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Stanford Report, May 10, 2000

School of Education's McLaughlin participates in White House Conference on Teenagers

Milbrey W. McLaughlin, the David Jacks Professor of Education at the School of Education, was among the speakers at the White House Conference on Teenagers on May 2. The conference, titled "Raising Responsible and Resourceful Youth" and hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton, assembled a diverse group of parents, teenagers, educators, youth workers, foundation leaders, researchers and policymakers.

McLaughlin, who came to Stanford in 1983, is professor of education and public policy and is co-principal investigator of a multi-year project that examines community-based resources for at-risk youth in diverse community settings. This work has produced "Community Counts: How Youth Organizations Matter for Youth Development," published by the Public Education Network.

"Community Counts" is based on a dozen years of conversations with youth in challenging urban and rural settings from Massachusetts to Hawaii. McLaughlin and colleagues learned what motivates youth to participate in community-based organizations that serve them. Her study shows what effective youth-based organizations look like and what youth gain by participating in them. In addition, she explores what communities can do to cultivate and sustain more effective programs for youth.

At the conference, McLaughlin highlighted her study's findings, saying that communities can "count" by engaging members in the process of developing youth organizations, their strategies and their services, and by working to join the efforts of all youth-serving institutions. Local schools are equipped to bridge the gaps between schools and community organizations, she said, and youth groups that focus on "content," as opposed to simply providing services, provide better learning opportunities than those created just to provide a safe place.

In addition, she said, communities can support smaller, innovative programs offering youth a menu of learning opportunities so that they are more likely to engage as active learners.

McLaughlin is the co-director of the Center for Research on the Context of Teaching, an education research center supported by both federal and foundation funding. Its program of research analyzes how teaching and learning are shaped by their organizational, institutional and social-cultural contexts. McLaughlin also studies and evaluates the connection between teacher learning communities and educational reforms. SR