Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Higher Education Bill Draws a Bead on Tuition Costs
The Christian Science Monitor – August 1, 2008
The rapid rise in college has caught the attention of Congress, which is taking steps to at least give the public reason to hope for a break on tuition bills. New legislation, expected to clear the House and Senate after press time on July 31, includes provisions designed to put pressure on colleges, universities, and states to rein in the escalating price of a college education. The best potential for doing so, some experts say, lies in the searchable college data that the US Department of Education will post online to bring transparency to tuition rates and the “net price” students pay after receiving aid. Within a year of the bill’s passage, students and parents should be able to use online calculators to estimate what any given college would cost based on their income level and family situation. Since most students receive financial aid, it’s important for families to see this net price, experts say, rather than simply compare based on the full-charge “sticker price.” There’s little agreement about how effective these new requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act will be, but many experts say they can’t hurt.

Higher-ed commission backs community college plan
The Tennessean – July 25, 2008
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission endorsed a proposal Thursday that would make a community college education free in Tennessee’s urban counties. Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, a member of a new group called the Tennessee Urban Mayors Forum that is developing the idea, asked the commission at its quarterly meeting to back the proposal. The commission obliged. Wharton said that “the returns on it will be well worth any investment.” “We think this is a much-needed program, both for the intrinsic worth of its education offering, but also in helping the state recruit business and industry. This is a signature step for a state to say that if you want to go beyond 12th grade, you won’t be able to say I don’t have the money.”

Ogden district shuffles students and schools
The Salt Lake Tribune – August 5, 2008
Ninth-graders about to begin classes in the Ogden School District won’t advance on to high school as they have in years past. Instead, they’ll remain in junior high school for one more year as part of the district’s overall grade reconfiguration, but with new science classrooms and a few art media centers. The format change takes effect this fall after the Ogden Board of Education three years ago approved it as part of an effort to bolster student achievement in ninth grade while also crafting smaller learning environments at the high school level in grades 10 through 12. Studies indicate ninth grade is a make-or-break year for many students, the point after which many move on toward academic success or drop out of school. “By keeping ninth-graders in junior high school, the change will increase the ninth grade passing rate and improve curriculum,” Don Belnap, Ogden school board president, said in a statement.

Juvenile Justice

Juveniles Don’t Belong in Adult Prisons
The Huffington Post – August 5, 2008
Jails and prisons are dangerous places for anybody, but especially for children and teens. Many of these institutions house vicious predators who have been locked up for brutal violent crimes. Yet on any given day, approximately 9,500 juveniles under the age of 18 are locked up in adult penal institutions. Children as young as 15 can be prosecuted as adults in many states without review by a judge or court hearing. The Campaign for Youth Justice report, “Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America, “released in November 2007, outlines the challenges to keeping children safe in adult jails. It catalogs the numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States where teens are placed in great danger because of the variety of flawed policies and laws governing incarceration. The report argues that children and teens should not be held to the same standard of accountability for their actions as grown-ups, citing research that shows the developmental differences between adolescents and adults. These findings indicate that the prefrontal cortex, which governs the “executive functions” of reasoning, advanced thinking and impulse control, is one of the last areas of the brain to mature.

Foster Care

Psychotropic Medications Overused Among Foster Children
PsychCentral – August 2, 2008
New research finds that psychotropic medications are frequently used to treat youth in foster care. The pattern is disturbing because effectiveness and safety of the pharmaceuticals has not been established. In a study of Texas children with Medicaid coverage, the latest in a series of analyses of state Medicaid records, foster care youth received at least three times more psychotropic drugs than comparable children in poor families. The Texas study also indicated that decision to give some children three or more psychotropic drugs may be largely based on behavioral and emotional symptoms rather than conclusive diagnosis of a specific mental condition. Zito says, “There are serious behavioral and emotional problems with many foster children and we want to make sure they are medicated appropriately. These are our troubled children.”

On the board
Pasadena Star-News – August 3, 2008
Pasadena City College has received an $80,000 award from the Foundation for California Community Colleges, which will help PCC assist former foster teens in their transition into self-sufficiency. PCC was one of eight community colleges that received foundation money for that purpose – a total of $630,000 in awards. The money will go to support Youth Empowerment Strategies for Success-California (YESS-California) programs. YESS- California helps current and former foster youth through mentoring, tutoring and life-skills training. Each year, more than 4,000 foster youth in California become independent. Many of them lack life and job skills, such as handling a personal budget, applying for and enrolling in college, and living on their own. Many become homeless within years of emancipation. Participating colleges provide services such as one-on-one mentoring, resource referral, classroom training and employment services.

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