April 2013 Reports

Disconnected youth www.aecf.org
Six and a half million American teens and young adults are “disconnected youth” -- youths ages 16 to 24 who neither work nor attend school. A report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, says that while in decades past teenagers leaving high school with or without a diploma still could find gainful employment in America’s economy, that is no longer the case. The report found that youth employment rates varied widely between states, from a low of 18 percent in California, to a high of 46 percent in North Dakota, and said schools could best help by creating job experience opportunities for youth via internships, summer and part-time work, and community service.

Parents rank violence factors www.surveyusa.com
Results of a survey of 1,050 American parents conducted by Common Sense Media and the Center for American Progress, “Parents With Children At Home Weigh-In: Here’s What Contributes to Violence in the United States,” finds that 89 percent of respondents think that violent video games are a problem, with 75 percent believing the games contribute to violence. Sixty-four percent of parents said violent toys are part of the problem, as well. Ninety-two percent of the parents said bullying contributes to violence, and 93 percent said lack of supervision does the same. Seventy-five percent of the parents admit they have difficulty shielding their children from violence.

PISA performance www.epi.org
A report from the Economic Policy Institute, What Do International Tests Really Show About U.S. Student Performance, says that the pool of American students tested in PISA is much more diverse socially than that of other countries participating. The authors claim that disadvantaged students from all countries perform poorly on the test, and that if the U.S. student pool had a social composition similar to that of other competing countries, our ranking would rise to fourth from 14th in reading, and to 10th from 25th in math.

Preschool obesity declines http://jama.jamanetwork.com
An analysis of data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that from 2003-10 the rate of obesity among disadvantaged 4-year-olds dropped from 15.2 percent to 14.9 percent, a small but significant decrease. Rates of extreme obesity in the same population also decreased slightly, from 2.22 percent in 2003 to 2.07 percent in 2010. The report’s authors credit breast-feeding and a decrease in sugar in children’s cereals for the drop in obesity in this population.

Recess and student achievement http://pediatrics.aappublications.org
An article appearing in Pediatrics, “The Crucial Role of Recess in School,” says that recess promotes physical health, facilitates social development, and measurably increases children’s cognitive performance. The article says that -- while physical education classes are important -- supervised, unstructured recess offers special benefits to children. Free play allows them to learn communication skills such as negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving, as well as the essential coping skills of perseverance and self-control. Students who have recess before lunch spend more time eating lunch and waste less food.

STEM for girls http://forgirlsinscience.org
L’Oréal USA has launched a website designed to engage schoolgirls in science, and encourage their participation in STEM studies. A series of focus groups the company conducted with girls ages 13 to 18 showed that, while the girls were interested in STEM, they did not find it compelling, and they had few female STEM role models “For Girls in Science” features video of female scientists on the job, famous women’s STEM contributions, a career personality quiz, and a list of STEM career opportunities.

Teen mental health www.childtrends.org
A Child Trends Adolescent Health Highlight issue brief, “Mental Health Disorder,” says that 50 percent of mental disorders, including binge drinking and illegal drug use, appear in victims by age 14, and 75 percent of all mental disorders surface by age 24. Depression is the most common mental disorder, and one in four teenagers experiences it. The most serious consequence of a mental disorder is suicide; 90 percent of teenagers who have attempted or completed suicide experienced mental disorder. Risk for youth mental disorder increases with bullying, with sexual abuse, and among those with divorced or less-educated parents. 

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.