Report Roundup from October 2005

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2005 ACT Scores
American College Testing Program

Hundreds of thousands of 2005 high school graduates will begin college or work academically unprepared and will struggle or need remediation to succeed, says the American College Testing Program, which adminsters the ACT exam.

The average ACT composite score, which measures high-schoolers’ proficiency in English, algebra, biology and social sciences, remained unchanged from 2004. The progam estimates that less than half of this year’s high school graduates are likely to earn a “C” or higher in core entry-level college courses.

Also noteworthy is the sizable increase in minority students preparing for college by taking the exam. The number of Hispanic test-takers has risen by 40 percent since 2001, and the number of African-Americans has risen by 23 percent. The number of white test-takers has increased by 2 percent. Free online. (319) 337-1028,

Competitive Foods Are Widely Available and Generate Substantial Revenues for Schools
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Attempts to regulate the nutritional value of competitive foods – that is, foods sold in schools that are not part of federally funded, nutritionally regulated school meals – will be difficult, the GAO says. One major reason: In the 2003-04 school year, nearly 90 percent of public schools sold competitive foods in vending machines, school stores and a la carte cafeteria lines.
Increases in childhood obesity have ignited concerns about the sale of soda, candy and snacks that students can purchase in lieu of, or in addition to, school meals. The GAO concludes that policy changes to limit unhealthy foods or require healthier competitive foods in schools are hampered by a lack of agreed-upon nutritional guidelines, along with decentralized decision-making within school systems, difficulty in monitoring implementation, and school officials’ fear of losing revenue from snack sales. Twenty-nine of the 100 high schools surveyed by the GAO for this study reported raising more than $125,000 in competitive food sales during the 2003-2004 school year. Free. 64 pages. (202) 512-6000,

Juvenile Justice
School Vandalism and Break-Ins; Problem-Oriented Guides for Police
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), U.S. Department of Justice

School vandals – typically young male adolescents – are likely to feel disconnected from school because of their poor academic achievement, truancy, suspension and expulsion, and therefore don’t fully appreciate the impact of their actions on other youth, according to this resource from COPS.

The guide addresses school vandalism, break-ins, arsons and burglaries by defining the problems in terms of social and monetary costs to perpetrators and communities, and by reviewing risk factors for schools. It leads police and community leaders through a series of questions to identify and analyze local problems, and suggests responses based on research and police practices.

Among the motives discussed for school vandalism: peer pressure and achievement of peer status, property acquisition, wanting school to be canceled, protesting school rules, vindication for punishment, and rage or frustration. Free. 80 pages. (800) 421-6770,

Juvenile Victimization and Offending, 1993-2003
U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

The crime victimization rate for juveniles ages 12 to 17 declined 54 percent from 1993 through 2003, from 130 victims per thousand to about 60 per thousand, according to data compiled from the federal National Crime Victimization Survey and the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports. While declines occurred for all crimes and among all races and ethnic groups, the youngest teens (ages 12 to 14) experienced the biggest decline: 59 percent. Adult victimization declined 53 percent over the same period.

The study also found that 12- to 17-year-olds were more than twice as likely as adults to be the victims of rape, sexual assault, robbery or assault. African-American youth were five times as likely as white youth to be victims of homicide. However, homicide rates for juvenile African-American victims and offenders fell by 71 percent from 1993 to 2000, the greatest decline among racial groups.

Readers should be warned: In an increasingly familiar tactic used by federal researchers, statistical changes noted throughout the report reflect a customized interpretation of the data. (See Research of Note, page 35.) Although violent victimization rates for juveniles rose from 2002 to 2003 on several measures, including robbery and assault, the authors compare only averaged rates for the periods 1993-95 and 2001-03. A small sidebar on page three of the report cites “fewer survey respondents” and overall declines in crime as reasons for the “smoothing [of] year-to-year fluctuations” to enable a “more meaningful comparison” across the 11 years of the study. Free. 10 pages. (800) 851-3420 ask for NCJ 209468,

Alternatives to the Secure Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders
U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

Overcrowding and a lack of evidence of effectiveness should limit the use of secure detention and confinement to serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders, and to those juveniles who repeatedly fail to appear for scheduled court dates, the OJJDP says. (See also Press Watch, page 10).

From 1990 to 1999, the number of delinquency cases involving detention increased by 11 percent, and the number of adjudicated cases resulting in placements in training schools, treatment facilities and group homes increased by 24 percent – resulting in overcrowding in approximately 39 percent of all juvenile detention and confinement facilities. The bulletin discusses how removing juveniles from the positive influences of family, community and school, and placing them in overcrowded conditions, is ultimately unhealthy, dangerous and detrimental to rehabilitation. It urges the use of alternative evidence-based programs with varying levels of restrictiveness and types of services. Free. 41 pages. (800) 851–3420,

Oral Sex Among Teens
Child Trends

This analysis of the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, recently released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warns that the approximately 50 percent of youth ages 15 to 19 who engaged in oral sex in 2002 were at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Among the 24 percent of males and 22 percent of females in that age group who had never had sexual intercourse, nearly one in four had engaged in oral sex. Child Trends, a nonprofit research group, says those teens are of particular concern because they consider themselves to be virgins, but have been exposed to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Less than 10 percent of teens who engaged in oral sex in 2002 reported using condoms, according to the survey data.

Child Trends has posted up-to-date teen oral sex statistics in its Databank, and urges parents, health educators and designers of pregnancy prevention programs to address the public health risk. Free online. (202) 572-6138,
The CDC report, “Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of Age, United States, 2002,” is available at

Sexual Activity Among Adolescents in Romantic Relationships With Friends, Acquaintances or Strangers
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Having a shared history before dating has a significant influence on at least some of the sexual decisions made by adolescent couples, but patterns differ for boys and girls.

Being friends prior to a romantic relationship proved to protect against sexual intercourse for both males and females, according to data drawn from the 1996 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which surveyed 6,658 middle- and high-school-aged youths.

Evidence of better decision-making was most pronounced among female adolescents. Girls were more likely to discuss sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the use of contraceptives with a partner they had met before romantic involvement, and were also more likely to consistently use birth control. Knowing a girl beforehand had no bearing on males’ decisions to discuss STIs or contraception or to use birth control.

The article appears in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Free. (919) 966-4462,

Effectiveness of Abstinence-Only Intervention in Middle School Teens
Case Western Reserve University

This study of an abstinence-only education program in Ohio found that while it failed to reduce the number of students initiating sex in the five months following the program, it reduced the sexual episodes and number of partners for sexually active youth during the evaluation period. The program also reduced the number of sexually uninitiated youth who said they intended to use condoms when they become sexually active – possibly because of warnings in the curriculum that condoms are not 100 percent effective.

Nearly one in four of more than 2,000 Cleveland-area students enrolled in the For Keeps program said they were sexually experienced at the beginning of the study. Researchers surmised that the program’s abstinence message appealed to some sexually active youth because they found that “the experience of sexual intercourse was far less romantic, exciting or pleasurable than they had expected.” Abstract free from the American Journal of Health Behavior. (304) 594-0570,

Suicidal Thoughts among Youths Aged 12 to 17 with Major Depressive Episode
U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

An estimated 14 percent of youth ages 12 to 17, or approximately 3.5 million young people, have experienced at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in their lifetimes, SAMHSA reports as part of its 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (See also Research of Note, page 35.)

More than 7 percent, or an estimated 1.8 million of those youth, thought about killing themselves during their worst or most recent episodes. Girls ages 12 to 17 were much more likely than boys to have had an MDE, and to report thinking about suicide or believing it would be better if they were dead.

Additionally, an estimated 712,000 youth – nearly 3 percent of all youth ages 12 to 17 – tried to kill themselves during their worst or most recent MDE. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24 in 2003, acconting for 3,921 deaths. Free. Three pages. (240) 276-2127,

Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Guns are present in nearly one-third of U.S. households, according to recently analyzed data from the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey of more than 240,000 adults. The findings indicate that nearly 1.7 million children and youth under age 18 are living with loaded and unlocked household firearms.

Washington, D.C., had the lowest prevalence of adults with household fireams (5.2 percent); Wyoming had the highest (62.8 percent). In households with children under age 18, the prevalence of loaded firearms ranged from 1 to 13.4 percent, and the prevalence of loaded and unlocked firearms ranged from 0.3 to 7.3 percent. In each instance, Massachusetts had the lowest prevalence and Alabama had the highest.

In 2002, some 1,400 people under 18 died in firearm-related deaths. Previous studies have found that 90 percent of fatal firearm incidents involving children 14 and under occur within the home, and that twice as many firearm deaths among youth occur in states with the highest proportions of households with loaded firearms. Free. Nine pages. (410) 819-3996,