found 9 percent of juvenile students nationwide — or fewer than one in 10 — enlisted in a detention facility for 90 days or longer earned their GEDs or high school diplomas.Overall, Texas' juvenile systems came in slightly higher than the national average by that measure, with 11% of eligible students earning a GED or graduating high school. But Texas logged a far lower rate of eligible students in detention facilities receiving high school course credits - 30% compared to 46% nationwide, according to the report's appendices.
McLennan County’s Juvenile Probation Department is slightly higher with 15 percent of long-term students earning their GEDs through an in-house program designed specifically for at-risk students.
In McLennan County, the juvenile detention center twenty years ago "formed an in-house reading program, but it wasn’t until the probation department added staff and received judicial support in 2007 that the GED program started." Since then, "45 students have enrolled in the program and 38, or 80 percent, have passed the GED test," reported the Trib.
That said, the report lamented that inadequate data sets caution against drawing hard conclusions from state to state comparisons:
The education data that Southern states have reported to the US Department of Education for children and youth in juvenile justice systems often has been incomplete and inconsistent. The reporting forms are too generic and fail to capture the reality of juvenile justice schools. With in and across states, the annual data offers very limited information about what is actually achieved in the juvenile justice schools for students and appears entirely divorced from any consideration of how student assessments should primarily be used for improving instruction and learning.The report calls for rethinking juvenile justice programs through a primarily educational lens, creating individualized education programs for youth detainees and judging performance of the justice system by measuring educational outcomes in addition to recidivism. It also endorsed "a national goal of diverting more youth from large state facilities to local, non-institutional settings in the juvenile justice systems," a trend that Texas has led by reducing the number of inmates in state institutions by 80% since the 2007 Texas Youth Commission sex scandal. Even so, because the Texas Juvenile Justice Department does not closely regulate local juvenile detention facilities, it's unclear if that de-institutionalization has led to better educational outcomes, and the low number of juvenile detention students earning high-school course credit suggests it has not. The report concluded:
This is not a call for state juvenile justice systems to re-brand themselves as educational institutions. It will require a great deal more than simply changing the image and language of juvenile justice – much more than calling juvenile facilities “schools” or “campuses” and referring to incarcerated youth as “students.” Those kinds of cosmetic changes would be fraudulent with out first enabling a fundamental transformation of the mission, methods, goals, and accountability of the juvenile justice systems. Calling the Florida School for Boys a “reform school” did not prevent the tragedies that took place there in the distant and more recent past.
By establishing an educational mission and by re-designing their processes and functions primarily to provide effective education, juvenile justice systems will need to design and provide good schooling inside their own systems and to help to redesign and recreate effective schooling for these students in the communities they re-enter.
Nothing less will assure that juvenile justice systems help young people to leave and never to return to the juvenile system or to adult prisons. Nothing less will produce just learning and just results. Nothing less will deliver in the coming years on a promise of justice for the children and youth in custody and for the communities they re-enter. And nothing less will provide the South and the nation with the effective governmental systems that succeed in providing the nation’s most under-educated, vulnerable youth with a future that is better than the past.