Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings

University of Maryland College of Education

Spring 2012

News from the Field

We’ve had a busy month, visiting Idaho, Rhode Island, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah. We’ve seen some really great practices, and we have met agency and school officials committed to giving students real opportunities to develop the academic, behavioral, and workplace skills they will need to be successful when they return home. We’ve also learned about some significant technology-related solutions that enable states to address issues critical to delivering top-notch programming in long-term secure settings. These solutions improve communication and cooperation between education and custodial staff, and they integrate technology into classroom instruction while ensuring Internet security.  
In addition to highlighting news from the field, this issue discusses recent research on the transition from prison back to school (see “This Month’s Policy Issue” on the right side of the page).

Creating a Positive School Culture in Southwest Oklahoma
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center was the plaques on the wall. Beautiful wooden plaques with names engraved on shiny golden plates—for students who had earned their high school diploma or GED while at the Center—adorned the entry hallway. A few minutes later I was sitting with the principal and talking with him about the school’s intake process. I learned that he meets with each student as part of the school’s comprehensive orientation process. A couple of hours later, when I was talking with students, I learned about the ice cream socials that the school’s reading specialist hosts for students who improve their reading levels or complete an entire book during a quarter. These three items were all part of a comprehensive, student-centered, and achievement-focused culture that permeates the school, and they were highlights of the most impressive site visit I’ve had this year. [Click here to read full story.]

Real-World Learning—Fire Science Class in Arizona 
Students at Adobe Mountain, located in Arizona’s long-term secure youth facility outside Phoenix, can sign up for Fire Science class, one of a number of high-quality technical/vocational classes offered at the site. The class is taught by a former Arizona firefighter whose enthusiasm for the class and commitment to helping his students succeed is palpable.  [Click here to read full story.]

Idaho—Using Technology to Support an Integrated Behavior Management System
One of the longstanding challenges in secure residential settings is creating consistent standards for student behavior, with buy-in from both school and custodial staff.

Idaho's Department of Juvenile Corrections (IDJC) has developed a robust, multifaceted approach to address this challenge. The strategy includes weekly treatment meetings that are attended by programming and education staff; well-articulated, agency-wide approaches to creating a positive culture around agreed-to values and standards; and a commitment to avoiding the "we" versus "them" mentality that often exists in secure settings—both between students and adults and between adults from different disciplines.

Staff in correctional settings also need ways to communicate about and respond to student behaviors in real time. IDJC has a versatile, easy-to-use technology tool that enables teachers and residential staff to input brief comments—positive and negative—into a real-time database that is accessible by staff. On our visit to Idaho, we reviewed the tool (called IJOS) and talked with staff about how it is used.  [Click here to learn more about IJOS and how staff in Idaho use it.]

From Oklahoma's Office of Juvenile Affairs: Open, Safe, Online Learning in Secure Settings
In most of the schools we visit, students and teachers have no (or very limited) access to the Internet, even for instructional purposes. While excuses vary, the culprits are usually “security concerns” and lack of confidence on the part of school and/or institutional leadership regarding their ability to keep students off of inappropriate websites.

Fortunately, this is not the case at the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center, where students (and teachers) use technology throughout the school day, in a range of classes.  The school within the Center is run by, and is part of, the local Oklahoma school district, Tipton. Tipton's superintendent has made a personal commitment to ensuring that youth at the Center have access to high-quality technology and that teachers and administrators have the tools they need to ensure that students are using the technology in ways that are secure and safe. [Click here to read more about how the Center maintains Internet security.] 



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Benjamin Building
College Park, MD 20740


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