Dropout crisis in focus

September 30th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, September 23, 2009

Nationwide, it is estimated that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. This is nearly 1-in-3 – or an average of 7,000 students per day. These numbers are even more devastating among minorities; almost 50 percent of black and Latino students don’t graduate on time.

The costs of this epidemic are tremendous. According to the Cities in Crisis 2009 report, in the 50 largest U.S. cities, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000 – significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Nationally, high school dropouts are the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last 30 years.

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the class of 2006-07 will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Furthermore, dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, rely on public programs and do without health insurance than those who stay in school.

Clearly this is not just an education problem – this is a community problem. So what are we doing about it?

One initiative worth paying attention to is the dropout campaign being waged by America’s Promise Alliance. Founded in 1997 by Gen. Colin L. Powell and currently chaired by his wife, Alma Powell, the organization is a cross-sector partnership of 300 companies and nonprofit, faith-based and advocacy organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

They have turned their attention to the nation’s dropout crisis, and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have hosted more than 35 dropout summits in cities across the country. The summits are designed to bring together city leaders, citizens and student advocates to develop workable solutions and action plans. This has led to important community building within these cities, and these communities are starting to share their activities with one another as a spirit of cross-collaboration helps drive this work forward.

Leaders from 12 of the participating cities gathered in the District last week to talk concretely about how they can deepen their work in their respective communities. Prior to the meeting, each city team published a short description of its on-the-ground initiatives.

In New Orleans, for example, 30 community organizations have come together to create the New Orleans Kids Partnership. With the intent of letting no child slip through the cracks, the organization provides wraparound support for students up to age 19 in designated schools, with a focus on () (read more)

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Healthy Habits Promote Happiness

September 10th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, Wed., September 9, 2009

As the health care debate rages, from presidential proclamations to angry shouting matches at town-hall forums, some provocative developments overseas warrant our attention.

No, we’re not talking about whether some countries have mastered health information technology or resolved the infamous public-versus-private debate. Rather, we’re talking about Britain’s new “happiness czar,” Bhutan’s goal of pursuing “gross national happiness” (GNH) and an Australian elementary school’s new multimillion-dollar well-being center.

As common sense indicates, there’s a link between health and happiness — one that flows both ways — and it’s too important to ignore as we tackle health care reform.

First, the unhealthy facts:

Compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has below-average life expectancy (78.1 versus 79.0 years) and above-average infant-mortality rates (6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, versus 4.9). About 44 million Americans younger than 65 were uninsured last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And the costs? U.S. health spending is expected to reach $2.5 trillion this year – more than the entire gross domestic product of all but five other nations, and more than eight times what we spent in 1980. That tab is expected to reach an astounding $4.4 trillion by 2018, according to the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care.

The reasons are complex, but one big factor is lifestyle, from smoking and inactivity to obesity. The United States has the highest obesity rate of all OECD countries, with 74 million obese Americans age 20 or older. Among children ages 2 to 19, 12 million are obese. Childhood obesity is the top health concern among U.S. parents, topping smoking and drug abuse.

According to a 2007 survey, 32 percent of females and 18 percent of males in high school had not engaged in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the previous week. More than 47 million Americans smoke, with about a fifth of high schoolers reporting current tobacco use.

In a fascinating multiyear study of health and longevity, explorer and educator Dan Buettner chronicled the secrets of “blue zones,” places on the planet where people — including Sardinian sheepherders and Japanese grandmothers — live longer and healthier lives. In a National Public Radio report on his work, Mr. Buettner offered four tips for increasing life expectancy… (continue reading)

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