Report Roundup of September 2005

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The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Transitions and the Role of Supportive Relationships, 2005

This year’s annual survey focuses on the experiences of teachers in their first five years of teaching, students who have transitioned from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school, and the principals who support them.
Nearly one-third of teachers identified parental involvement as both their biggest challenge and the area in which they feel least prepared. Two in 10 teachers identified their biggest challenge as either getting sufficient resources or maintaining order and discipline in the classroom.

Secondary school students reported feeling less safe in school than elementary students. Seventy-five percent of secondary students said their parents are “somewhat” or “very” involved in their schooling.

Despite high job satisfaction among principals (76 percent) and new teachers (66 percent), two in 10 new teachers said they were likely to leave the profession in the next five years. Those who plan to leave were more likely to be dissatisfied with their careers and to feel that their relationship with their supervisors was stressful. Free. 149 pages. (212) 578-6252,


Federal Policy on the Ground: Faith-Based Organizations Delivering Local Services
Urban Institute

The monitoring and oversight of federally funded faith-based organizations (FBOs) is lax, says this study by the Urban Institute, which looked at programs in Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; and Denver. Researchers found that federal oversight of the FBOs they studied was limited to financial audits, and that state and local governments paid little attention to any religious content or to how services were being provided.

While the percentage of FBOs receiving block-grant funding has changed little since the initiation of the federal Charitable Choice legislative provision in 1996, between 50 and 70 percent of grants made under the Compassion Capital program now go to religious organizations, according to the institute.

Although Charitable Choice requires that clients who object to the religious nature of an organization to which they have been referred be notified of their right to an alternative provider, the researchers found “considerable uncertainity” about how that requirement was being implemented. Free. 95 pages. (877) 847-7377,

Family Issues

Parent-Child Connectedness: Voices of African-American and Latino Parents and Teens
ETR Associates

Communication is a key component of parent-child connectedness (PCC), say 135 low-income African-American and Latino parents and teens who took part in focus groups in five U.S. cities in 2004. Themes that emerged in discussions about what helps and hinders PCC included teen autonomy, the need to feel supported, feeling embarrassed by parents, teen resistance and rebellion, parents’ childhood experiences, role modeling and pride.

When asked for recommendations for youth programs and workers regarding PCC, participants mentioned creating opportunities for families to share time together that also allow parents and teens to practice communication skills. They also said PCC program leaders should be skilled at talking about family problems, getting to know parents, building trust and rapport with teens and facilitating discussions about feelings.

ETR plans to use the information to develop activities for youth work practitioners to use with families, and to design PCC interventions aimed at reducing adolescent sexual risk-taking. The group expects its first collection of activities to be available in November. Free. 122 pages. (831) 438-4060,

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Arrests 2003
U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

The bulletin is a summary and analysis of national and state juvenile arrest data presented in the FBI report “Crime in the United States 2003.”

The juvenile violent crime arrest rate in 2003 was the lowest since 1980. The juvenile arrest rate for all offenses tracked in the FBI’s Violent Crime Index (murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault) has declined steadily since the mid-1990s. Rates for offenses on the Property Crime Index also declined in 2003, reaching their lowest level in three decades.
Other key findings for 2003:

• 45 percent of the 1,550 juveniles murdered were killed with a firearm.
• 1,130 juveniles were arrested for murder, down 70 percent from the peak year of 1993.
• Females accounted for nearly one-quarter of juvenile arrests for aggravated assault and 32 percent of other assaults.
• The ratio of black to white disparities in violent crime arrest rates declined from 6-to-1 in 1980 to 4-to-1 in 2003.
• Between 1994 and 2003, juvenile arrests for drug abuse violations increased 19 percent.
Free. 12 pages. (202) 307-5911,
pdf. See Research of Note, page 35, for a related story about crime by girls.

Ganging Up on Communities
Justice Policy Institute (JPI)

Despite a rash of sensationalized cases and proposed federal legislation to address “the gang crisis,” some national measures show a steep decline in the the rate of violent crime attributable to gang members.

According to JPI, the National Crime Victimization Survey reports that between 1994 and 2003, the rate of reported violent victimizations by perceived gang members fell from 5.2 per 1,000 to 1.4 per 1,000 – a decline of 73 percent. Additionally, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that only 7 percent (approximately 1,100) of 16,503 homicide arrests in 2003 were for a “gangland” or “juvenile gang” homicide. Among those arrested, 111 were reported to be juveniles.

JPI researchers contend that some proposed anti-gang policies federalize law enforcement efforts that have historically been the jurisdiction of the states, and may exacerbate the country’s crime problem by steering resources away from local and state groups that have helped to reduce gang membership and violence. Free. 13 pages, (202) 558-7974.

Mental Health

Mental Illness Takes Heavy Toll on Youth
National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH)

Half of all individuals who experience mental illness during their lifetimes report the onset of the disease by age 14, and three-fourths report onset by age 24, according to this study. The institute surveyed more than 9,000 adults nationwide between February 2001 and April 2003 as a follow-up to its 1990 National Comorbidity Study. Four articles detailing the latest findings were published in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Early onset of mental illness was associated with failing to make initial treatment contacts and with treatment delays, according to the survey.

Experts say youth with untreated mental illnesses may suffer debilitating symptoms during their most productive years, compromising their academic achievement, career prospects and family relationships. Many may also develop more severe illnesses, or co-occuring disorders such as substance abuse. Abstract available free online. (312) 464-2403. or

Out-of-School Time

The Evaluation Exchange: Complementary Learning
Harvard Family Research Project

The most recent issue of The Evaluation Exchange introduces the concept of “complementary learning” – sustained investments in nonschool learning supports such as early care and education, families, after-school programs, libraries and museums, and the linkage and alignment of those supports with schools.

The issue examines how mechanisms such as family involvement, technology, professional development and diverse funding streams can create effective links between learning contexts than can help narrow student achievement gaps. It also highlights promising approaches for evaluating complementary learning practices and programs. Free online. (617) 495-9108,


America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2005
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics

The federal government’s ninth annual report on the well-being of the nation’s children offers a mixed bag of indicators.
The birth rate to teen mothers has reached a record low, the death rate for children between ages 1 and 4 is the lowest ever measured, immunization rates for young children are up, and fourth-graders are scoring better in math, according to statistics compiled by various agencies. However, children also are more likely be born with a low birthweight, live in poverty and commit or be victims of violent crime.

The report presents a comprehensive look at other critical areas, including health status, behavior and social environment, economic security and education. A companion website offers summary lists of recent indicator trends. Free online. (888) Ask-HRSA,

2005 KIDS COUNT Databook
Annie E. Casey Foundation/KIDS COUNT

Shortly before the federal government published its slew of stats on children (see “America’s Children,” above), KIDS COUNT released its 16th annual state-by-state statistical review, accompanied by a press release that proclaimed the nation’s children are “no longer improving in the rapid and sustained way they did in the late 1990s.”

KIDS COUNT says five out of 10 child well-being indicators used in its review have worsened since 2000 – in stark contrast with the group’s 2004 report, which showed eight out of 10 key indicators had improved from 1996 to 2001.
Among the negative trends emphasized in this year’s report: The number of children living with persistently unemployed parents has grown by 25 percent since 2000, to 4 million; and one-half million more children were living in poverty in 2003 than in 2000, for a total of nearly 13 million.

Statistics from the databook are available in an online database that allows users to generate custom graphs, maps, ranked lists and state-by-state profiles. Other resources are also available free online. (410) 547-6600,

Substance Abuse

Youths’ Exposure to Substance Use Prevention Messages: 2003
U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Youth who receive drug and alcohol prevention messages through the media or from their parents are less likely to use those substances, according to SAMHSA’s 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Six in 10 youth ages 12 to 17 who reported having talked with at least one parent during the past year about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol or drug use were less likely than youth who had not done so to report alcohol use (17 percent vs. 19 percent), binge alcohol use (10 percent vs. 12 percent) or illicit drug use (10 percent vs. 13 percent) in the past month.

In 2003, 21 million (84 percent of) youth reported seeing or hearing an alcohol or drug prevention message from sources such as posters, pamphlets, radio or television in the past 12 months. Youths who were exposed to media messages were significantly less likely than those who were not to report binge alcohol use (10 precent vs. 13 percent) or illicit drug use (11 percent vs. 14 percent) in the past month. Free. Three pages. (240) 276-2130,

The Meth Epidemic in America
National Association of Counties (NACo)

Concerns are growing among people in child welfare, law enforcement and medicine about the devastating effects of methamphetamine abuse, and this report documents some of the reasons.

Among 500 county-level law enforcement agencies surveyed by NACo, 87 percent reported increases in meth-related arrests over the past three years, and 58 percent said meth is their largest drug problem. Half the counties estimated that 20 percent of their jail populations were there for meth-related crimes.

Among 300 county-level child welfare agencies surveyed in 13 states, one in four reported increases in out-of-home placements of children in the past year due to the use or manufacture of meth by their parents or guardians. The majority of the counties surveyed in California (71 percent), Colorado (70 percent), Minnesota (69 percent) and North Dakota (54 percent) reported meth-related increases in out-of-home placements over the past five years.

Some observers charge that the “meth epidemic” that got so much media attention this summer has been blown out of proportion. Among other things, they say that while meth is a serious problem in some places, especially rural communities, its use lags well behind other popular drugs in most places, and that children of meth abusers are no worse off than are the children of parents who abuse many other popular drugs. Free. 11 pages. (202) 593-6226,