Making Progress with our Incarcerated Students

The L.A. County Office of Education- whose board I serve on- oversees the schools at the juvenile probation camps. Each time I visit one I am struck by a devastating contrast:  students just like these – from the same challenging neighborhoods- are thriving in high-performing charter schools in their home communities. The charter school kids got a break and are learning what it means to be on the path to success.  Statistics tell us that the incarcerated kids, on the other hand, will churn through the revolving door of the juvenile justice system and on into adult incarceration.  Not a path to success.

My visit last week to the Christa McAuliffe School at Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster, however, was unexpectedly inspiring. Continue reading

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David’s Story

Since the start of the 2011-12 school year, donning my different hats, I have had the opportunity to visit some of the highest performing and some of the most challenged educational environments in Los Angeles County.  As a consultant to charter schools, I witness children from low-income, gang-ridden communities getting an outstanding education and the opportunity to move beyond the low expectations and doomed futures of their less fortunate peers.  As a member of the LA County Board of Education, I see youngsters from the very same communities who have not had the same benefits.  These children are in the juvenile court system schools. In some cases- in well-administered probation camps- they are getting the support that should have been there in the first place, and some are even completing high school graduation requirements. Many, however, are not progressing and have an excellent chance of returning to the camps and ending up in the adult prison system.  Recently, David A., a student at Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy near South LA, shared his poignant personal experience with members of his school community.  Better than anything I can report, his story illustrates this stark dichotomy in educational and social outcomes.

David’s Story

My name is David A., and I am a senior at Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy.

When I first entered Bright Star as a seventh grader, I was on the verge of being expelled from my middle school because of the people I hung around with. My family thought about moving to Texas to get me away from it all, but they were pretty sure I would take the trouble with me. About the same time, I had a neighbor who attended Bright Star. I would see him come home every day from school, in his clean little uniform, all tucked in, and think, “Wow, I’m glad I don’t go to that school. He comes home pretty late!” Continue reading