By Dale McFeatters (for The Korea Times)
Common sense says that juvenile criminal suspects should not be housed with adults.
There are the obvious dangers of beatings, sexual assault and informal but enforced slavery at the hands and fists of older inmates. But there is also the danger of juveniles 17 and younger ― psychologically susceptible despite their perhaps adult physical size ― coming to believe in might-makes-right as a social code.
In many jurisdictions, jails have no educational facilities for youths who otherwise would be in high school, or at least in an alternative school specializing in dealing with troublemakers.
Mixing youths with adults, especially without schooling and rehabilitation, can produce ill-educated, hardened criminals just waiting to happen. It leads to a documented cycle of recidivism, usually beginning soon after the youth's release. It's best to head off that cycle when a youth first enters the system.
Federal law aims to keep juveniles separated from adults, but an exception ― a loophole, if you will ― allows for juvenile offenders charged with serious offenses like murder, rape and assault to be sent to adult jails. The Bureau of Justice Statistics says roughly 5,600 were so incarcerated at any one time in 2010. Make no mistake: Many of these are dangerous thugs in the making.
All but three states ― North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming ― permit these juveniles to be locked up in adult jails. Twenty-nine states exploit the exception for serious crimes, and 18 states, to their credit, have rules exceeding the federal standards.
Another 1,900 youths, charged in the juvenile justice system typically for less serious drug and property crimes, were in adult jails often simply because it was cheaper for cash-strapped jurisdictions to keep them there. This number has doubled since 2005.
In a reporting package about juveniles held in adult jails, Scripps Howard News Service's Isaac Wolf shows that their confinement ― in terms of conditions and duration ― vary widely by state.
Much of the nation has a system of reform schools and juvenile detention centers. But they are expensive. In Florida, it costs $280 a day to house a youth compared to $80 a day for an adult.
Just as with state mental asylums, reformers argued that the mentally ill and juvenile offenders could be better handled back in their own communities, but in both cases the needed support services were never provided. The problem was dumped in the laps of the police and the courts.
Lumping juveniles in with adults only guarantees problems down the road. There is also the troubling constitutional-rights issue of holding juveniles, who have been charged but not tried, in adult facilities ― arguably cruel, unusual and unnecessary punishment absent a trial.
One measure of a society is its criminal justice system. Ours is falling short when it comes to juveniles routed into adult jails.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer of Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).
Feature Article from the Vanguard, Fall 2011 - A Newsletter published by the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color
While most people associate school buses with children, education, and the color yellow, the vehicles conjure up an entirely different image for Hilderbrand Pelzer III. As the principal of the Pennypack House School—the Philadelphia public school that operates within the Philadelphia Prison System—the buses Pelzer saw on a daily basis were white, used to transfer inmates from correctional facilities to courthouses, and the embodiment of the path from public school to dropout to crime to prison that so many young men of color find themselves on.
With a focus on juvenile defendants who have been charged as adults, Pelzer examines education behind bars in his recently published book, Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison.
“Correctional education is a subject most people don’t think about, but for defendants who are still of school age there are legal requirements and ramifications for education,” explains Pelzer. “The model we used in Philadelphia was to integrate school into the prison system.”
Over ninety percent of state prisons provide some kind of educational program for their students according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. However, a national survey by the Center for Effective Collaboration and Peace
found that only 29 percent of juveniles in U.S. adult correctional facilities were enrolled in education programs.
In his four years as head of Pennypack House, Pelzer enrolled over 2,000 youths in the school’s program. Many of these youths came to Pennypack from a public school system that had failed to properly engage them, and left them lagging many years behind in their academic development. “Despite the conditions of prison, I felt that the school had to be the one place where students could feel their lives improving in an academic culture that was nurturing and organized around a strong commitment to their growth and learning,” writes Pelzer in his book.
At COSEBOC’s Fifth Annual Gathering, a number of members saw firsthand what education was like behind bars when they took part in a community service event at Pennypack House. Accompanied by Pelzer and COSEBOC Executive Director Ron Walker, the group of volunteers engaged in discussion and activities with 50 young men between the ages 15 and 17 who were serving time.
“Our visit to Pennypack was truly a powerfully memorable experience for every man who made the trip. The work that Hilderbrand had put in to create an environment that values education was very apparent. It further illuminated my belief that young men of color when given positive models and mentors can be affirmatively developed, reclaimed, and transformed no matter their circumstances,” says Ron Walker.
In order to create the conditions that so impressed the visiting COSEBOC delegation Pelzer introduced a number of reforms into Pennypack that can assist others who run educational programs for adjudicated youth. Chief among these efforts was the creation of the Juvenile Focused Correctional Education School Model (JFCESM). The model addresses a variety of issues related to curriculum, instruction, and navigating space and resources.
“Key to the strategy is to use the local district curriculum—it is both accessible and cost-effective. We also used a cohort model with two to four teachers teaching 15 to 20 students. Using this model helps to build a relationship between students and teachers,” says Pelzer. The model is non-graded and each student receives grade- appropriate instruction in core courses (literacy, math, science, and social studies).
The implementation of JFCESM has had a positive effect on everyone associated with Pennypack, including students, staff, and administrators. Despite this, some question whether education belongs behind bars, a question Pelzer pointedly addresses in the book.
“So often we hear rhetoric about education from public officials: ‘All children deserve a quality education’; ‘all students can learn’; or (famously) ‘No Child Left Behind.’ If these statements have any truth, no student should receive an inferior education simply because of where he or she attends school.”
Learn more: http://www.hp3-unlockingpotential.com
By Tonisha Pinckney, Philadelphia Life Coach Examiner Posted: 09/14/2011 6:06 PM
A life-long resident of Philadelphia and current resident in the Mt. Airy section of the city, Mr. Hilderbrand Pelzer III has a unique passion for the youth of Philadelphia. Mr Pelzer is an award-winning educator. He served the youth as a teacher, principal, and assistant regional superintendent. Impressively, Mr. Pelzer received national recognition for his leadership at the Pennypack House School (a Philadelphia public school which operates within the Philadelphia juvenile prison system ).
When asked, “What sparked your passion for juvenile justice reform including quality education?” Mr. Pelzer said, “I first became involved in correctional education in 1989, as a young man right out of college. I worked as a teacher and coach at the Bensalem YDC, a juvenile correctional facility for many of PA’s notorious juvenile offenders. As a teacher, I had a front row seat to the educational and academic challenges and limitations that just about all of the students demonstrated. In fact, it was my goal to move my career into sports management; but, after observing so much educational despair I decided to pursue a career in educational leadership. I realized that there were a lot of myths about the possibilities and capabilities of high functioning schools in prisons and the willingness of inmates to pursue education or complete a high school education. Also, with the fact that correctional facilities are designed for security and incarceration purposes, integrating and organizing schools inside of them is very difficult. Yet, school-age youth are in jails all around the world. They are entitled to an education. But, there is no model to provide that education.”
While addressing concerns about the juvenile justice system in the United States, but specifically in Philadelphia, one must address the issue of flash mobs. Flash mobs have become dangerous and even deadly. Many believe the teens should be arrested and prosecuted harshly. Mr. Pelzer says, “I think the flash-mob problem demonstrates the destructive path that some youths seek. Youths involved in the flash-mobs, as well as those that seek to engage in criminal activity, should be held for justice.” There are those who would not agree. Some feel flash mobs are the result of the lack of funding for activities and training which interest youths. In other words, they have too much free time, too much energy, too much on their minds, and too few adults caring or listening. Some Philadelphians feel the prosecution of teens involved in flash mobs is selective and disproportionate. They wonder if African-American youths are more prone to being arrested and prosecuted than those of other races. Whichever belief you hold, flash mobs are a problem which must be dealt with and the juvenile justice system must be prepared to address the problem, be the solution, and reform the youths.
Mr. Pelzer has a book entitled Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison . His “overall goal for writing [his] book [was] to show school superintendents, corrections professionals, teachers, and educators of all levels how to make superior educational services for incarcerated school-age youth come alive.” His book reveals a model which can be replicated in public schools everywhere. Mr. Pelzer says, “The model is built around the important relationships between students and teachers and curriculum and instruction.” His book was inspired by his work inside the Philadelphia Prison System, the 5th largest urban county jail system in the US.
Mr. Hilderbrand Pelzer, III is an example of a man, a strong African-American man, who sees a problem with the system and instead of complaining, he confronted the system with a model created to address the problem. Mr. Pelzer is an agent of change. He makes himself, his knowledge, his wisdom, his education, and his experiences available to incarcerated and at-risk youths (directly or indirectly) so they do not forget that the American Dream is obtainable. Mr. Pelzer reminds the educators and politicians that no one is exempt from living the American Dream regardless of culture, heritage, or criminal background. As he says, “I believe the American Dream is attainable! With the right guidance and support from our community partners we can ALL move closer to reaching the dream.”
Contact Info for Mr. Hilderbrand Pelzer III | Unlocking Potential
Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison available online at major retailers
Looming Education Rewrite is Likely the Best Chance for Juvenile Reform
April 21, 2011 by John Kelly
After a long, frustrating wait for action on any juvenile justice-related legislation, the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – now known as No Child Left Behind – offers advocates a chance to improve the plight of youth who are incarcerated.
The education act sets standards for schooling in juvenile facilities, which can be a key to improving a youth’s chances for staying out of such institutions in the future.
“This is a huge piece of the day running 24-7 facilities,” said Ed Dolan, deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. Having a better school day can “stabilize things for so many other units.”
President Barack Obama’s blueprint for ESEA reauthorization mentions incarcerated juveniles in just one paragraph on delinquent and neglected youth, and only to say the administration will ask the states to reserve certain funding for them.
“Our proposal will continue and strengthen formula grants to states to improve educational services for students in state-operated institutions and community day programs for neglected or delinquent children and youths,” the blueprints states. “To better direct funds to support students in locally-operated institutions, our proposal will ask districts to reserve funds received under [Title I] to support programs conducted by locally-operated institutions”
Although schooling for juveniles in detention has been a part of ESEA since the mid-1990s, it only received funding after No Child Left Behind passed in 2002 and has been far from a priority.
“The original No Child Left Behind didn’t align with juvenile justice,” said Christine Kenney, director of educational services for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. “There’s such a transient nature in this population, and [NCLB] doesn’t account for that at all.”
Still, its appropriation for incarcerated youth has risen from $42 million in 2002 to $50 million lately. The money goes to states, which are required to disperse some of the money to facilities holding juveniles and some of it to school districts. In turn, agencies and school districts are required to meet the educational needs of delinquent youth, assist in their transition back to school districts and evaluate academic progress by juveniles.
“I believe, based on national interaction, that absolutely NCLB has raised the bar” in terms of the quality of education in juvenile facilities and the focus placed on it, said Thomas Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. “I do feel like there is a growing recognition of the value of education with this population. And that they can be educated, they can turn it around.”
Education provided in juvenile facilities has generally been viewed as being abysmal. But figures from the U.S. Department of Education suggest that a significant number of juveniles do make academic strides. The department gathered pre- and post-test data on nearly 20,000 juveniles who had been incarcerated for 90 days or more and took reading or math classes in juvenile facilities. For both subjects, 70 percent of the students gained at least one grade level while incarcerated.
Such academic gains are critical, as is connecting juveniles back to their school districts, according to research by Blomberg and his colleagues. In two Florida State studies – both based on 4,147 juveniles from 115 different juvenile facilities – “We found that those youths that experienced academic achievement disproportionately returned to school,” he said. And if “they returned to school, the chances of re-arrest dropped precipitously.”
Florida’s educational services stepped up when the state entered into a consent decree in 1987, Blomberg said, the result of a class-action lawsuit, known as the Bobby M case. Bobby M forced a state overhaul of juvenile justice services, including funding to create a Juvenile Justice Educational Enhancement Program (JJEEP).
State funds were set aside to attract qualified teachers to jobs at juvenile facilities.
Before the lawsuit, he said, “teachers ended up in juvenile justice [because they] couldn’t make it in public schools.”
In some instances it was worse than that, he said. “We found some private providers who were using bus drivers to teach math.”
Because funding for JJEEP is slated for elimination in next year’s budget, Blomberg said, “I fully expect Florida to slip.”
Massachusetts is considered by some to be the standard bearer in providing meaningful educational opportunities for incarcerated youths. It wasn’t always so.
Ten years ago, educational services at the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services were “not in great shape,” said Kenney, the DYS education director. There was no infrastructure to track progress and connect youth with school districts.
“The education was just of a really poor quality,” she said. “We were aware of other states being sued and definitely said, ‘we don’t want to be that.’ ”
Thirty percent of DYS teaching slots were vacant on any given day, and annual turnover of teachers was 70 percent. Teachers at the facilities, who weren’t licensed, were being paid $15,000 less than licensed teachers.
“Nobody was licensed. We were not doing credit recovery, we were not putting out transcripts,” Kenney said. “In some ways, it was an opportunity that there was so little infrastructure. We got to do design elements we might not have if it was already more developed.”
Turning things around depended on improving the curriculum at DYS facilities so that school districts would allow juveniles back in upon release from incarceration and credit them for whatever they accomplished while they were with DYS.
“Turning it around meant figuring out how to get some buy-in from the state education department,” said Dolan. The Massachusetts Department of Education ultimately helped DYS to develop a curriculum
DYS also needed to improve the teaching quality. In 2003, it contracted with a state nonprofit called the Collaborative for Educational Services for statewide professional development. The collaborative conducts five to seven days of training per year for more than 200 DYS teachers.
Now there are no vacancies and turnover has been cut to 4 percent. In addition, 98.5 percent of DYS teachers are now certified.
“It makes a resounding difference in our teachers,” said Kenney. “We treat them more professionally, they’re more engaged, and then the students are more engaged.”
Comparative figures on academic achievement are hard to come by because nobody was collecting outcome information before 2001. Since that year, 877 committed youth have earned a GED while behind bars and 686 have obtained a high school diploma.
Kenney points to the statewide test for 10th graders as the best indicator of progress during the reforms at DYS. Between 2006 and 2008, an average of 77 percent of DYS youths eligible to take the test passed it. In 2010, 92 percent passed it. On the math exam, 70 percent passed, up from a 52 percent average from 2006-2008.
Developing a curriculum that had the blessing of the state education department helped DYS move wards back into the public school system upon release. But because most town in Massachusetts have autonomous schools, DYS also had to reach agreements with each individual school district on how juveniles would receive credit for the work done at DYS.
In some of the larger school districts, such as Boston, DYS assigns one of its own employees to high schools to help juveniles returning to campus.
“It’s a huge difference,” Dolan said. “Kids don’t get lost.”
The money to pay for school liaisons, he said, comes from the approximately $1 million that Massachusetts gets from Title I-D.
Juvenile education experts point to four areas that might be addressed by the next reform of ESEA.
Falling behind in high school credits is often a precursor to dropping out entirely, yet thousands of youths who leave facilities do so having earned no high school credits while incarcerated, according to U.S. Department of Education data.
Of 91,896 juveniles who were in a facility that received money from the department during 2007 and 2008:
While it would be difficult for the federal government to mandate such credit acceptance, it could make funding conditional on accepting such credit.
“That absolutely needs to happen,” Blomberg said, pointing out that Florida already requires it.
School districts do have a legitimate argument over accepting the credits. They have no control over what gets taught within juvenile justice facilities.
“I would have felt embarrassed asking schools to take credits [for DYS work] 10 years ago,” concedes Kenney.
Credit acceptance could be a particularly difficult challenge for a state where counties rely on private providers to incarcerate juveniles before and after adjudication. In Pennsylvania, for example, public schools in Philadelphia and Allegheny County historically did not accept credits for work done in juvenile facilities. The problem was ultimately solved with a $1 million project, financed by foundations and federal funding, to develop a curriculum plan for the private providers that the schools deemed worthy of credit.
Education for youths in adult prisons
What schooling is offered juveniles held in adult prisons varies from state to state. The very nature of adult lock-up makes the education of juveniles in them hard to ensure.
“You have youth in general population, protective custody, administrative segregation and the mental health ward,” said Hildebrand Pelzer, author of the soon-to-be-released Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison. The difficulty is “how to make certain that they’re all receiving education.”
Of the 31,125 in adult facilities with education department funding:
The original No Child Left Behind Act “never addressed the needs of school-to-work and alternate pathways” said Massachusett’s Kenney. Many of the DYS youth would benefit more from job-specific education than English and math, she said, but the agency currently is not allowed to use federal education funds to that end.
“Statistically, the 17-year-old freshman may go back and finish school, but he needs to have success in other areas first,” Kenney said. “So we want to get them on a vocational path; it doesn’t mean we won’t offer them night school.”
Re-establish the conference
There is a lack of awareness about how to effectively educate youths in a correctional setting, Pelzer said.
“The implementation dollars are there, but what do with them?” he said of Title I-D. “Some institutions are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars but have no real plan to use it in a way that improves education.”
Between 2006 and 2008, the Department of Education funded Florida State to host the Juvenile Justice Education and No Child Left Behind Conference.
Even if restoring the conference was the only thing gained in a NCLB rewrite, it would be a win, Kenney said “We stole from Arizona and from Florida” in reforming our system, states she learned about at the conferences. “They should really make that an annual thing.”
By Benjamin Todd Jealous and Rod Paige, Special to CNNApril 7, 2011 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Editor's note: Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP. Rod Paige was the U.S. secretary of education from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.
(CNN) -- There is a bipartisan tide of lawmakers who are trying to fix our nation's out-of-control corrections system, and make funding for education the priority.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to transfer thousands of nonviolent offenders from state prisons to county jails, an admirable effort to reduce prison overcrowding and make treatment programs more effective. In Virginia, Gov. Robert McDonnell is working to close eight prison facilities and use that money to support higher education.
And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked in his 2010 State of the State address: "What does it say about any state that focuses more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns?"
A new report by the NAACP, "Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate" details the social and economic impact of runaway prison spending over the past 30 years. As prison populations have grown, prison spending has squeezed out spending on education.
The United States accounts for 5% of the world's population but locks up nearly 25% of the world's prisoners.
--Benjamin Jealous and Rod PaigeBetween 1987 and 2007, the nation's prison population tripled, growing by 1 million people. The United States accounts for 5% of the world's population, but locks up nearly 25% of the world's prisoners. Unsurprisingly, prisons have become a big budget item for many states. During the last two decades, state spending on prisons grew by 127%, six times the rate of spending on higher education.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, reformers and interest groups -- including the NAACP, former chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform -- is beginning to challenge assumptions about our criminal justice system.
In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris won election by promoting policies that are "smart on crime" rather than "tough on crime." States such as Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York have made a good faith effort to reduce prison populations and close facilities. With the proper reforms, we can ultimately use this funding to address the root causes of our society's crime problem.
The rise in America's penchant for punishment can be traced back to the 1970s, as the "War on Poverty" gave way to the "War on Drugs" and policymakers embraced stricter sentences for drug offenders. Since then, we have spent tens of billions to incarcerate people who struggle with drug addiction and mental health challenges, or are simply jobless or lack education.
Policymakers should be able to propose sentencing reform without fear of being labeled "soft on crime."
--Benjamin Jealous and Rod Paige
Policymakers should be able to propose sentencing reform without fear of being labeled "soft on crime." Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses have proven ineffective and racially charged. Public money would be better invested in treatment programs that allow drug abusers to forgo prison, or work toward early release, as a reward for tackling their addictions. Similarly, GED programs provide an opportunity for early release and also motivate prisoners to earn an education, which ultimately helps reduce recidivism. Finally, parole should be more attainable, but prisoners should remain accountable.
A leaner prison system would allow states to really help communities rather than effectively sweeping the most unseemly elements under the rug. "Misplaced Priorities" finds that in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the lowest-performing schools tend to be in areas with the highest rates of incarceration.
In these communities, high incarceration rates create a vicious cycle of perpetually lowered expectations. Studies suggest that cyclical removal and return of so many parents leads to a breakdown of formal authority and weakened social networks. Meanwhile, many prisoners re-enter society unable to vote, secure a good job or find safe and affordable housing. Adding under-funded schools to the mix can remove the only source of hope.
The link between education and incarceration means that reforms can be targeted to address this vicious cycle. "Misplaced Priorities" finds that in many cities, a few struggling neighborhoods overburden prison budgets. In one striking example, New York City spends $16.6 million each year to incarcerate residents from the 11216 ZIP code. Residents of 11216 suffer from a 53% unemployment rate and the local high school has a 50% graduation rate. A reformed criminal justice system, along with a renewed focus on education, would benefit this neighborhood immensely, and produce immediate savings for New York.
Over-incarceration is an issue that can appeal to common-sense reformers and budget hawks of any political affiliation. Until we shift our priorities away from prisons and toward education, the vicious cycle of over-incarceration will only continue, therefore undermining America's promise for a better future.
We call on everyone -- parents, policymakers and educators -- to join us in working for solutions to create a quality education for all children. Top-notch education keeps America competitive and the American dream accessible to everyone.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.
Good Work: Challenge by Tom Vander Ark March 27, 2011
I climb not only for the solitude, beauty, phsical exertion, or bonds of friendship I found in the mountains, but also because of an attraction to danger. -Jim Wickwire
In sports, recreation, and in my work, I have always enjoyed a challenge. But more than anything before or since, being a public school superintendent is a challenge. I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks after meal with current and former superintendents. It’s a challenging job the way it is constructed–reporting to a revolving door elected body, inheriting a maze of contracts and policies, and whipsawed by state politics and budgets.
There is so much that I didn’t know when I took the job. It is hard to explain to the onlooker the shock of jumping in with both feet. The leadership agenda is quite similar to other sectors, but there are three fundamental differences: the people, the politics and the economics.
People drawn to education as a profession are usually mission-driven and caring, but often risk adverse. The bulk of veteran teachers signed up for an employment bargain that valued longevity and loyalty and granted classroom independence. Given who they are and what they signed up for, it’s important (for folks like me) not to assume that performance incentives and attempts to measure contribution won’t work the same way they do in business. Another surprise about the people in education is that it is even more seasonal than retail–you get one shot to change stuff in the spring around budget time and then you’re not supposed to change things during the school year.
Working with the other half of the people equation–parents–was a whole different shock. Parents can be either very critical or completely disengaged (or worse); in twenty years we have gone from “the teacher is always right” and “wait until your father gets home” to “my child is always right” and “my attorney will be contacting the governor”. Emotions are at an all time high as parents and teachers, who share the common experience of the American comprehensive high school, try to figure out why everything is changing so rapidly. They recall a high school experience that worked for them but fail to realize our high schools are not preparing most of our young people for their future.
The politics of public education are like a big red union, intense and multi-layered. Working between five elected officials and nine unions is topped only by the thousands of pages of state and federal regulations that govern education. Education is the most over-regulated, and as a result inefficient, segment of the economy. Decades of well-intentioned legislation have created layers of special programs, each having gained a vocal constituency, which now weigh down a system struggling to improve outcomes.
The economics of public education are convoluted. Money comes from a variety of sources in little buckets with lots of strings attached. School districts are required to monitor and report on program compliance not whether it made a difference for children. The accounting requirements look like they were designed by waves of politicians (because they were). All too often the schools that face the greatest challenges receive the lowest per pupil funding. Super majority requirements for renewal of local funding in some states give residents one of the few opportunities they have to say “NO” to the high cumulative tax burden which they bear. The inability of districts to fund school construction is a national problem created by the collision of the baby boom echo and an aging population growing weary of tax increases.
In my mid 30′s I was clear about my calling to work in education but found it frustrating and occasionally overwhelming. During my first few years as superintendent, I frequently found myself driving around wondering “what makes you think you can actually do this job?”. The weight is heavy, the questions are complex, the temptation to simplify and blame is great.
The superintendency can be frustrating and draining, but, like mountain climbing, the rewards are occasionally equal to the challenge. The greatest reward is watching students grow, whether it is seeing thousands of graduates becoming productive citizens, or receiving one letter from a child whose life was turned around by a teacher that cared. The challenges are greater than they could have described, but so are the rewards.
Every job has its own unique challenges and rewards. The challenges are often self evident, but the rewards can be subtle, long-term, or indirect. Take time to remind yourself of the rewards that make the work worthwhile. Taking up your calling, living into your voice and living out your convictions will challenge you physically, mentally and spiritually. Pick challenges great enough to stretch, rewarding enough to satisfy, but not so big that it will devour you. Don’t attempt a superintendency unless, like Wickwire, you have a strange attraction for danger.
by Hilderbrand Pelzer III
You can model success after a school that looks and feels like a prison!!!
I offer insight into the instructional and resourceful leadership strategies that I applied to transform a correctional environment into a high-functioning academic learning environment.
by Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Today, while participating, with my daughter and wife, in West Chester University's Student Acceptance Day, I think I heard the President of West Chester University say that only 27% of American have a college degree. I know I was listening to his speech closely, trying my very best to hear him say all the right things that would help my daughter feel good about the campus culture, academic program, and academic support. The President, along with the other speakers throughout the program, really put forth their best to connect with the audience and profile the university as an excellent college choice. As a result, my wife and I are excited about the role that West Chester University will play in supporting our daughter's next steps in life. However, getting back to the topic. Did I hear the President correctly - only 27% of Americans have a college degree (Bachelor's Degree)? So, I did some fact-finding of my own, and here is what I learned.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey, 52.7 percent of Americans have some college education, but only 27.2 percent have actually obtained a college degree. The percentages are higher in other industrialized countries. This led me to begin thinking. While there are a lot of people who have achieved success in life without actually obtaining a college degree, I am sure one factor that has prevented Americans from attaining a college degree is the cost of a college education. College tuition, at many colleges and universities, is just not always affordable. I don't care if both parents are hard-working, making decent salaries, and trying to put away savings for college for their child(ren). Tuition cost is just too expensive. And, there is no real correlation between paying a higher tuition for college and a better college experience or a successful career afterwards. In fact, colleges and universities that have lower tuitions oftentimes have the same accreditation and level of academic quality as colleges and universities that have a much higher tuition or more prominent name in the higher education world.
The average college tuition for four-year colleges can cost upwards to $35,000 or more yearly in tuition and fees (that is $140,000 for one child), according to the College Board. And, that does not necessarily include room and board, cost of books and computers, spending money for your child(ren), and other incidentals that go with attending college and enjoying college life.
Do you think the college tuition for four-year colleges is too expensive? Do you think the cost of college prevents people from attending? What must the United States do to increase the percentage of Americans attaining a college degree and outperforming other industrialized countries? What will be the impact of states' cutting their higher education funding to their public institutions be on the future of college attainment, which in some states is almost a 50% budget cut?
Please share your comment.
by Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Worldwide, experts say superior educational services for school-age incarcerated youths are a rarity. They say that reform of juvenile-corrections education is a decade or more behind reform in regular public schools and just has not been a priority. Making matters worse is the school-age youths arrested and awaiting trials as “adults” in county jail systems across the nation find themselves part of a larger system that fails to educate them. Local school districts and their local county jail systems blame each other for the problem. As a result, states and counties are in a state of uncertainty as to what to do. In Colorado, state legislators are considering legislation to work out who should and how to provide education to school-age students in county jails.
Do you think school districts should be responsible for providing public educational services to school-age students in county jails? Please comment.
by Hilderbrand Pelzer III
New Mexico State Rep. David Chavez wants to send kids on jail field trips. What? He introduced a bill Tuesday that would require public middle school students to visit jail and juvenile detention facilities, reports KOAT. What? Chavez believes the reality check would keep kids in school and out of trouble. What?
Has the middle school experience come down to this? Are you kidding me? Schools are taking field trips to jails and correctional facilities in order to keep middle school students in school and out of trouble. Whatever happened to focusing on teaching and learning in the classrooms and making certain that children are exposed to learning opportunities that inspire them and bring about experiences that will propel them toward a successful future. For instance, why not take a field trip to major universities to experience higher education? Why not take a field trip to the state capitol to experience the legislative process (and maybe even eyeball the state legislators foolish enough to vote yes)? Why not take a field trip to NASA to experience science and research? Why not take a field trip to the White House to meet and chat with the President of the United States? Why not take a field trip to the United Nations to learn about world affairs? Why not take a field trip to the headquarters of Google or Facebook or Apple or Microsoft, to learn first-hand the impact of technology innovations on the 21st Century? Why not take a field trip to the local school board meeting to ask the idle-sitting school board members, why they are allowing State Rep. Chavez to "require" them to visit jail and juvenile detention facilities?
In a speech to the National Association of Counties, Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, said, "Put simply, it’s time to broaden our approach to juvenile justice – and to ensure that sound research and respected analysis are a part of our decision-making process." Is the Chavez legislation what Holder meant? I hope not.
The best way to prevent young people from engaging in activities that could lead to jail or prison is to keep them engaged in school. Schools must just do school! Expand the instructional core. Scale up teaching and learning practices in the classrooms. Graduate students with a quality education. And, most importantly, take field trips that will broaden the minds and spirits of young people, and provide them with experiences that consider their aspirations and great potential.
With New Mexico having the second lowest graduation rate in the country, according to Education Week's 2010 report, I am sure, if they try hard enough, the state legislators can do better than plan field trips to jail and juvenile detention facilities for students.
Are jail field trips an approach you think could work? Please comment.
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