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Tougher Justice Seen for Minority Individuals

Black and Hispanic youths receive different and harsher treatment than white youths charged with similar offenses at every stage of the juvenile-justice process, according to findings from Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of children's advocates, researchers, law-enforcement professionals, and community organizers.

Black and Hispanic youths receive different and harsher treatment than white youths charged with similar offenses at every stage of the juvenile-justice process, according to findings from Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of children's advocates, researchers, law-enforcement professionals, and community organizers.

In every offense category—person, property, drug, public order—substantially greater percentages of minority youths were detained than white youths, the study released last week found. It uses data from the U.S. Department of Justice's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

When white and minority youths were charged with the same offenses, African-American youths with no prior admissions were six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers with the same backgrounds. Latino youths were three times more likely than whites to be incarcerated, the report says.

"And Justice for Some: Differential Treatment of Minority Youth in the Justice System," free online at

—Adrienne D. Coles

Violent Children: Popular culture, mental-health problems, permissiveness, and the effect of each of those elements on the country's children are examined in a report from the nonprofit opinion-research group Public Agenda.

Spurred by the growing national concern about youth violence, the New York City-based organization looks at some of the root causes of juvenile violence and proposes ways to reduce it. The suggestions include a call for "cultural cleanup" by banning the advertising and sale of all violent entertainment to children under the age of 17 and using boycotts to promote changes in the entertainment and media industry. The report also advocates more prevention and treatment efforts for at-risk youths, as well as greater moral discipline.

"Violent Kids: Can We Change the Trend?," $5.50, from Public Agenda, (212) 686-6610, or online at

—Adrienne D. Coles

Flunking Finance: When it comes to paying taxes, using a credit card, or saving for retirement, high school seniors know even less than their counterparts did three years ago, a recent report suggests.

In 1997, student respondents answered an average of 57.3 percent of the questions correctly on a personal-finance-literacy test, compared with the 51.9 percent scored by students on the 2000 questionnaire. Dara Duguay, the executive director of the group that administered the test, the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, said the lack of personal-finance requirements in most states' curriculum standards is a likely factor in the low grades.

The Washington-based group, a nonprofit coalition of agencies, universities, and associations that seeks to help students attain financial competence, launched a nationwide public-service advertising campaign last month and is lobbying school districts to emphasize interactive personal-finance classroom instruction.

"Our Vulnerable Youth: The Financial Literacy of American 12th Graders," $14.95, from the coalition's World Wide Web site at Educators may call for special pricing at (202) 466-8604.

—Mark Jennings

Student Achievement: Help for every student in reaching high standards, improvement in educator capacity, accountability and assessment systems, and public engagement are the topics addressed by standards-based-reform experts in papers from a conference sponsored by the Council for Basic Education and the Johnson Foundation in November.

The papers discuss overcoming barriers to standards implementation by presenting viewpoints from throughout the education system, with reports from a high school principal, college professors, a district superintendent, and a state superintendent.

"Closing the Gap: Beyond the Standards Horse Race: Implementation, Assessment, and Accountability—The Keys to Improving Student Achievement," $12, from the Council for Basic Education, 1319 F St. N.W., Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004-1152; (202) 347- 4171; fax (202) 347-5047.

—Naomi Greengrass

Computer-Savvy Students: National and state tests administered by paper and pencil may severely underestimate the performance of students who are used to working at computers, according to a report by the independent National Board on Education Testing and Public Policy.

Co-authors Michael Russell and Walter M. Haney studied two groups of computer-using students who were given the same mathematics, science, and language arts tests. One group was tested by computer, the other on paper. Across all subjects, the difference in the passing rates was dramatic: 67 percent of the computer-tested students passed, compared with only 30 percent of the paper-tested students.

The report was released last month as part of a series intended to spark public discussion about whether common "high stakes" testing practices improve or impede education, according to officials of the testing-policy board, which is housed in the school of education at Boston College.

"The Gap Between Testing and Technology in Schools" and other reports in the series, free, by downloading from

—Andrew Trotter

Successful Partnerships: Collaboration between schools and early-childhood-education providers makes high-quality child care and preschool available to more children, a report says. But forming such partnerships often forces those involved to think creatively and to change their beliefs about other organizations, according to the findings from the New York City-based Child Care Action Campaign.

The 60-page report profiles 68 partnerships in 37 states that are primarily serving poor communities. Those arrangements were found in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

The researchers found that school superintendents were the "prime initiators" of such partnerships. They also say that 84 percent of the programs reported having seen improvement in children's elementary school performance since the partnerships were formed.

Early-childhood-education organizations, the report says, should suggest such partnerships to their local school districts. Such programs, the authors say, also need to consider the needs of working parents.

The executive summary of "Partnering for Success: Community Approaches to Early Learning," free online at html#PFS. A full copy can be requested by calling (212) 239-0138.

—Linda Jacobson

School Choice: Charter schools have made significant strides in the past year, with more than 400 new schools opening nationwide, according to a state-by-state review from the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

The evidence of charter school effectiveness is mounting, says the foundation's education analyst, Nina Shokraii Rees. In addition to looking at examples of "the popularity of school choice," the study highlights research bolstering school choice programs and examines sources of grassroots support.

"School Choice 2000: What's Happening in the States," from the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, DC 20002., and free online at

—Mark Jennings

Fighting Juvenile Crime: Leadership, engagement of the media, and training for a range of community participants are critical elements in establishing comprehensive efforts to combat juvenile crime, according to a report from the U.S. Justice Department's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

The study describes the efforts of three sites—San Diego and Florida's Duval and Lee counties—selected in 1993 that applied the six key principles of the office's comprehensive strategy for serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders.

The report also outlines the challenges of implementing a comprehensive, strategic approach, such as the difficulties inherent in collecting needed data.

"The Comprehensive Strategy: Lessons Learned From the Pilots Sites," free from the OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, PO Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20857; (800) 638-8736.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Helping Vulnerable Families: Children who have been affected by substance abuse, domestic violence, and serious mental-health problems and who are entering support structures as a result of changes in the welfare law can be substantially helped by early childhood centers, according to a recent report from the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Strategies for promoting well-being in early-childhood settings for vulnerable families include integrating behavioral-service teams into primary health care, child care, and Head Start. Developing a statewide system of behavioral supports and training staff members to cope with challenged children and families are also suggested as ways to promote resilience and school readiness in those vulnerable children.

"Promoting Resilience: Helping Young Children and Parents Affected by Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Depression in the Context of Welfare Reform," $5, from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 154 Haven Ave., New York, NY 10032; (212) 304-7100; fax: (212) 544- 4200. The group's Web site is ccp/cwr8text.htm.

—Michelle Galley

Student Achievement: Test scores in Southern schools from Maryland to Florida to Texas show that every state in the region has improved on some measure of student achievement in the past 10 years, and all are doing a better job of gathering the information needed to measure changes in student progress, the Southern Regional Educational Board says. But major challenges remain, the board concludes in a recent report.

One sign of progress is that in 1988, only four SREB states had at least 60 percent of their public schools participating in the College Board's Advanced Placement program; last year, 10 of the 16 member states had more than 60 percent of their public schools in the program. In fact, SREB states led the nation in growth of the AP program.

Still, low-achieving students need more help, and achievement gaps between racial and ethnic groups present a substantial challenge in SREB states, the report says.

"Student Achievement in the Southern Regional Education Board States," $5, by calling (404) 875-9211, ext. 236, or online at StudentAchievement2000/StudentAchievement2000.html.

—Alan Richard

Spending Not the Solution: There is no clear correlation between federal spending on education and student achievement, according to a report from the American Legislative Exchange Council. Using more than 100 measures of educational resources and student achievement, the study by the bipartisan, Washington-based policy group of state legislators analyzes the latest achievement data available for public elementary and secondary schools and gives grades to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report disputes any connection between spending and educational achievement as measured by standardized-test scores. Minnesota, Montana, and Iowa are ranked as the states with the highest-performing schools, with Mississippi, the District of Columbia, and Louisiana at the bottom of the scale. But in the 1997-98 school year, the District of Columbia spent $8,670 per pupil, while Minnesota spent $6,245, the report says.

Keys to educational excellence lie outside of conventional measures of investment in America's schools, the report argues, in areas such as strong civic institutions, strong family structures, parental involvement, and the decentralization of district-controlled public schools.

"Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis 1976-1999," $25, from the American Legislative Exchange Council, 910 17th St. N.W., Fifth Floor, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 466-3800; or free online at

—Patricia Lenihan

Vol. 19, Issue 34, Pages 14-15

Published in Print: May 3, 2000, as Report Roundup
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