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Youth Education in the Juvenile Justice System.

When it comes to the education of youths under the care of the juvenile justice system, you had better set your camera on panoramic if you want to get the full picture. In large measure, youths' placements (into either state-operated, locally operated or contracted programs) may determine who provides educational services, the level of funding for education and even if the academic credit earned while in the juvenile justice system is transferable.

Recently, the Training Resource Center at Eastern Kentucky University surveyed juvenile correctional education programs in 20 states and found great variability between programs.

Sixty percent of the states surveyed (12 states) had separate state juvenile justice agencies (not part of child welfare or adult correctional agencies). Across the 20 states, education was delivered by a variety of agencies (see Figure 1).

In only two states (10 percent) were all youths in juvenile justice placements educated under the same administrative arrangement.

* Special legislation governing juvenile justice education existed in 65 percent of states.

* In most states, there was not a consistent curriculum across the juvenile justice programs.

* Per pupil expenditures ranged from $2,259 to $11,334.

* The school day ranged from four to six hours.

* The school year ranged from 180 to 260 days.

* The most common teacher-to-student ratio was 1-to-15.

* An average of 40 percent of the students had an active Individual Education Plan (with the identified special education population ranging from 12 percent to 70 percent).

Why the Differences?

The variability in the delivery of educational services to youths in juvenile justice placements can be explained in part by system fragmentation in many jurisdictions. It is not unusual for a state to operate only long-term residential facilities, while counties or other local government units provide juvenile detention services. In many states, the majority of youths can be found in contracted placements (both nonprofit and for-profit programs). In many jurisdictions in which this fragmentation in placement exists, there is equal or even greater diversity in how educational services are provided.

Those states in which juvenile justice education is the primary responsibility of a single state agency appear to have greater consistency in how educational services are provided. The most comprehensive educational delivery system was reported by Kentucky, where the General Assembly in 1992 created the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC), which oversees local education agency delivery of educational services in more than 125 juvenile justice, child welfare and mental health placements.

However, in most jurisdictions, the state only assumes responsibility for educating youths in long-term state-operated programs, while local school authorities must educate youths in juvenile detention. In some states, there may not be state or local support for the education of youths in contracted placements. In many jurisdictions, the placement decision not only determines custodial and treatment issues but also may dictate the level of educational services that will be provided. Given this set of circumstances, it was not surprising to learn that in 20 percent of the states surveyed, there was a federal court intervention related to the delivery of educational services in the juvenile justice system.

Resources for Juvenile Justice Educators

Both a new national center and a new organization for educators have the potential to provide resources and support for the development of adequate educational services for juvenile justice education programs.

The National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice (EDJJ) began work in 1999 as a collaborative research, training, technical assistance and dissemination program designed to develop more effective responses to the needs of youths with disabilities in the system or those at risk for involvement. EDJJ is a collaborative effort involving faculty and staff from the University of Maryland, the University of Kentucky, Arizona State University, Eastern Kentucky University, the American Institute for Research in Washington, D.C., and the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education Rights (PACER) in Minneapolis. EDJJ is funded by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice.

Center Activities

The research, training, technical assistance and dissemination activities of the center will involve school and community-based prevention activities, education programs in detention and correctional settings, and transition activities as youths leave the juvenile justice system and re-enter their communities. Through regional meetings, technical assistance, research and evaluation activities, and publication and dissemination, EDJJ will attempt to help change perceptions about youths with disabilities in communities and in the juvenile justice system. Further, through a network of practitioners, administrators, parents and policy-makers, the center will help shape more effective and appropriate responses and accommodations for youths with disabilities.

The Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquent Youth (CEARDY) is a professional organization of educators who teach in nontraditional educational settings, such as detention and correctional facilities, alternative schools, residential, day treatment and mental health settings.

The mission of CEARDY is:

* To foster collaboration among professionals who provide services to at-risk and delinquent youths. Educators do not provide services to at-risk and delinquent youths in isolation. They typically are members of a multidisciplinary team comprised of professionals from the fields of juvenile justice, education, mental health, treatment, social work, etc. CEARDY encourages collaboration by affiliating with the professional organizations representing these other disciplines.

* To act as a national voice for students, teachers and school administrators. For Bonnie Merrit, a teacher in a one-room detention education program in Girard, Kan., to Margaret Puffer, a teacher in the Orange County Alternative Education system in California, CEARDY is a unified voice and a national network, advocating for the right to quality educational programs.

* To set standards for best practices. CEARDY knows there are students, educators and programs that are doing A-plus work. The mission of CEARDY is to seek out these students, educators and programs and share their successes to raise the standard for educational programs serving at-risk and delinquent youths.

* To provide resources, information and technical assistance. CEARDY has established itself as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of information regarding educational issues of at-risk and delinquent youths and their educators. Through newsletters, a Web site, discussion and chat rooms, and a presence at national conferences, CEARDY helps keep its members linked to one another and to the latest information regarding the delivery of educational services.

* To sponsor training and professional development opportunities for its membership. Educators who work in these settings deserve quality training specific to their unique needs, and their students deserve educators who are properly trained for this environment. CEARDY will work to develop, promote and disseminate training and training materials that meet the needs of its membership.

The education and juvenile justice systems must work together in any jurisdiction if a comprehensive approach to delinquency and youth violence are to be achieved. Quality educational services are an indispensable component of any juvenile justice treatment effort.

To obtain a copy of the full report based on the 20-state survey of juvenile justice education (Juvenile Justice Education: Who Is Educating the Youth?) and to learn more about EDJJ and CEARDY, visit the EDJJ or CEARDY Web sites at www.edjj.org or www.ceardy.org.

Dr. Bruce I. Wolford is director of the Training Resource Center and a professor of correctional and juvenile justice studies in the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University. He is a member of the American Correctional Association's Board of Governors and chair of the National Juvenile Detention Association's Education Committee.
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Author:Wolford, Bruce I.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2000
Words:1220
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