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Embracing a culture of learning

Court schools have stepped up to the

challenge of providing

safe and secure classrooms while offering rigorous academic instruction.


t is ironic that the population of stu- dents on which we have the most surveillance, either through ubiq- uitous video cameras or through

the vigilant presence of probation officers, have been the most invisible in many edu- cational practices. English learners who are incarcerated youth and attend county court schools throughout California are less likely to receive instruction from teachers who are trained on research-based best practices to help EL students acquire English. Yet recently, court school teachers and

administrators throughout California have overwhelmingly accepted the challenge to improve the educational experiences of EL students in such restrictive educational environments and mitigate the factors that have historically favored incarceration over education. These are the major findings of a two-year project funded through AB 1781 and overseen by the California Department of Education to provide technical assistance to all County Court Schools in California on the most effective instructional strate- gies for English learners.

28 Leadership In October 2010, the Fresno County

Office of Education received a contract to better prepare county court school teach- ers and administrators on the best instruc- tional practices for English learners. The major actions of the contract included three site visitations to each court school, 20 five- day training institutes throughout state, and a series of webcasts. The relative success of the technical as-

sistance was found in the creative ways teachers and administrators mediated their daunting dual role to provide a safe and se- cure classroom environment while provid- ing rigorous academic instruction. Although the number of county court

schools fluctuates each year, there has been a decrease in the number of incarcerated youth attending court schools between 2007 (12,085) and 2011 (9,009). About 70 per- cent of the total EL court school population in 2011 were concentrated in four counties

By Paul A. Garcia, Kathryn Catania and Sam Nofziger

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