Willamette ESD manages the Marion County Juvenile Detention Education Program. Youths in grades 6-12 enter the juvenile detention center by either being arrested for a statutorily detainable charge or for being in violation of their court ordered probation order. Lengths of stay vary significantly based upon many variables such as past history, current charge, risk to the community and available level of supervision in the community. The average length of stay in detention for the fiscal year 2014 was 5.8 days.
In most cases, youth do not plan on coming to a detention center, and there is often an absence of communication between the youth's home school district and the detention center which can result in a loss of continuity in the youth's education program. Furthermore, many youth have negative association with school due to conflicts, failing grades, and excessive absences.
On the other hand, students in detention generally experience significant academic progress, often for the first time in many years. The juvenile detention education program has a full time teacher, an instructional assistant, and transition services. The current program has done an outstanding job of helping youth become re-engaged in the learning process. Students work individually based upon math and reading assessments (Let's Go Learn) and their Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
Computer lab programs for students include: Let's Go Learn, reading and math up through Algebra 1; Acellus, an online course program); Career Information Systems, (all Oregon public schools use CIS to meet the State's career readiness requirements); Edutyping (an award winning keyboarding program): Ilike2learn (interactive geography quizzes for countries and capitals); and Rachel an Oregon Youth Authority resource that functions like the internet, but is actually a closed system with a wide range of education programs).
In fact, continued school success is a critical element in reducing a youth's long term involvement in the juvenile justice system. Improving communication between the detention center and the student's school and making sure youth have homework assignments and access to online courses from their home school to work on while in the detention center definitely benefits youth in the detention centers. In addition, transition supports upon the youth's release significantly increase the youth's opportunities for educational success in a traditional school setting.
In the classroom students focus on English language arts, current events, grade level mathematics and social studies. Students work at their own pace, but there are also group activities and discussions. To round out the education experience, both programs offer physical education and have frequent guest speakers. All in all, youth are empowered by the success achieved while in detention and are highly motivated to continue their progress.