Sunday, July 06, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


6 States OK’d to Write Education Laws Outside ‘No Child’
FOXNEWS.COM – July 1, 2008
It’s a softening for how the No Child Left Behind currently works – with schools having to take certain steps at specific times for missing math and reading testing goals. Critics have complained that the approach is too rigid and treats schools the same regardless of whether they miss the mark by a little or a lot. The states getting more freedom under a pilot program are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland and Ohio. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings made the announcement during a speech Tuesday in Austin, Texas. The states that won the approval have come up with plans to more closely tailor solutions to individual school’s problems and focus resources on schools in the worst shape. Some critics worry the changes, specifically the focus on the worst-performing schools, will take the pressure off schools that are generally doing well but having trouble with one group of students – such as a minority group or kids with disabilities.

Free-college programs multiply
USA Today – July 1, 2008
A scholarship program that offers free college tuition as a reward for attending public schools in a Michigan city is catching on in other communities seeking to revitalize their urban centers. Since November 2005, when anonymous donors in Kalamazoo, Mich., launched the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship, about a dozen cities, such as Pittsburgh, Denver and El Dorado, Ark., have started similar programs. Details vary by city, but most programs basically follow Kalamazoo’s model: It pays most or all tuition and fees to public universities or community colleges in the state for students who graduate from the public school system, as long as they start attending there by ninth grade. Those who start in kindergarten get full tuition; those who start in ninth grade, 65%. Kalamazoo’s school district, where enrollment declined for decades, rose by more than 1,200 students after the program began. Thousands of jobs are being created, according to Southwest Michigan First, an economic development firm. Financing is a challenge for cities interested in setting up free-tuition plans. Many rely partly on private funding.

Few school districts, nonprofits vying for state dropout aid
The Dallas Morning News – July 3, 2008
Just 57 school districts, charter schools and nonprofit groups – including several from the Dallas area – have applied for one of the state’s new dropout recovery grants. The Texas Education Agency said Thursday that 36 school districts – out of 1,031 in the state – are among the applicants for grants under the $6 million program aimed at helping dropouts complete their coursework so they can earn a high school diploma. Some lawmakers and education groups had voiced concern about proposed rules for the program that would allow nonprofit groups operating private schools to apply for a grant. Only six nonprofits were among the grant applicants and there is no guarantee that any will receive funding.

Juvenile Justice

Ariz. courts trying alternative juvenile justice
The Arizona Republic – June 30, 2008
There were almost 3,500 youths detained in Pima County in 2003, a number that plummeted to 2,583 last year and is still dropping. In year four of a wide-scale transformation of Pima County’s juvenile-justice system, troubled kids are being diverted into other alternatives. “We’re responding to national research which negates some commonly held beliefs that you can scare them straight,” said presiding Juvenile Court Judge Patricia Escher. “More frequently, when you detain young people inappropriately, what you do is send them on a path of criminality.” How states treat their kids, including those in the juvenile-justice system, got attention this month with the annual release of the Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, a private charitable organization “dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States.” Some offenders are just going home to wait for trial. Others, on intensive or standard probation or arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, go to evening programs that provide not only tutoring, life skills and dinner, but perhaps as importantly, a structure that keeps them off the streets.

Reforming Juvenile Injustice
The Huffington Post – July 2, 2008
Our nation’s juvenile justice policies are replete with contradictions between practices proven to prevent crime, and punitive laws politicians promote to get elected. Juvenile and criminal justice principles, scientific research on prevention, intervention, and adolescent brain development, and US treaty obligations argue against the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” policies that harm children, increase recidivism and exacerbate crime. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA), first enacted in 1974 and overdue for reauthorization, is pending in Congress. Next week, the Senate will consider this legislation and amendments to improve juvenile justice in this country. Current juvenile justice practices ignore children’s age and amenability to rehabilitation. On any given night in the United States, almost 10,000 children are held in adult jails and prisons, where they are particularly vulnerable to victimization because of their size and youth. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that after release, children who are incarcerated in adult prisons commit more crimes, and more serious crimes, than children with similar histories held in juvenile facilities.

Foster Care

Judge demands state keep foster-care promises
The Seattle Times – July 1, 2008
A judge Monday gave the state Department of Social and Health Services 30 days to start keeping promises it made four years ago to settle a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of foster children. Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles R. Synder said the state has made plenty of promises to closely monitor the health and well-being of children in its care, but has failed to keep those promises. The ruling, unexpected after Monday’s lengthy hearing, requires the state to find ways to make monthly visits to foster children, to get them prompt health screenings, to ensure that they see their siblings regularly and to keep caseloads at a level where this is possible. State officials said the agency is already making considerable strides toward these goals, thanks in part to recent funding.

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