lost. Students practiced oral language skills and demonstrated their knowledge or expe- rience with a topic. Even when barriers existed, there was
strong interest in implementing strategies that promoted student interaction and oral language skills: “The teachers still continue to fight the idea of more student interaction, they fear ‘losing control’ of the class. Much more work is needed in this area. It would be great if we could have video examples, or if best practice classrooms/schools were identified,” read one comment. Another example of increased access to
a rigorous curriculum can be found in the court schools in the Los Angeles County Office of Education. A sufficient number of students at the beginning stages of English have warranted a Newcomers Class that is conducted in Spanish. Spanish language curricula materials are available and a bi- lingual teacher provides instruction in the students’ primary language.
Collaborative efforts throughout the state During the training institutes, it became
obvious that the opportunity for court school staff to meet others across the state with similar challenges and instructional issues was as important as the content of the institutes. One participant summarized this experience. “It is very difficult when there is not a common purpose such as these train- ings for us to get together. However, I have contacted Modoc, Trinity and Butte [coun- ties] about specific ideas and issues.” Many court schools have begun to es-
tablish Professional Learning Communi- ties. However, because many court schools have small numbers of teachers, teachers who teach several content areas, or limited availability of indicators of student work, the PLCs often do not reflect what is found in comprehensive high schools. Therefore, collaborations between court schools have been discussed as a vehicle to promote PLCs on a regional basis or through the use of technology (video conferencing, webcasts, Skype, FaceTime). The genuine interest to build on the PLC concept was supported by school administrators. During the final court school site visit, school administrators were asked to com-
plete an online survey. One question asked the extent they were able to build commu- nications, networks or collaborations with other court schools. About 30 percent of re- spondents who answered this item were able to list a county court school with which they had communicated to share ideas and best practices. Here is a representative comment: “Our county is in the process of adopting
Court schools are guardians of safety as well as brokers of effective academic instruction.
English language and English learner cur- ricula and we have been networking with other court and county schools across the state to adopt the most effective and appro- priate English language curriculum for our population. First round of piloting will be this summer.”
Four recommendations 1. The project to provide technical assis-
tance to court schools resulted in convinc- ing evidence that court school learning en- vironments are not impervious to change. The nexus roles of court school teachers as guardians of safety and brokers of effective academic instruction do not pose an immu- table force across all court schools. There are pockets of court schools where the mar- riage with probation has been successful. However, if institutional factors or organi- zational structures are to change, a hybrid of strict discipline and rigorous instruction may be necessary. 2. The unique environment and class-
room conditions make it vital for court school educators to continue to receive pro- fessional development on implementation of Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessments. 3. The absence of a longitudinal data sys-
tem prevents practitioners and researchers from determining the performance levels of incarcerated youth. State data systems contribute to misleading information about court school students by aggregating diverse educational programs within one school identifier. One large county includes com-
munity school, special education and court school students under one state-designated school code. A system to more accurately portray the progress of the unique popula- tions of court schools is warranted. 4. The academic achievement level of EL
students is often concealed by the absence of standardized test scores that are regu- larly available for all students in California public schools. For EL students, the conse- quence is significant. The unavailability of academic assessments and English language proficiency test scores has serious implica- tions for meeting their instructional needs and achieving reclassification as fluent Eng- lish proficient students. In conclusion, court school teachers and
administrators have demonstrated a deter- mination to make English learners in court schools more discernible and conspicuous through the implementation of effective in- structional practices. Efforts and structures are in place to make academic instruction a priority in California court schools. n
August, D. & Shanahan, T. (Eds.). (2006). Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erl- baum Associates.
Bernhardt, E. (2005). “Progress and procras- tination in second language reading.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25.
Gehring, T. (Spring 2010). Five Principles of Correctional Education. “The Journal of the Juvenile Court, Community, and Alternative School Administrators of California.” Vol. 23, 44-52.
Short, D. & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the work: Challenges and solutions to ac- quiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York.Washington, D.C.:Alliance for Ex- cellent Education.
Paul A. Garcia is director, Farmersville USD.
Kathryn Catania is assistant superintendent and Sam Nofziger is coordinator, Fresno County Office of Education.
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