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Tuesday November 23, 2010 9:52 edweekcraig
Hi everyone, and welcome to today's chat on schooling for incarcerated youth. My name is Christina Samuels, and I cover special education for Education Week. I'm filling in today for my colleague, Mary Ann Zehr.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:00 Christina Samuels
We're joined today by David Domenici, the principal of Maya Angelou Academy in Laurel, Md, and Laura Abrams, a professor of social welfare at UCLA. I will allow them to introduce themselves and tell us a little bit more about what they do. Mr. Domenici, why don't you start?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:01 Christina Samuels
I'm the principal of the maya angelou academy. we run the school at new beginnings, DC's long-term youth correctional facility. I'm a 'reformed' lawyer, one of the folks who started the maya angelou public charter schools in dc, and really happy to have the chance to work day to day w/ some of our city's most in-need kids.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:02 DavidDomenici
Thanks so much! And Ms. Abrams, can you tell us a little bit more about your area of study?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:03 Christina Samuels
Good morning. I am a Professor of Social Work at UCLA- my research has focused for several years now on treatment programs for incarcerated youth, and the transition of young offenders back to the commuinty following incarceration. Happy to join you all.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:04 Laura Abrams
I'm glad you both could be here. Even though I didn't write this story, I have a great interest in the topic because I cover special education, and many of the kids we're talking about have special education needs.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:04 Christina Samuels
Laura, I wonder if you might be able to give us an overall view of what treatment programs for young offenders look like. They obviously aren't your average middle/high school.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:05 Christina Samuels
David, as Laura is preparing her response, perhaps you can tell us about the academy -- how many kids, what age range, how long are they with you?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:06 Christina Samuels
Sure, there is a wide range of programs for incarcerated youth, from those that are very therapuetic, to those which are more boot-camp, or military style. Some institutions have no real "treatment" programs at all. Schooling, however, is mandatory in juvenile correctional faciltiies according to federal law.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:06 Laura Abrams
Laura, who is usually tasked with providing schooling in correctional facilities -- the state? The district where the facility is located?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:07 Christina Samuels
We work with approximately 70 students at a time--how ever many are here at the facility. Most are 16-17, but a few as young as 14 and some as old as 20. We work w/ kids for b/t 7 and 15 months, on average. Average kid comes to us w/ just 3-4 high school credits, and is testing at the 4th-5th grade level.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:08 DavidDomenici
In regad to Christina's question, It depends, but usually it is centralized at the County or State level, rather than any specific school district.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:08 Laura Abrams
Laura -- to that point about who is responsible for these kids, here's a question about the teachers:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:09 Christina Samuels
[Comment From JessJess: ]
Are teacher certification requirements the same for these schools?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:09 Jess
David, your point about the skill level of the kids you are working with is a great intro to this question from Suzanne:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:10 Christina Samuels
[Comment From SuzanneSuzanne: ]
What do lesson plans for incarcerated youth look like? Do you find that you are often providing some remedial lessons, as well as trying to move these students forward?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:10 Suzanne
Yes, teachers have to meet state requirements like other public schools, by federal law they are entitled to the same quality of education (as per No Child Left Behind) as other students.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:11 Laura Abrams
Suzanne: We work really hard to make our lessons engaging, relevant and rigorous. Our teachers spend a lot of time differentiating--that means rewriting articles, means building a range of notetaking supports, one-on-one help w/ reading, etc. We try to meet kids where they are---and support them to take on harder work. We do have some separate 'pull-out' reading classes that are more 'remedial'.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:12 DavidDomenici
Laura - in your experience, even though incarcerated youth are ENTITLED to the same quality of education, are they generally getting that? The Maya Angelou Academy is clearly doing good work, but is that the norm or the exception?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:13 Christina Samuels
David, how many hours a day do your students spend in school, generally. Are there some extended options, maybe to help them make up some credits?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:13 Christina Samuels
Christina, the Maya Angelou school is unfortunatley the exception. There are notorious and historical problems with schooling in juvenile facilities, and youth often leave without having made any substantial progress. .
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:14 Laura Abrams
School Hours: We are in school from 8am-330pm. All students have math, science, social studies, English, artisanship, and gym. We do have a number of kids who take an additional class w/ a tutor, often using on-line curriculum/supports to help them earn additional credits and build up skills they need.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:15 DavidDomenici
Laura, what are some of those problems that have plagued schools in juvenile facilities in general?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:16 Christina Samuels
David, we've got some tech folks who are very interested on the online piece! Let me direct a question your way:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:16 Christina Samuels
[Comment From Katie AshKatie Ash: ]
What role, if any, is technology playing in delivering education to incarcerated students?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:17 Katie Ash
It sounds to me like the tech piece is pretty important.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:17 Christina Samuels
Christina there are many, including high rates of teacher and youth turnover, poor quality education. violence in the classrooms, and others. Of course we must remember there is wide variation in how schooling is delivered and that there are good teachers everywhere trying to make a difference.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:17 Laura Abrams
Laura and David, there are two questions about teacher turnover and youth violence that I think you both could field -- Laura, maybe from a general POV, and David, you could speak to the academy's experience specifically.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:19 Christina Samuels
Technology: We have some incredible technology here--largely due to the support we get from DC's Department of Youth Rehabilitation. We contract w/ them to run the school, and they have supported our commitment to bringing in technology. We have smartboards in all classes, laptops available for students, use an on-line curriculum, APEX, to support kids w/ credit recovery. We create audio books and send them home to families; we have a blog where we publish student work...
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:19 DavidDomenici
[Comment From AlanAlan: ]
How much time can these kids spend on schooling when it seems like behavior is such an issue? The article talked about a fistfight before a class. Is that common?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:19 Alan
[Comment From TeacherTeacher: ]
The story talks about student turnover, but what about teacher turnover? Is it a problem at these schools? How do administrators deal with it?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:19 Teacher
To the issue of teacher turnover, I do not have specific statisics, but it has been noted in ther research as a problem. In terms of violence, yes, when put a group of youth together who are frustrated and likely angry about their circumstances, violence may occur. It takes talented school personnel to handle and prevent fighting and conflicts.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:21 Laura Abrams
On the flip side, educational interventions can teach skills like conflict resolution and peace making that are not traditionally taught in mainstream public education.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:22 Laura Abrams
Alan: We have real strong support from the DYRS staff, and there is a lot of work that goes into helping young men develop the behaviors they need to so that they can be successful in school (or elsewhere). For many of our kids/classes, things work smoothly and we can really teach and learn and share. At times, tho, that breaks down. And in all instances, you have to be really vigilant and never quit on creating the norms you want to see--every day, every class, all the time.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:23 DavidDomenici
To David: Do you have any special curriculum dealing with conflict resolution?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:24 Laura Abrams
Good question. I know the tiered positive behaviorial intervention and support process is used in many schools. It seems like it'd be even more important in this context.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:25 Christina Samuels
Teacher Turnover: Is a major issue in this field. So is recruiting. We've managed to recruit a really great team here--b/c our staff believes we can and will make a difference. These things tend to run on each other...and once it became apparent that we could and were running a good school, we got even better folk...and the more we can keep this a high functioning place, the lower we'll keep turnover. That all said, my gut tells me that teaching in a correctional setting for 3-5 years is the right amount of time--not 1-2 years, but not a lot more. It's hard, taxing work.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:25 DavidDomenici
Laura, while David talks about conflict resolution, here's another special education question:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:27 Christina Samuels
[Comment From Special educatorSpecial educator: ]
Do schools for jailed youth have to comply with special education laws?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:27 Special educator
Laura: We do not use a conflict resolution curriculum, per se. The DYRS team uses the tenets of the Missouri model to help kids develop resiliency and the skills they need to work effectively, even in difficult situations. On our end (school), we do a lot of work w/ kids around values--and we have a number of strategies to teach and reward values--respect, empathy, integrity....
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:27 DavidDomenici
Regarding Special Education, yes schools for incarcerated youth are required to comply with Special Education laws and IEPs. However, there have been a number of lawsuits in recent years charging several states with failure to compy with special education laws.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:28 Laura Abrams
Thanks David. Again, another example of how school can be used as a therapeutic tool for juveniles who are incarcerated.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:29 Laura Abrams
David, I wanted to pick up on your point about 3-5 years being the "right" amount of time for teachers in your academy. What kind of skills are you looking for in your educators?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:29 Christina Samuels
Laura, here is a question for you about teacher training:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:31 Christina Samuels
[Comment From BriannaBrianna: ]
Dr. Abrams, I am wondering if you know how many states, if any, require additional or different training for teachers who work with youth in alternative settings? I taught at a community day school in California and now do research in Florida, but I am not aware of any additional training requirements.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:31 Brianna
Issue of "Progress" in schools in youth correctional setting: Laura mentioned that in lots of schools in these settings there's little to no progress. We're really proud of some of the outcome and progress our guys are making. On averge, we're seeing 1.4 and 1.3 years of improvement in math and English, over a 9 month period here--really staggering progress given how poorly many of our kids have fared before. Similarly, kids earn 6-7 credits every 9 months here--even tho most only earned 1-2 credits per year before.
Issue we now confront is how can we keep this progress/trend going once kids leave.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:32 DavidDomenici
HI Brianna, To my knowledge there are no additional training requirements to work with youth in juvenile detention facilities. However, I suspect that this may vary slightly by state or county.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:32 Laura Abrams
David, here's a good question for you:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:33 Christina Samuels
[Comment From KathrinKathrin: ]
Do the teachers know what crimes their students committed?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:33 Kathrin
What are we looking for? We want teachers who really, truly believe that our target kids can and will learn if you support them and don't quit on them. You just have to have that if you are going to be successful here. From there, we look for strong content skills, comfort with change/need to accomodate, ability to differentiate and desire to get even better at it, and commitment to and training working with kids at all levels.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:34 DavidDomenici
Kathrin: Our teachers generally do not know the crimes that our kids are committed for. I have access to that information, but candidly, rarely seek it out. At times we share this information with our teachers, and often, once kids trust us, they share it themselves.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:36 DavidDomenici
In regard to Chris's questions about cultural competence, there are models of educaiton that speak to cultural and gender-specific needs, and also the life circumstances of these young people. However, the main issue in educating these youths is getting their skills up to grade level, and providing them with future educational opportunities.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:36 Laura Abrams
David, I think this question picks up a little bit on what you were saying about the need to keep progress going once these kids leave the academy:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:37 Christina Samuels
[Comment From SuzanneSuzanne: ]
What are the best case outcomes for students who are incarcerated? Do you have students going to community college or 4 year college? Are they going to technical schools or into the workforce?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:37 Suzanne
To note, research shows that < 20% of incarcerated youth complete high school. A very positive outcome is to complete high school or GED and move onto other educational venues.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:38 Laura Abrams
Suzanne: We have kids going to college, two year colleges, and to technical/trade programs. For a lot of our kids, though, the initial transition is back to high school, because they leave us at age 17, having accumulated credits, picked up some really critical skills, and with the confidence that they can succeed in school.
Each of the last two years we've had between 5-10 guys leave us and enter college w/in a few months of departure. That's really shocked a lot of people.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:40 DavidDomenici
Here's a question I think would be good for either, or both of you. Again, speaking to that concern about kids with special needs in these facilities.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:40 Christina Samuels
[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
I'm from the UK, dyslexic and ADHD, and studying to become a teacher. We see a large proportion of students with dyslexia end up in our prisons. Are you observing a similar trend? If so what adaptions are you making / recommending to policy makers. It appears an expensive way to educate dyslexic students after they offend.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:40 Guest
David: kids leaving the academy and going to college/trade schools is really impressive. I'm sure a lot of those kids felt "given up on," and had given up on themselves.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:41 Christina Samuels
To the question about dylesxia, I don't know about this issue specifically, but it is estimated that special education students comprise a significant proportion of incarcerated youth, and this makes schooling and continuity even more important when they are confined.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:42 Laura Abrams
Guest: We have not seen that many dyslexic kids here. We do have nearly 50% of our kids at any time w/ special needs, and many of them have very low literacy skills, but based on our assessments, only a handful of kids since we've been here have been dyslexic.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:42 DavidDomenici
David: Loretta has a handful of nitty-gritty questions about the academy! I will post them all, but I think some of them we may have touched on earlier in the conversation:
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:43 Christina Samuels
[Comment From LorettaLoretta: ]
Please describe your funding model; what is the ratio of teachers:students; how many assistant teachers do you have; how many non-teaching positions; what is the per pupil funding allocation?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:43 Loretta
[Comment From LorettaLoretta: ]
How are your thematic, modular units developed; who did the work; do they include lesson plans; are they delivered through direct instruction or completed on an independent study basis?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:44 Loretta
[Comment From LorettaLoretta: ]
Which assessment tools do you use and how much growth are longer term students demonstrating?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:44 Loretta
Christina: Yes, most of the kids in youth correctional facilities have not been successful in school, and don't come here thinking they can be--much less that they'll go on to college. Our kids to have major skill deficits and significant needs in order to be successful in postsecondary school--but in the first instance, our job is to get them to see a future, and to start to work hard toward that future.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:44 DavidDomenici
Loretta, as David briefly answers, I also want to refer you to the article my colleague Mary Ann Zehr wrote, which answers some of these questions for you.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:44 Christina Samuels
Laura, I have a question for you: you mentioned earlier that facilities like Maya Angelou Academy are sadly the exception in this field. Is there any political movement to improve schooling for incarcerated youth, either locally or nationally? I don't hear much about this.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:45 Christina Samuels
Christina, There is a group of researchers at Florida State University who have established a National Clearninghouse for Juvenile Justice Education.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:47 Laura Abrams
Loretta: As Christina noted, probably would need to chat offline to fully answer some of your questions, and I'm happy to do that...but: Funding: We have a contract w/ the District agency that runs the youth correctional facility. Kids travel in small teams of approx 10, and all classes have either two teachers or a teacher and a teaching assistant. Modular units--we developed them and have small team that improves them each summer Assessments: Woodcock Johnson at entry/exit; school-developed assessments at end of each unit. Annualized growth at 1.3-1.4 yrs/9 months.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:47 DavidDomenici
I am trying to locate the website for that...there are also a handful of institutes and advocacy institues who are working to improve the quality of education through lawsuits and legislation.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:48 Laura Abrams
It sounds like that clearinghous would be a good resource for people who want to investigate this issue in more depth.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:48 Christina Samuels
Yes Christina, here is the website that I was referring to:
David, here's a question about group instruction vs. differentiation.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:50 Christina Samuels
[Comment From BriannaBrianna: ]
A question related to Loretta's: How do you negotiate the tension between individualizing student work so that they are working on the mandated course content (which usually takes the form of having them complete packets of worksheets, in my experience) and the need to teach them all together in order to promote social cohesion?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:50 Brianna
The website has a lot of useful information, data, and also policy briefs about how various states are responsding to the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act in juvenile facilities.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:50 Laura Abrams
Brianna: Great question. This is issue we struggle with a lot. We align our short-term, thematic units to core standards and that enables us to focus on relevance while also ensuring we'll be able to get kids credits. We tend to break classes up into group instruction time, individual practice time. We balance this tension to enhance our kids exposure to a range of content and ideas while also tackling essential skills. And so far, we've not gone down the route of 'crappy' worksheet packets--and I hope we never do. Happy to talk further on this off line.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:53 DavidDomenici
We've talked a lot about what life is like for these kids while they are in the facility. Lisa has a question about transitioning out of incarceration. David, I think you alluded to this earlier when you talked about keeping these kids progressing.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:53 Christina Samuels
[Comment From LisaLisa: ]
What supports (educational and otherwise) are in place for these kids once they are released from the facility? Who's responsible for following up with them during their transition back to regular school?
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:53 Lisa
Regarding Lisa's question, it is important to note that some studies have found up to 95% of youth fail to make a transtion back to school. This is critical to opening up future opportunities and reducing risk of recidivism.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:55 Laura Abrams
Lisa: We have school staff who work with DYRS case managers to help kids develop transtition plans. Our staff works very closely with the school district, local charter schools, and other ged/job training programs to facilitate transition. Our staff works w/ kids after they leave for 90-120 days, checking up on them, supporting them. We need some better options and a more robust education/job training 'market' for our kids when they leave--and we're working on that.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:55 DavidDomenici
David, it sounds like you are working hard to make this critical transitoin piece fall into place.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:56 Laura Abrams
This has been a great discussion! As we close out, I just wanted to ask our guests if they have a few last thoughts.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:57 Christina Samuels
Follow-up: Our data to date shows that just over 50% of our guys are actively in school or at work 120 days post release. That is a higher than most places, but, sadly no where near where we all want it to be.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:57 DavidDomenici
Thanks for having me. I hope we can all work together to create greater consensus that we need to radically improve the education we deliver to kids when they are locked up--and that we work to improve options for them when they leave.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:58 DavidDomenici
I really appreciate that there is some attention to this issue, it is extremely important. Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on this show.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 2:59 Laura Abrams
And thanks to Christina for moderating today's chat. Special education advocates and teachers can check out Christina's daily blogging at the 'On Special Education' blog here >> www.edweek.org/go/onspeced
A printable transcript of this chat will be available within 24 hours on this same page. For more upcoming Education Week chats, visit www.edweek.org/go/chats.
Cheers all. Goodbye.
Tuesday November 23, 2010 3:00 edweekcraig
Schooling for Incarcerated Youths: The Link Between Education and Rehabilitation
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2 p.m. Eastern time
Chat With David Domenici & Laura Abrams
—Christopher Powers/Education Week
How can education within youth corrections facilities help youth offenders get on the right track?
Why should Americans care about this commonly neglected area of public education?
Drop in to learn why David Domenici, the principal of a school at a youth prison, and Laura Abrams, a national expert on juvenile justice, are committed to seeing that school conditions for incarcerated youths are improved.
Guests: David Domenici, principal, Maya Angelou Academy at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center, in Laurel, Md. Laura Abrams, associate professor of social welfare at the School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. Christina Samuels, staff writer for Education Week, will moderate this chat.
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