High Quality Ed in JJ

Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings

by U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of Justice

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Executive Summary

Providing high-quality education in juvenile justice secure care settings presents unique challenges for the administrators, teachers, and staff who are responsible for the education, rehabilitation, and welfare of youths committed to their care. The United States departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) recognize that while these challenges cannot be overcome without vision, dedication, and leadership, there is also a critical need in the field for supportive resources grounded in the available research, practitioner experiences, and promising practices from around the country.

The more than 2,500 juvenile justice residential facilities across the country need support from federal, state, and local educational agencies; the broader juvenile justice system (particularly the juvenile justice agencies that oversee facilities); and their communities to improve services for committed youths. The services provided to them in secure care facilities should be developmentally appropriate and focus on the youths’ educational, social-emotional, behavioral, and career planning needs so that their time within a secure care facility is a positive experience during which they attain new skills and move on to a more productive path.

Building on prior guidance from ED and DOJ,1 this report focuses on five guiding principles recommended by the federal government for providing high-quality education in juvenile justice secure care settings:

  1. A safe, healthy facility-wide climate that prioritizes education, provides the conditions for learning, and encourages the necessary behavioral and social support services that address the individual needs of all youths, including those with disabilities and English learners.
  2. Necessary funding to support educational opportunities for all youths within long-term secure care facilities, including those with disabilities and English learners, comparable to opportunities for peers who are not system-involved.
  3. Recruitment, employment, and retention of qualified education staff with skills relevant in juvenile justice settings who can positively impact long-term student outcomes through demonstrated abilities to create and sustain effective teaching and learning environments.
  4. Rigorous and relevant curricula aligned with state academic and career and technical education standards that utilize instructional methods, tools, materials, and practices that promote college- and career-readiness.
  5. Formal processes and procedures – through statutes, memoranda of understanding, and practices – that ensure successful navigation across child-serving systems and smooth reentry into communities.

Throughout this report, each guiding principle is accompanied by supportive core activities for consideration by agencies and facilities seeking to improve existing education-related practices or implement new ones. These principles and core activities are not an exhaustive list of responsibilities for either agencies operating secure care facilities or those providing educational services on facility grounds. Instead, both the guiding principles and the attendant core activities are ED’s and DOJ’s suggestions for creating environments conducive to the teaching and learning process, enhancing academic and social- emotional supports, promoting positive educational outcomes for all system-involved students, and lessening the likelihood of youths reentering the justice system.

The five guiding principles explained in this document are suggested as a framework for implementing promising practices to provide high-quality education in juvenile justice secure care settings. Consistent with these principles, the document also references a number of requirements specified under various federal laws that, as applicable, must also be considered by the agencies and professionals responsible for the welfare of the youths committed to their care. We note, however, that these references do not reflect an exhaustive discussion of federal requirements that may apply under a particular program. For complete information regarding applicable federal requirements, please consult the relevant federal statute and implementing regulations. More information on federal education requirements can be found at the U.S. Department of Education website at http://www.ed.gov.