Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections (Part 1): Improving Instruction

Wrap Up

man behind barsIn the United States, more than 170,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 17 are currently held in juvenile justice facilities. The majority of these—approximately 116,000—are held in juvenile detention (JD) settings. A substantial number of them—some 54,000—are held in juvenile corrections (JC) settings, with their length of incarceration ranging from a few months to a few years. Unfortunately, in many of these facilities, teachers seeking to provide effective instruction encounter a number of challenges. In addition to safety issues, high turnover rates among students and teachers, and frequent changes to the daily schedule, teachers must also be prepared to work with young people with numerous behavioral, academic, and mental health challenges that affect instruction. To further complicate matters, a large percentage of these youth have disabilities.

To address all of these issues and to meet the individual needs of these youth, teachers should:

  • Review each student’s individual treatment plan and be familiar with their goals, benchmarks, and rewards
  • Establish a solid instructional foundation that incorporates a rigorous curriculum, data-based decision making, tiered instruction, grouping strategies, a variety of instructional methods, and flexible instruction and assessment
  • Integrate positive behavioral supports and create a comprehensive behavior management plan that clearly defines behavioral expectations, procedures, and consequences
  • Use evidence-based practices, incorporate additional instructional practices that have been shown to be effective with students in public schools, and provide accommodations

Return to the Challenge

ritaRecall from the Challenge that although Ms. Sikes was determined to improve the instruction that she provides to the students in the JC facility, she did not know where to start. As it turned out, many of the teachers at the facility had similar concerns. As a result, the facility and school administrator arranged for ongoing professional development for all teachers. One of the teachers’ first steps was to implement SW-PBIS and to focus on the positive aspects of the students’ behavior. Almost immediately, they began to see improvement in that behavior.

Because Ms. Sikes had limited experience teaching students with disabilities, she found information about instructional accommodations particularly helpful. She realized that by implementing accommodations outlined in students’ IEPs, she was able to help reduce the barriers they encountered during instruction and testing. Although she knows that there is still a lot more she can do, she feels like she is on the right track. She is beginning to feel like she is making a real difference and is excited to continue to implement more effective instructional practices in the future.

Revisiting Initial Thoughts

Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this Module, do you still agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?

How is teaching in a juvenile corrections setting different than teaching in a public school?

How do teachers address the behavior issues of youth in these settings?

How do teachers meet the academic needs of youth in juvenile corrections settings?

When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.

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