008
In a decision affecting every juvenile criminal case in Kansas, the state Supreme Court has guaranteed juvenile defendants the right to trial before a jury. The court ruled Friday that young defendants should be afforded the protections of a jury because the distinctions between juvenile and adult justice have eroded over the past 20 years as lawmakers cracked down on juvenile crime. The decision sent a shock wave through the juvenile justice community. Prosecutors and judges said the likely results in more juries, longer trials and higher expenses. But Journey, a criminal defense attorney, said that ruling is justified. “You cannot impose adult penalties on little children without giving them adult due process,” he said. Previously in Kansas, it was up to judges to decide whether to grant a juvenile defendant’s request for a jury trial. Most states, including Missouri, do not offer the option in juvenile cases.

Juvenile justice conference slated for July
The Capital-Journal – June 22, 2008
Manhattan – The ninth annual Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Justice: Partners in Progress will be July 20-22 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka. The conference, facilitated by Kansas State University, is designed for lawyers, caseworkers, parents, counselors, social workers or anyone interested in juvenile justice, crime reduction and crime prevention. It focuses on legal issues, facilities, prevention, mental health issues, community programs and services.

Foster Care

Schooling Issue a Complication for Foster Care
Education Week – June 9, 2008
Policymakers from Congress to the state and local levels are sharpening their focus on the educational needs of children in foster care, a population that can exceed 700,000 nationally in the course of a year and which has doubled in the past two decades. In many cases, their strategies coincide with recommendations outlined in a recent report on California’s massive foster-care system: access to preschool for foster children, specialized training for teachers, and making sure child-welfare agencies have educational liaisons. “A focus on school readiness and school success may not heal all the damage already inflicted early in the lives of foster children, but it can give these children – and many of their peers – the fighting chance they need and deserve to thrive as adults,” says the report, released last month by the Center for Future of Teaching and Learning in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Mental Health Advocacy Services Inc.

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