Monday, May 4, 2015

No More Summer Riots?

Remember Greensboro's summer riots, the fights at coming of age parties, the dreaded problems of Summer? Well Summer is almost here again and as expected the City of GReensboro has done nothing to prevent a repeat. But thanks to local blogger, Jon of Jon's Font Of Useless Information I was able to track down a solution to Greensboro's Summertime blues. From Strengthening Chicago's Youth:

"Nothing Stops a Bullet like a (Summer) Job

In this week’s blog, SCY explores the results and implications of the evaluation of Chicago’s summer youth employment program, One Summer Chicago Plus. 

A study carried about by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania has found that One Summer Chicago Plus dramatically reduced youth violence. Over a 16 month period, violent crime rates fell by 43% for youth enrolled in the city’s summer youth employment program. A randomized controlled trial was completed on 1634 high school students in 13 different high-violence Chicago schools to test the effectiveness of the One Summer Chicago Plus program which provided summer jobs and assigned job mentors to participating youth. Half of the One Summer Chicago Plus group also received social-emotional learning (SEL) supports to help navigate the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that might interfere with work. The control group was not given any employment or SEL supports but were free to pursue their own summer opportunities. Read the full report published in the journal Science here.

The study launched after University of Chicago Crime Lab researcher Sara B. Heller found that effectiveness of a summer youth employment program as a violence prevention measure had not been rigorously evaluated and the research that currently existed on a broad array of youth employment programs was not consistent. Prior to this study, there had been conflicting evidence to suggest whether a program like One Summer Chicago Plus would be as effective as it has been. Much of the research indicated that only intensive, costly youth employment programs were successful at reducing youth crime and that scaled-down versions of those programs produced no lasting behavior changes for participating youth.

The One Summer Chicago Plus evaluation proved something different. Summer jobs for high school students reduced crime. Compared to the control group, both the jobs only group and jobs + SEL group were equally effective in reducing violent crime arrests by about 43 percent. The summer jobs themselves (rather than the SEL component) caused significant behavior modification in this population of young people that could be seen even a year after completing the program. In fact, most of the difference in crime rates can be seen after the youth had completed their summer jobs. This finding means that the element of incapacitation (i.e. keeping kids busy so they don’t get in trouble) alone cannot explain the success of One Summer Chicago Plus. Something specific to the youths’ experience during their summer jobs changed their future behavior. It will take further research to come to a greater understanding about which elements of summer youth employment and/or social-emotional learning methods contribute to changes in decision-making capacities of this population.

So what did One Summer Chicago Plus get right that other programs didn’t? Prevention. Most youth employment programs that preceded One Summer Chicago Plus targeted youth who had already dropped out of school, whereas this program specifically targeted students before they reached the point where they are out of school and struggling to find a job. One Summer Chicago Plus provides some job experience, skills, and employment networks to help young people thrive in the job market once exiting an education setting. Studies like this are the driving force behind the development of sensible policies and programs, begging us to continue to think about ways to shift our financial investments from remediation efforts to prevention. This is the kind of knowledge that saves lives.

Continuing to advocate for investment in evidence-based youth employment programs is a policy priority for SCY in our 2015-2016 Policy Agenda. SCY will continue to advocate for the expansion of One Summer Chicago Plus and other evidence-based youth employment programs that prevent violence and build resilience in our youth. SCY is excited to see the Mayor’s Commission for a Safer Chicago recommend that One Summer Chicago Plus participants to be connected to year-round education and employment opportunities based on their skills, interests, and educational needs."

Of course anyone with a brain could have told Greensboro leaders that very thing but they've been too busy building performing arts centers we can't afford to go to, funding downtown hotels we don't need and giving away incentives for jobs that will never come here.

Seems to me like a local public works project modeled on the old Civilian Conservation Corps or WPA would be a better use of taxpayer dollars. After all, it's pretty much a given the kids would spend the money locally. And money spent locally is money that keeps the local economy moving.

Not to mention fewer problems with our kids. You know, the ones we're supposed to be building a great city for in the first place.