Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S8

BY DENISA R. SUPERVILLE

A Tough, Often Lonely Road
For Corrections Educators
ncarcerated youths are more likely to need special
education services, have gaps in their schooling, and
require extra academic support than their peers attending schools in the community.
But schools inside juvenile justice facilities struggle mightily to get teachers who have the specialized
skills necessary to deliver a meaningful education to some
of society's most at-risk students.
Finding and holding onto teachers who can teach students of different ages and proficiency levels, manage
classrooms while focusing on students' academic, socialemotional, and behavioral needs, and work in a restricted
environment are challenges that bedevil the field of educating incarcerated youths.
"It's not a slam dunk by any means to get great teachers.
Sometimes we are just lucky," said Brad Monks, the principal of Slate Canyon School in Provo, Utah, about 50 miles
from Salt Lake City. The school is housed inside a detention
facility for youths between the ages of 12 and 19, who have
already been sentenced or who are still waiting to be adjudicated. "We do sometimes get into a head-to-head battle
with one of the traditional schools," he said of competing
for teachers. "We've won a couple, and we've lost a few."
For many teachers entering the profession, educating incarcerated youth is not something they consider.
Other hurdles to recruiting include: overcoming the
negative image about what it's like to work in a secure
facility; the correctional centers' often remote locations;
and the dearth of relevant professional development or
on-the-job supports.
Pay can also be a problem in attracting teaching candidates-although in some rural areas the salary can be
slightly higher than what teachers make in regular schools,
depending on the agency that's running the facility.
"While there are some excellent models out there ... there's
still, unfortunately, a lot of youth who go into facilities and
come out saying that their education was nothing more than
glorified babysitting," said Kate Burdick, a staff attorney at
the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. "Having qualified teachers is a huge part of improving that, but also recognizing that teachers need to be certified and trained not just
on their content areas but also on the unique needs of youths
who are in a juvenile justice setting is critical."
The center recently published a plan to improve education behind bars, which calls for students to be taught
by qualified teachers who are permanently assigned to
the facilities, and for students in online courses to have
access to "live," certified instructors.

8

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Finding and
keeping
top-notch
teachers in
juvenile justice
facilities has
long bedeviled
the specialized
ƒGNFQH
educating
youths
who are
incarcerated.

For example, Melanie Bliss, a social studies teacher at
Slate Canyon School, has plugged into professional development opportunities at the Provo school district-Slate
Canyon teachers are Provo district employees-that are
relevant to her. She wants to be able to use tablets in her
classes so students at different levels can work at their own
pace or she can work with them individually.
"No one here is just passing out worksheets or doing fluff
education," she said. "We are taking this really seriously."
The Juvenile Law Center's plan echoes December 2014
guidance by the Obama administration, which says agencies
in charge of educating incarcerated youths should have qualified teaching staff, provide professional development for
teachers, and use teacher-evaluation systems with the same
rigor and standards as those used in regular schools, while
also taking into account the unique aspects of their jobs. But
in the three years since the guidance, progress has varied,
said Burdick and other advocates. Part of the reason there's
been an inconsistent response is that the agencies in charge
of educating incarcerated students vary from state to state.

SOME STATES TACKLE REFORM
Some states had already recognized the deficiency and
were changing how they support teachers in juvenile justice settings. Some corrections facilities in Oregon partnered
with community colleges to provide certified instructors for
career and technical education courses, freeing up teachers
who are certified in core courses to focus on those subjects.
Massachusetts has made improving teaching inside juvenile facilities a priority since 2003, following a 2001 report
that criticized its low teacher-retention rate, low pay and
uneven professional development, among other things. Juvenile justice teachers in the state now have a suite of professional development opportunities that closely mirrors
those in traditional public schools, in addition to support
and training that recognizes their unique setting.
After doubling down on staff supports, the teacher-retention rate now hovers around 80 percent, said Woody Clift, the
director of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services
Education Initiative.
But who makes the best kind of teacher for corrections
facilities?
Randall Farmer, the administrator of the education program at the Lancaster County Youth Services Center in Lincoln, Neb., said while teachers should have content mastery
and be certified in their subject areas, he looks for teachers
who can connect with troubled youths.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report

Education Week - March 7, 2018
Yzmar Roman, an 11th grader in Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Emotional Needs of Students, Educators Crucial to Puerto Rico’s School Recovery
School Districts Weigh Security After Shooting
Is It Time for a Focus on Civics Education?
Immigrants Thrive In Canadian Schools
News in Brief
Report Roundup
DACA Continues for Now, as Does Uncertainty for ‘Dreamers’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Schools Teach ‘Cyber Hygiene’ to Prevent Internet Attacks
States Confront Range of Hurdles To Swift Action on School Security
Teachers With Gun Training Wary of Trump’s Proposal
Eyes on Pearson as It Moves to Sell Curriculum Business
Outside Supreme Court, Union Supporters, Detractors Face Off
Case Over Union Fees Poised on Knife’s Edge
DeVos Eyeing School Choice As Option for Military Families
Q&A with nadine burke harris: In the Wake of Adversity, a Pediatrician’s Guidance
Olga Acosta Price & Wendy Ellis: Schools Shouldn’t Tackle Trauma Alone
Letters
Collected responses: After Parkland, Where Do We Go From Here?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Gregg Behr: The 2020 Census: Every Child Counts
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - SC1
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - SC2
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S1
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S2
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Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S7
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S8
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S9
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