Monday, March 15, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


New York City high school graduation rates on the rise - but minorities lag
NY Daily News, New York, NY – March 9, 2010
The number of students graduating from city high schools increased modestly last year, continuing an upward trend that the mayor deemed "historic."  The high school graduation rate for city students rose to 59% in 2009, up from 56.4% in 2008, state officials announced Tuesday.  The state graduation rate also improved, rising to about 72% from 71% in 2008.  "The results for New York City are historic," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Any way you look at it, there's a record-breaking number of students graduating on time."  The city graduation rate is even higher when students who graduated in August are taken into account - rising to 62.7% in August 2009 compared to 60.7% a year earlier.  While most student groups' graduation rates improved over the past year, the achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white peers remained vast, at 20 and 22 percentage points, respectively.

Mentors for high school dropouts
WTVA, Tupelo, MS – March 9, 2010
It's getting major attention with in the Tupelo Public School District, educators call it an epidemic of black male dropouts. Tupelo Public School District reports in the two to three years, black males have the highest drop out rate. We caught up with two gentlemen who said they plan to join in the fight to get the young men back in class.  The journey of a lifetime for Joe Washington, a Tupelo resident, starts right now.  "The world is always changing and there's different opportunities out there," Washington, said.  His voyage doesn't involve traveling to a far away place. Washington's trip will happen in Lee County, as he embarks on his journey to mentor to a high school dropout.  "If you can reach them at an early age I thinks that's the time that they're more influential and they're likely to listen. You've got to reach them. Better late than never and I think that something like this is very imperative that we have," Washington said.

Bill Considered To Reduce State Dropout Rates
Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT – March 9, 2010
A bill being considered by the legislature is designed to reduce school dropout rates by prohibiting a practice known as "push out," said state Rep. Jason Bartlett and representatives of two youth advocacy groups who brought students and others to the Capitol Monday to talk about the issue.  "Push out" refers to the practice by some school districts of pushing poorly performing students out of high school and into adult education programs to keep dropout rates artificially low.  Hundreds of students from larger urban areas end up in adult education programs, according to the Center for Children's Advocacy of Hartford. In New Haven, for example, 526 children 16 to 18 ended up in adult education classes in the 2008-09 school year. In Waterbury, 516 kids ended up in adult education and in Hartford, 367 students were enrolled.

Education Leaders Weigh In On White House Education Plan
NPR, Washington, DC - March 11, 2010
Now, to what could be an important development in American education. A panel of educators brought together by the nations governors and state school superintendents released a draft of new standards for K-12 education. They are being called the Common Core Standards. President Obama has given the proposed standards his stamp of approval. And the initiative is being held as a breakthrough in a long fought battle that has historically fallen and stalled along political lines.  Traditionally, states and local governments have created their own standards, which means that expectations vary wildly across the country. And while states are still free to reject the proposed standards most are expected to embrace them. We wanted to know more. So weve called two education advocates who have been involved in the process of creating the new guidelines.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice, Children and Family Services departments merging
Chicago Tribune, Illinois – March 20, 2010
Acknowledging that teenagers in correctional facilities suffer from trauma and mental health issues and that the state has fallen short in helping them, Illinois officials announced Wednesday that the Department of Juvenile Justice will be folded into the Department of Children and Family Services.  For more than three decades, the Illinois Department of Corrections had been responsible both for the state's adult convicts and for juveniles serving time. In 2006, Illinois created a new Department of Juvenile Justice.

Illinois increases juvenile court age cutoff to 17
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL – March 12, 2010
When a 17-year-old girl was caught stealing $300 worth of clothing at a mall a few weeks ago, she was charged with a misdemeanor in juvenile court. Before Jan. 1, she could have been in even bigger trouble.  She would have been charged as an adult, leaving a permanent mark on her record that could complicate her finding work and prohibit her family from living in public housing, among other consequences.   Advocates say the change in state law — applying only to 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors — means they will have better access to mental health services, drug treatment and rehabilitation programs better suited to their age.

Juvenile Justice: City Looks to Expand Use of Home Monitoring
WNYC, New York, NY – March 8, 2010
Doing graffiti, fighting, stealing, or using drugs are among the offenses that can land a teenager in an upstate detention facility. But the facilities have come under fire by all levels of government, including the Department of Justice, which has threatened to take them over if serious reforms aren’t put in place. The majority of the kids filling these juvenile prisons are from poor neighborhoods across the five boroughs, but the city wants to change that by expanding programs that both monitor and provide family therapy inside the home.

Court program gives teens Voices
The News-Herald, Lake County, OH – March 9, 2010
The power of choice.  That's what four Lake County girls learned Monday after graduating from Lake County Juvenile Justice Center's pilot program New Voices, which focuses on building the self-esteem of young girls.  The program has four themes: self, connecting with others, healthy living and the journey ahead.  Juvenile Court Judge Karen Lawson said it also teaches students that they have choices in life.  "My message is always 'You can be whatever you want to be,' " Lawson said.

Foster Care

Idaho House OKs grandparents foster care bill
Magic Valley Times-News, Boise, ID – March 6, 2010
The House on Friday passed legislation that gives a greater voice to qualified relatives hoping to care for children in protective custody.  The bill, which passed unanimously, sets up a priority list for placement of children in protective custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Homes of fit and willing relatives are at the top of the list of where to place children in foster care.  The bill comes at a time when grandparents are raising their grandchildren in increasing numbers in Idaho, often because of substance abuse and incarceration of parents.

Parent mentoring program fosters deeper connections
Statesman Journal, Salem, OR – March 6, 2010
When her kids came home from school on a recent afternoon, Linda Ibarra of northeast Salem made them their afternoon snack and refereed the usual questions about school and orchestra practice. Meanwhile, she received a call on her cell phone from a fellow mother planning a Barbie-themed birthday party for her daughter. The two chatted about decorations and party favors.  Five years ago, Ibarra cared for two of the woman's children as a foster parent. Today, the families remain close.  "It's more than just taking care of the kids for a time and then sending them out," Ibarra said about foster parenting.  Ibarra's relationship with this mother is similar to what the state Department of Human Services is trying to develop: a mentoring relationship between parents whose children are in child-welfare custody and the foster parents who are caring for them.

House passes foster care transition funding
Alaska Dispatch, Alaska – March 11, 2010
How many times a month do you call your parents?  In your 20s, those calls tend to seek guidance or a little financial help -- wondering how to cook a meatloaf, asking for a hand changing a flat tire, looking for advice about how to make a paycheck cover the monthly bills.  Kids who turn 18 and are thrust out of Alaska's foster care system don't always have an adult to turn to. Without that support, almost 30 percent end up in jail within a few years, nearly 40 percent are homeless at some point, and almost 75 percent end up on public assistance.  After years of advocacy by Rep. Les Gara, Alaska lawmakers are investing about $715,000 this year to provide a smoother transition for young people from the foster care system into life on their own.  The House approved an operating budget on Thursday that includes those funds, most of which will address the unmet needs of kids that "age out" of the system.

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