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Letter from the Director:
The Impact—Good and Bad—of School Teachers and Leaders

Recently I’ve been struck particularly by the awesome power that teachers and school leaders have to impact the future of kids who are locked up.  
 
In back-to-back visits to schools in different facilities, I witnessed teachers doing a real disservice to students. In one class, students were watching the movie Happy Feet. When I asked its purpose, I was told (with a straight face by the school leader) that Happy Feet was supplementing a life skills lesson. In another school, I watched students complete mind-numbing ‘packets’ of work—photocopied and laminated sheets from years-old workbooks that are used over and over again. Each day, students are expected to complete three assignments from the packets and if they do, they earn a passing grade and credit.  What’s the explanation for the packets? I was told they “support individualization.”
 
In both cases, the teachers felt the practices (watching Happy Feet, completing laminated worksheets) were appropriate, and the school leaders had signed off on the lessons. 
 
What can we do about teachers and school leaders who sanction movie watching? Who use out-of-date packets of worksheets? How can we, a small nonprofit devoted to radically improving teaching and learning in alternative settings, change these mindsets? 
 
We try to provide teachers with the tools they need to improve their craft, so they won’t resort to worksheets and movies. And we help agencies design systems and evaluation tools that hold adults accountable for their actions as teachers and school leaders.  But these technical ‘fixes’ simply can’t fully address the challenge posed, or the damage done, by indifference. 
 
Teachers who really care about kids, who believe in their potential, and who own up to their responsibility don’t put on Happy Feet during life skills class. They don’t pass out ‘packets’ of work. And good principals don’t put up with this stuff.  Period.
 
Teachers who believe in all kids, including those who are locked up, make school relevant and engaging, they push and support kids, and they trust kids.  
 
Thankfully, we’ve come across these sorts of teachers, too. I’ve seen them on my visits and we learned about them through our teacher leadership contest, Lighting the Fire.
 
Teachers like Kent Lindsey, who works at Mill Creek Youth Center outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Kent has taught construction trades to incarcerated kids for 20 years and is retiring this summer. He’s taught kids drafting skills, helped them see why math matters, and trusted them to handle electric saws, power tools, hammers, and nails.  As one of Kent’s students wrote, “He took the time to show me how to work and how to do it right . . . and when something gets messed up it’s ok. You don’t have to cover it up or pin it on someone else but take responsibility for your mistake and then fix it.”
 
Teachers like Angelique Kwabenah, another one of the finalists in our Lighting the Fire contest, who teaches teens being charged as adults at the Washington, DC Jail.   Angelique teaches English and Language Arts. One of her colleagues told us that she “consistently exudes the epitome of excellence in teaching and believing that all students can achieve in their academics.” 
 
Principals like Richard Lee who works at the Cleveland White School in the New Castle County Detention Center in Delaware.  We visited his school last year and walked out filled with hope.  He makes an effort to get to know each and every student in his care, communicates regularly with their family members, and recognizes their success and effort through a student-of-the-week program.
 
***
 
My wish for the upcoming school year:  No more movies and no more ‘packets’ in our classrooms.  And a lot more people like Kent Lindsey, Angelique Kwabenah, and Richard Lee.
 
David
 
To learn more about Lighting the Fire and our finalist teachers, click here.

 

CEEAS Publishes iBook:
2013 Words Unlocked Anthology


In May we announced the winner of our first annual national poetry contest: Words Unlocked.  Today we are proud to share the 2013 Words Unlocked Anthology.  The Anthology, designed as an iBook available in iTunes, includes 75 poems written by young people held in detention and long-term, secure correctional settings around the country.
 
In addition, the iBook includes audio recordings of the top 13 poems.  Two artists working with Young Chicago Authors recorded the poems using donated studio time from WBEZ.  To watch a video of the winning poem, Hell’s Angel, click here
 
We hope you will check out the iBook and share it with others. It is available in iTunes, or you can download the PDF. Please consider taking a moment to rate or review the iBook when you have finished reading it. 

CEEAS Announces Winner of the 2013 Lighting the Fire Award


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” W.B. Yeats
 
We believe that a single excellent teacher can change the trajectory of a student’s life and this summer we got a chance to meet some of those teachers.  In May, we announced our national teacher of the year contest, Lighting the Fire.  The contest was designed to honor instructional leaders in youth corrections facilities across the country who are changing the future for some of this country’s most vulnerable students.
 
Each teacher or nominator submitted a virtual portfolio of up to ten pieces of evidence to illustrate the ways in which that teacher demonstrates the skills, mindsets, and actions that we think define a really great teacher in an alternative setting. To learn more about those attributes, check out the rubric that was provided to all participants.
 
Selected in late June, the 2013 Lighting the Fire Teacher of the Year is Joseph Buckles, a math teacher at Juniper Hills High School, located in the Nampa Youth Correctional Center just outside of Boise, Idaho.  Joe was one of five finalists from around the country.  The other finalists were:
 
Anthony Del Signore
Teacher, Collaborative for Educational Services, MA
Angelique Kwabenah
Reading Teacher, DC Public Schools, Washington, DC
Kent Lindsey
Teacher, Mill Creek Youth Center, UT
Scott Ryan
English Language Arts Teacher, Three Lakes High School, OR
 
If you are interested in learning more about all of our finalists, click here

CEEAS Partners with the Juvenile Law Center and the ACLU


In addition to providing direct support to education practitioners working in alternative settings, we also support proactive policy-level reform at the state and administrative level that we believe will lead to improved educational outcomes for incarcerated youth.  In this regard, we are excited to announce partnerships with the Juvenile Law Center and the ACLU.
 
The Juvenile Law Center will work with us on a pilot project to provide in-depth education-focused policy manuals for two states.   The manuals will serve as how-to guides on ways to address key education-related policies in the juvenile justice context.  We will jointly asses and then provide solutions for a range of challenges including ensuring that incarcerated students receive the credit they deserve for coursework, developing accountability frameworks for school district and contract providers who run schools for state juvenile justice facilities, and utilizing state funding education funding formulas to ensure that education programming inside of youth correctional facilities is adequately resourced.
 
We are also working with a coalition of ACLU divisions and regional offices to develop a best practices guide for ensuring compliance with special education law for youth held in secure settings.  The law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP is providing pro bono research support.  Based on our visits to facilities across the country, we believe this is an area where state juvenile justice agencies need ongoing support and significant guidance to re-engineer current practices. With this guide, we intend to provide those agencies with clear, practical advice on how to meet the educational needs of all youth in their care while maintaining a safe and secure environment. 

In This Issue:

       
Job Alert
 
Juniper Hills School in Nampa, Idaho is hiring an Instructor Specialist.
 
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