Yesterday’sSupreme Court decision, banning sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders who have not committed murder, was right on. As our volume Juvenile Justice demonstrates, over a decade of social science research has demonstrated that adolescents lack the emotional and mental maturity of adults and this needs to be considered when making decisions about culpability and punishment.
Evidence linking alcohol and other drug abuse with child maltreatment, particularly neglect, is strong. But does substance abuse cause maltreatment? In a recent article in The Future of Children volume Preventing Child Maltreatment, authors Mark Testa and Brenda Smith found that co-occurring risk factors such as parental depression, social isolation, homelessness, or domestic violence may be more directly responsible than substance abuse itself for maltreatment. Interventions to prevent substance abuse–related maltreatment, say the authors, must attend to the underlying direct causes of both.
Disney’s decision to offer a refund to parents for “Baby Einstein” videos (“No Einstein in your Crib? Get a Refund”) is a breath of fresh air. While research in a recent Future of Children volume confirms that children older than three can learn from educational television and videos, infants and toddlers cannot. But very young children still consume a lot of electronic media. A recent survey estimated that 43 percent of infants and toddlers watch TV every day. Nineteen percent of children under one, and 29 percent of children two to three have a television in their bedrooms. At least one study found that children’s television viewing before age three was negatively related to children’s later academic achievement. Children under age 2 learn best from real-life experiences and interaction with real people.
Finally, to increase schools’ accountability, school districts should build data tracking systems capable of following students from kindergarten through postsecondary education. States are fully aware of the importance of accountability for postsecondary performance and have begun taking steps toward developing the necessary achievement tests and data systems.
To meet these three goals, the authors of the FOC policy brief make a proposal. The $1.7 billion a year that the federal government currently provides for a wide range of efforts aimed at helping disadvantaged students should be re-allocated competitively (to public schools, postsecondary schools, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and coalitions of these organizations). Priority would be given to applicants who are able to show how they will track student progress in reading and math, how they will respond with additional instruction or other assistance when students fall below grade level in either subject, and, where appropriate, how they will track their students’ progress in postsecondary education and modify their college preparation program based on the evidence. Recipients should be required to reapply for funding every three years, and programs that do not increase college enrollment and graduation rates should lose their funding. Preference would go to programs that have effective procedures for enrolling truly disadvantaged students and boosting their achievement and college enrollment and graduation rates. Similarly, preference should go to proposals that provide for rapid response as soon as disadvantaged students begin to fall below grade norms. Finally, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System should be expanded to all states while ensuring that state systems are capable of following students through the college years.
Many school districts around the country are poised to receive stimulus package money and are trying to figure out how to spend it. Many will spend it hiring needed teachers, while others will put it toward retention. One natural place to put new dollars is professional development. However, not all professional development is equal, and in many cases, will not translate to improved teaching or student achievement.
See also The Future of Children policy brief, "A Plan to Improve the Quality of Teaching in American Schools"
The hottest rage in my thirteen year old’s class last year was a first person shooter internet video game called Soldier Front. T’ween boys love these type of internet games because they can play with friends on-line; no need for playdates, the kids all meet in the virtual world and don guns together.
Over the past decade researchers have identified intervention strategies and program models that reduce juvenile delinquency and promote pro-social development. However, while we have more than ten years of solid research about evidence-based programs, only about five percent of eligible youth participate in these programs.
- First, agencies rarely invest in developing data systems that permit them to monitor which programs are working and which are not; therefore, most states’ juvenile justice systems have no idea if they are spending their money wisely.
- Second, many policymakers are often unaware of research evidence on programs and policies that are not only effective in reducing juvenile delinquency but also cost-effective.
- Third, often what works is at odds with “get tough on crime” public sentiment, and some policy makers are unwilling to choose evidence over politics.
Obama is poised to sign into law the $789 billion stimulus bill agreed to by Congress this week. The plan has a noteworthy amount – close to $100 billion according to the Christian Science Monitor — of federal education spending. While education spending does stimulate the economy, to be truly effective in raising incomes in the long term, the money should be used to improve education quality.
A recent New York Times article noted that despite the failing economy, welfare applications have not gone up. This is contrary to trends in the 1990’s — prior to the overhaul of the system — and against common sense; when jobs dry up we expect folks to seek financial relief. Paradoxically, applications for food stamps have gone up as the economy has soured.
There are a lot of myths about how children use electronic media, highlighted in our recent volume, Children and Electronic Media. A longer version of this “Myth Busters” piece and other related highlights are posted on our website.