By: Staff Blogger
Like many states, Ohio is examining the way it approaches juvenile justice. Specifically, the Ohio Department of Education is looking at how we educate students involved in the juvenile justice system. The quality and type of education students receive while in juvenile detention are just two areas where we are beginning to see steady improvement. The importance of educating students involved in the juvenile justice system is clear. Money spent educating students in the system is a good investment and leads to a reduction in recidivism — the number of people who return to criminal activity.
While all high school graduates may face obstacles, imagine how much worse the obstacles facing students in the juvenile justice system can be. According to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, 47 percent of students placed in juvenile detention facilities need special education. This percentage is much higher than those students needing special education in Ohio’s traditional public school districts. As of 2017, the Ohio Department of Youth Services added a variety of educational services that give students the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or GED or participate in apprenticeships. Research shows that individuals leaving the juvenile justice system with a high school diploma or a GED is the single most effective tool to combat recidivism.
For more than 10 years, there has been a concerted effort to decrease the number of juveniles in secured detention. The Annie E. Casey Foundation believes juvenile justice, “can be smarter, fairer, and more efficient… that thoughtful, comprehensive reforms can reduce unnecessary or inappropriate confinement, improve public safety, redirect public funds to more positive youth development endeavors, and, in the long term, improve the odds that delinquent youth become productive adults.”
That brings us to the question, what can we do in Ohio to make the Annie E. Casey Foundation statement a reality? In 2014, former U.S. Department of Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder promoted a set of characteristics for providing students with a high-quality education in juvenile facilities. In a broad sense, these characteristics included:
- Recruitment of qualified and dedicated staff;
- Curricula that aligns with the local district and promotes postsecondary school readiness;
- Proper funding for educational programs and support services;
- Effective transitional services;
- A trauma-informed staff and environment.
While these characteristics were for the nation as a whole, Ohio also created its own plan for improving juvenile detention education through our state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Ohio’s plan includes the creation of a position for a corrections state coordinator at the Department. Under the plan, each school district must have a local liaison who will act as a point of contact for juvenile justice education concerns. The plan also includes a commitment to improving juvenile justice education in the state of Ohio. Specifically, we are creating a strategy for improved communication and coordination between all stakeholders working with justice-involved youth and education.
While some detention facilities in Ohio have excellent coordination between the facility and local school districts, others do not. The plan calls strengthened relationships among those distinct systems. The plan incorporates relevant strategies such as trauma-informed practices and improved data collection and use related to children and youth in the programs.
In the past, the educational needs of juveniles placed in detention facilities were overlooked. Building relationships with juvenile facilities was not a priority for school districts. The districts may not even have been aware that the students lived in their districts because the students never officially enrolled in the districts.
This disconnect between detention facilities and districts also makes it difficult to transfer credits earned by the students. Imagine dedicating yourself to your studies for the first time in your life only to learn months later that the credits you earned in the juvenile facility are worthless in your home school district.
You can read more about Ohio’s ESSA plan here. Contact me, the Department’s new correctional education coordinator, with questions about correctional education for juveniles. Currently, I am working with correctional facilities across Ohio to make sure justice-involved students are receiving the same opportunities as students in Ohio’s traditional school districts.
Nicholas Demetriou is the Department’s correctional education coordinator. He has worked with at-risk youth in alternative learning communities as both a teacher and administrator.
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By: Steve Gratz
During the summer after my first year of teaching, I went over to my colleague, Jim Boyd’s, biology classroom and snooped around to see what I might be able to “borrow” to enhance my teaching — I was working on embedding more science principles into my agriculture curriculum. While I was rummaging around his classroom, I found a syllabus from his 10th grade biology class, and I realized it closely paralleled my sophomore class agriculture syllabus. However, it did so through principles rather than the context from which I taught. For example, Mr. Boyd taught cells: homeostasis, respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis and meiosis; and genetics: fundamentals, DNA, RNA, inheritance and expression. I taught AgriScience 200 (Animal and Plant Biology): genetics, anatomy and physiology, growth and development, reproduction, and nutrition. The parallels were uncanny.
Aside from spending a majority of that summer conducting home visits to students, I invested many hours rewriting the agriculture curriculum with my colleague Brad Moffitt. Brad and I graduated together from The Ohio State University, and we focused on embedding more science principles into our agriculture curricula throughout our teaching careers.
During the fall semester of my second year of teaching, Jim stopped down to my classroom and asked me about my curriculum. I quickly shared with him my syllabus from my sophomore agriculture class. He carefully reviewed it, paused and said, “No wonder your students know the answers to all my questions, you are teaching biology in your ag class.” This was sheer luck and not planned on my part, but it really motivated me to continue to highlight the embedded science in the agriculture curriculum.
In addition to teaching animal and plant biology, I also remember introducing gel electrophoresis to my students. Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. Of course, gel electrophoresis has evolved tenfold since the last time I was in the classroom. These are just a few examples life sciences embedded in agriculture.
The National FFA saw the importance of embedding more science principles in the agriculture curriculum. In fact, it created a recognition program for teachers of agriculture who brought science to the forefront. Brad (1985) and I (1986) were both recognized by the National FFA for outstanding work in agriscience. We both experienced increases in program enrollment because of the curricular change. However, we weren’t satisfied and set our sights on ensuring that our students could receive science credit through our agriscience courses. In Ohio, local districts control the awarding of credit, and we saw a handful of schools granting science credit for students in agriculture courses due to the embedded sciences.
When I started working at the Ohio Department of Education, I provided leadership to the agriscience initiative that was sweeping the country. At the Department, I immediately started working to ensure more students could receive science credit through agricultural education. I recall visiting with staff from the Office of Educator Licensure to determine the coursework agriculture teachers needed to become certified science teachers. After several meetings, we determined that agriculture teachers needed a physics class to receive certification to teach science. I reached out to Ohio State and arranged for a physics course to be taught on Saturdays to help agriculture teachers get science teaching certificates.
With the passage of House Bill 59, schools may now integrate academic content in a subject area into a course in a different subject area, including a career-technical education course. Upon successful completion of the integrated course, a student may receive credit for subject areas that were integrated into the course. Moreover, credits earned for subject area content delivered through integrated academic and career-technical instruction are eligible to meet the graduation requirements.
Integrated coursework benefits students by creating authentic learning experiences, deepening student understanding and creating space in students’ schedules for additional learning experiences. These experiences can include elective courses, College Credit Plus, work-based learning or other innovative educational practices. Integrated coursework mimics real-world situations and makes learning more authentic. Students are actively engaged in learning because the design of the integrated curriculum creates challenging, meaningful tasks that help students connect information.
Innovative school leaders who take advantage of the integrated coursework initiative really can change a student’s experience in and out of school. I’ve witnessed this as a teacher and by visiting schools across the state. Below are videos showing how schools have integrated different subject areas into different courses. The Department will continue to capture examples of integrated coursework as this initiative gains momentum.
Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.
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By: Guest Blogger
Throughout my entire life, my mom always pushed me to be a leader and not a follower, so I always hold myself to that standard. I believe that helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am very proud to serve as the president of Educators Rising Ohio. Educators Rising Ohio is a career-tech student organization that includes more than 1,000 students who wish to pursue careers in the education field. On a national level, Educators Rising includes more than 30,000 members. Career-tech student organizations such as Educators Rising Ohio have helped me and students throughout the state and country. I also am currently the captain of my football and wrestling teams, and I strive to push others in a positive direction. As president of Educator Rising Ohio, I look forward to further developing my abilities as a leader.
I would not be pursuing this field if it were not for Mr. Richard Wakefield. He is our lead instructor for the Heights Career Tech Prep Consortium Teacher Academy at Maple Heights High School, as well as our Educators Rising Ohio teacher leader. I took his career search class as a freshman, and I saw something in him. He is fiery and not afraid to challenge a student to do better. Where many teachers would throw in the towel, Mr. Wakefield keeps on pushing. He never stops. Mr. Wakefield saw something in me as well. He could see that I try to lead others. He could see that I am motivated by my struggles. When he asked me to join the Teacher Academy, he told me there is no better way for a man to give back to society than to become a teacher. He also told me that I could have even more influence because I am black, and there are very few black male teachers.
I have always loved sports and helping others. Mr. Wakefield has helped me realize that teaching and coaching would be a good career to enter after my football-playing days are over. I can see myself being a great teacher in the classroom and a great coach on the sideline. I can see myself using my talents and passions to change lives.
For now, as president, one of my first goals is to bring Educators Rising Ohio to more students. We are a student-led organization that not only teaches students how to become great teachers but prepares them for life as well. Educators Rising Ohio stretches students’ opportunities in life tremendously. We expose students to colleges and a multitude of careers and help each individual develop professionalism and character. By learning and applying these things in everyday life, success in life seems more attainable. From the beginning, children are always told to set goals and then take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Educators Rising Ohio emphasizes that state of mind and immerses one in the field to get hands-on practice. Educators Rising Ohio prepares students for teaching and life. The organization also helps students develop relationships with people they would never meet otherwise.
Anyone who would like to join Educators Rising Ohio should visit this website. It is a great way to start your journey to becoming a teacher.
Antoine Holloway II is the current president of Educators Rising Ohio. He will be a high school senior in the fall. To learn more about Educators Rising, contact Angela Dicke.
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By: Guest Blogger
School may be out for summer, but learning is always in season at your local library. Ohio's public libraries serve a critical function in summer learning, in many cases, acting as the only safety net against the “summer slide” — the documented decrease in reading proficiency of students who do not read during summer vacation. The stakes for children who do not read during the summer are high. Substantial research on this topic shows that elementary school students who lose reading skills during the summer will be two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade. It's usually the students who can least afford to lose ground as readers who are most likely to suffer from summer reading loss and fall behind their peers. Parents and teachers alike have long asserted that regular use of the local library improves children’s reading dramatically. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore all the library’s resources and programs.
Every public library in Ohio offers a summer reading program for children with organized activities, projects, games and incentives to promote reading during the summer months. This year’s theme is “Libraries Rock” and includes a variety of musical activities from making instruments to dance parties. For hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s kids, these programs develop positive attitudes about reading and strengthen the skills they learned during the previous school year. Preventing the “summer slide” continues to be the main objective of summer reading programs.
Ohio’s public libraries provide quality learning activities that are fun and encourage some of the best techniques identified by research as being important to the reading process such as storytelling and book discussions. Librarians know how to connect kids with books and encourage readers, especially those who are reluctant, with different formats such as eBooks, magazines, audiobooks or comics. Families can try out digital formats and borrow devices such as tablets, MP3 players and even Wi-Fi hot spots.
Parents often indicate that summer is the most difficult time to find productive things for kids to do. For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer where they can access free educational activities. Libraries also are natural spaces for serving meals to children whose access to lunch disappears when school is out. Free summer lunches are available at more than 120 libraries across the state. To find a location, visit education.ohio.gov/kidseat.
In addition to reading, children can participate in activities at the library that support their curiosity and creativity including physical makerspaces, coding classes, production studios for digital media, virtual reality and more. Many libraries offer hands-on science and math activities that let kids brainstorm, problem solve and work together on projects. By taking an informal and playful (and sometimes messy and loud!) approach, libraries see these activities as opportunities for children to further their sense of discovery. Children who join summer library programs keep their brains active and enter school in the fall ready to succeed. An Ohio Public Library Directory is available at https://library.ohio.gov/using-the-library/find-an-ohio-library/. Check your local library’s website for a calendar of summer activities to see how you can keep kids reading and learning all summer long!
Angie Jacobsen is the director of Communications for the Ohio Library Council. The Ohio Library Council is the statewide professional association that represents the interests of Ohio’s 251 public library systems, their trustees, friends groups, and staffs. You can contact Angie by clicking here.
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