Thursday, July 31, 2008

Self-paced learning at TYC the "least effective" approach

Though it's a long and substantive document, anyone interested in an inside look at what's going on with education services at the Texas Youth Commission should consider the new report (pdf) from the Ombudsman's office a must-read. (I'm particularly hoping the Sunset Commission staffers are paying close attention.)

Bottom line, based on interviews with dozens of students, teachers and staff as well as analyzing agency-generated data, UT-Austin Professor Michael Krezmien depicts a completely dysfunctional education system at TYC, with the few bright spots dragged down by overall organizational failure and an utter lack of focus on educational services.

While the contents of the report could and likely will fill up several posts, I wanted to provide an overview of the main points, particularly since initial news coverage so far hasn't delved too deep into the substance. This harsh conclusory paragraph sums up the main flaws with TYC's approach to education services:
Despite the fact that a substantial percentage of the youth have reading and learning deficiencies, these students are expected to learn through a process of independent reading. Despite the fact that a substantial percentage of the youth have limited reading comprehension skills, they are expected to acquire new information primarily through self‐directed reading. The current model of educational practices at the TYC is basically devoid of what current educational research has consistently identified as “best practices” for instruction. There is little to no direct instruction and little to no classroom discussions. Students are not exposed to new knowledge in multiple ways, nor are they provided with instructional approaches that are interesting or engaging. Students have limited engagement with teachers, and the classes typically lack direct instruction, questioning, and discussion. Students are seldom given opportunities to respond to new information or to questions about newly learned information. Students are seldom provided opportunities to relate newly learned information to the world or to their own prior knowledge. Student engagement was poor across settings and classrooms. Although there were instances of excellent teaching and innovative instructional approaches, the primary instruction practice (“self‐paced” independent desk work) is the least effective instructional approach available.
In addition, the education TYC offers to special ed kids and students with disabilities, according to Professor Krezmien, is out of compliance with federal law. He reports that TYC has identified 40.4% of students as having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, however these students' "transitional plans were generic and inadequate. Generally, a majority of special education students did not receive special education services in accordance with the IDEA."

The Professor's data shows how TYC has become a dumping ground for the illiterate and the mentally ill just like happens with adult prisons. TYC has four times as many special ed students as a typical public school, three times the number with learning disabilities, and 18 times as many students with emotional disturbances.

TYC uses only two educational outcome measures, says Krezmien: Scores on a standardized test upon entry and exit, and the number of students who get GEDs. He found the standardized test inadequate for assessing students with so many particularized special needs and learning disabilities. Most kids who get GEDs do so within 9 months of arriving at TYC, which Krezmien says indicates they likely entered TYC with sufficient skills to pass the test.

Meanwhile, many students cannot reasonably be expected to ever get a GED and there's a lack of outcome measures to track their progress or that values choices, e.g., to enter vocational programs. Speaking of which, the report heaped praise on TYC's vocational programs, but lamented that only about 10% of students were eligible.

Moving youth during the school day requires adequate JCO staffing or else cuts into instruction time, according to the report. "We observed instances where the movement of youth took as long as 30 minutes, despite an allocation of only 5 minutes to movement. ... We observed numberous instances of decreased access to education as a consequence of youth movement practices."

Krezmien's overall assessment of educational quality was poor, as expressed in these excerpts:

"We found classes that were typically organized based on correctional needs, which resulted in classrooms with students of different ages, different academic abilities, and in different courses. The scheduling practices negatively impact the educational program and limit instructional opportunities. We found the instructional practices to be generally poor. We found inconsistent curricula across facilities, and sometimes within a facility."

"The absence of a unified curriculum aligned with the State standards, and flexible to meet the needs of high and low performing students as well as students with disabilities is inappropriate. ... Students frequently move across facilities that have different curricula that are not integrated. This negatively impacts student learning, student credit accrual, and teacher responsibilities as they attempt to match a student’s transcript to programs with different curricula."

"The primary instructional practice observed at TYC education programs was broadly considered “self‐paced” and individualized instruction. This usually consisted of students working in worksheet packets independently or students working with paper assignment sheets and in text books independently. There was no direct instruction in most classes, and limited opportunities for student‐teacher engagement.

"Many of the observations revealed a lack of instructional activities whatsoever. There were numerous instances of teachers working at the computer while students slept, talked with each other, or worked independently."

"The 'self‐paced' model of TYC facilities is an ineffective approach to education. There is no empirical evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the practices implemented. The approach is not appropriate to the TYC population of learners."

"[N]one of the education programs in the security setting met the TYC education standards."

"We found the staff at the TYC institutions to be one of the strongest assets of the TYC education programs. However, we found that school cultures varied greatly across the facilities. In most facilities, teacher morale was low."

Overall Krezmien has produced an incredibly damning portrayal of the agency, made more so by his use of TYC's own written standards, outcome measures and federal law as evaluation benchmarks.

Today was the day Richard Nedelkoff originally proposed to the Governor the agency should come out of conservatorship, but that's clearly not going to happen. This publication evidences stunning levels of dysfunctionality at one of the agency's core missions - educating youth in its charge.

Kudos to Ombudsman Will Harrell for pursuing this evaluation and to Professor Krezmien for an outstandingly thorough and detailed assessment (including 75 specific recommendations). They've provided a much needed window for state leaders and the public on a critical and under-emphasized topic.


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between self-paced education in a workbook, and self-paced education done on computers? The difference is that the latter will be done by educational aides from Iraan, while the former had actual certified teachers in the classrooms. Smells like politics is involved here. Throw out all of the old people, regardless of individual efficacy, and bring in all new people who have no clue.

Anonymous said...

The study is flawed on several levels.

First, they study a few facilities in eastern Texas and assume that the results apply to all facilities, despite revelations that for the longest time each facility has been an island unto itself. Perhaps this particular researcher can be forgiven because almost all other research on TYC is conducted the same way. Then again, you would expect better from such a highly credentialed researcher.

The study makes contradictory statements and conclusions. For example, the claim that the TABE test is admisitered too early, quickly followed by the assertion that youths are being held in TYC because of their TABE results. A little bit of logic blows this out of the water. The only way the TABE could keep a youth in TYC is if a youth were assessed at too high an ability level and was thus unable to earn their Academic portion of their phase/stage. The problem with this scenario is that it is unrealistic. If a youth is given work that is too hard, all they have to do is say something to the teachers and/or case managers, and they can be re-evaluated.

However, this statement is made shortly after questions about the validity of the TABE results are raised. Herein lies one of the logical flaws of this study. If the assessment is administered too early (during the initial, stressful days of intake) and/or under other less than ideal conditions, then the results will be artificially LOW. The youth would then be assigned work at a level below their capabilities, which means the youth should have no problem at all completing assignments within the alloted time period to earn their phase/stages.

This is a perfect example of a study in which the outcomes preceded the actual research. Or in layman's terms, this is propaganda for a particular agenda. Of course, in all fairness just about all research in the social science fields nowadays fits under this category.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:25, I just read the study in its entirety and I call BS. I don't think you've even read it (skimmed it, maybe).

For starters, the author visited and interviewed staff at EVERY facility, not just in East Texas. The methodology is detailed very early in the report, which is why I think you didn't read too far into it.

Your depiction of the authors discussion of the TABE lacks both nuance and specificity. He didn't say what you claim, and you acknowledged none of the caveats he emphasized. If there's anybody who spouting "propaganda for a particular agenda," I'd say it's you, not him unless you've got more than you've outlined here.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If they have to group the classes according to correctional needs, then that rules out ever doing a better job of grouping students into classes made up of students with similar ages and academic abilities.

Students with greater correctional needs will only prevent other students of lesser needs from benefitting from any good teaching and teaching methods.

I do not find much evidence that education specialists have been effective and helpful to even regular public schools as far as truly educating people.

Anonymous said...


I ust finished the report and could not find West Texas or Victory field listed. I double checked the methodology section. Perhapse you can point me to the page I missed.

As for ISISD and TYC going out for Bids to take over the Education department at WTSS. I also cannot find where that happened. We were told this was done through TEA and only that the Monahans ISD declined to take over the program. You bring up a good point were bids required and was a Request for Bids made?

All education recieved a Reduction in Force notice. 6 teachers, 4 Teacher Aides, one clerk and one coach are all ISISD will hire. The rest will be accomplished by the compter based instruction as outlined in the earlier Grits posting.

Anonymous said...

One factor that could be looked at is receptivity. Many students are learning adverse, meaning that they see little value in learning what is taught in schools. In fact, they often show a contempt for this information. In the inner cities anti-intellectualism predominates and those who dare to show an interest in learning have to pay a price that most are unwilling to pay.

Another factor is that some students enjoy investing a substantial amount of their time verbally disrespecting teachers as well as other staff who have to monitor them. It often looks like a circus.

Anonymous said...

In our discussion today at CRTC, we never were interviewed or saw anyone at our School. I think the report was good and you need to read what some of the teachers told to the ones that visited them in other facilities.
I read where they visited 7 schools.
The jest of the problem is what has always been as it is said in the report. Education has never or does not have control of the school day. It is and has always been Correctional side running the show.

Now maybe CO will give the education side of TYC the power to really run school. Did you read the part where staff were not in the rooms to help teachers but gathering in the hallways at some units.

Now please readers, don't just start saying all of us teachers are crap, we are told what to do by others, believe it or not. The shoe does not fit all of TYC's educational programs. Just like the sex scandal did not fit all of TYC.

Anonymous said...

I note that this report covers the state of education beginning a year into the "reform." I do not find it surprising that the report concludes that current TYC education is a shambles. Why should education be any different than the rest of the agency a year into the "reform"? I do note the report concludes that TYC is not meeting its own educational standards. It should be noted that those standards were established prior to the "reform." As far as I can determine, nothing operating under the "reform" is operating in compliance with TYC standards. I should further point out that what was evaluated is what is currently going on, not what was going on prior to the "reform." In reading this report, it is clear to me that the state of TYC education has deteriorated rapidly under the "reformers" A study comparing pre"reform" and current "reform" education practices would demonstrate the extent of the failure of the TYC "reform."

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Someone please explain to me how you conduct a traditional classroom setting with a teacher at a chalkboard lecturing/teaching a class when in a weeks time you will loose as many as three youth due to their release date and get three new youth?

How could you not operate a revolving class room without the youth working in a workbook on page one the day they arrive? Our youth are years behind their age in academics. If we taught like a traditional classroom how can they make up their credits?

I’ve seen youth spend nine months to a year and complete a year and a half’s credits. I’ve seen VOA and SEN Offenders complete all of their credits for a diploma when they had only a few upon intake.

I’m not a teacher but as with the majority of TYC institutional staff I have worked in and around the education building my entire career.

I accept there are problems with a lack of motivation by some education staff but I can’t see how a traditional classroom can work in TYC.

Anonymous said...

Receptivity is an interesting concept. Trying to inflict knowledge on many of our youth is like trying to baptize a cat.

Anonymous said...

ahahaha... good one 5:59!! lol!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Okay, you're right about WTSS and VF; looks like they didn't visit Evins, either. According to the report:

"Members of the evaluation team visited a total of seven of the education programs from February until June of 2008. Visited sites included: Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility, Crockett State School, Gainesville State School, Giddings State School, McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility Unit II (referred to as McLennan II), McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility Unit I Orientation and Assessment (referred to as McLennan I O & A), and Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex."

Elsewhere there's a reference to visiting "all" the sites, but looking at it again they meant all those visited, not all en toto. Sorry for my confusion on that point. Still not just a couple of ETex facilities, though.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits,

I'm starting to feel like one of these kids with multiple step-parents. Maybe I'll seek support from a gang or something. From this evening, DMN website:

Texas Youth Commission will lose another top official:

Gov. Rick Perry is expected to name a new agency chief — either an executive commissioner, as Mr. Nedelkoff recommends, or a new conservator — this month. A spokesman in Mr. Perry’s office said the governor had not yet decided which position it should be or who should fill it. Mr. Nedelkoff said he’s not setting a timeline for leaving, but acknowledged it could be the end of August.

Since a sexual-abuse scandal exploded last year, the Texas Youth Commission’s leadership has frequently been in flux. A rundown of the changes.

Feb. 2007: Executive Director Dwight Harris retires amid the abuse scandal. General Counsel Neil Nichols is named acting executive director.

March 2007: Ed Owens, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, replaces Mr. Nichols as acting executive director of the TYC. Jay Kimbrough, a longtime aide of Gov. Rick Perry, becomes special master, and then conservator, of the TYC.

May 2007: Mr. Kimbrough leaves the agency.

June 2007: Mr. Owens becomes TYC conservator. Dimitria Pope, a longtime Department of Criminal Justice official, is appointed acting executive director of the TYC. Mr. Owens soon announces his retirement, leaving Ms. Pope at the helm.

Dec. 2007: Juvenile justice expert Richard Nedelkoff replaces Mr. Kimbrough as TYC conservator; two months later, Ms. Pope is forced to resign.

Aug. 2008: Mr. Nedelkoff recommends ending the conservatorship. Mr. Perry’s office is seeking a new leader for the agency.

Anonymous said...

Our momma's a hoe!

Anonymous said...

13 years of TYC and I can tell you that the self paced curriculum is an expedient not a method that should be embraced.

I was six years assistant principal/acting principal at San Saba, I can assure you that attempts to change the program have been met with equal hostility that the program itself has.

David Turrentine

Anonymous said...

Why not change the law and let the local ISD where these facilities are located and let those superintendents in those areas run the TYC educational programs as if they were Alternative Education Programs? Be kind, but what's wrong with this idea? That's what those kids are going back to anyway? But I'm not in Education and I don't know the rules. But if we did it in Irran, how come we can't do this elsewhere? Seems like you might have better oversight? Teachers that know TYC kids and aren't afraid of dealing with them are still needed. Actually, they're in high demand. Is there any difference in benefits? I'm just asking because I don't know folks so don't start attacking me. I was just curious.

Anonymous said...

By superintendents, I meant ISD superintendents. Whitsfoe

Anonymous said...

It would spell out the whole crux of the special ed problem as I have observed if they would modify this sentence on page 56 of the report:
"This is not due to the quality of the special education staff, but rather to the insufficient numbers of diagnosticians, special education teachers, special education support staff, and / or related service providers."

This sentence needs to say: "This is due to the insufficient numbers of diagnosticians, special education teachers, special education support staff, and / or related service providers THAT WILL SHOW UP FOR WORK AND DO THEIR JOB IN A RESPONSIBLE MANNER."

I know good people in these units who stuck their necks out to report in detail to the ombudsman what the real problems were and who was causing them. The ombudsman told these employees " ..not to worrry, we are going to name names in this report."

Yeah, right. Just the same old vague CYA dog and pony show.

Anonymous said...

Like everything else in TYC, this is the best you can do with a lack of resources...when is the legislature going to be held accountable.

Grits I find the photo for this post highly misleading.

Anonymous said...

The real question is: How does Texas stack up against cutting edge programs for youth such as the ones we hear about in Missouri? It is embarassing so the Sunset Report will not say.

I'm pretty tired of having to --understand -- that there is no money available to solve these problems.

Find the money, do the right thing and educate these children.

Start now!!

Anonymous said...

Where's the finger going to point now? This is nothing new. That finger needs to point at the ledge and not some teacher. But they'll point anyway. They always do. Why? Because they are tight wad cowards.

Why not just CLEAN those guys on the hill. That'd be the best thing for a new TYC. We don't need a conservator. We need new leadership on the hill.

Anonymous said...

I think tht there are many well placed criticisms in this article. As I said before I worked in TYC education for 13 years, six of those in administration.

There is a tendency to overidentify youth as Special Education, there is an inordinately large percentage of students who arrive in TYC with problems.

The true fauilure here is not TYC and their choice of expedience. Nor is it the fault of the institutions for maintaining expedience. (Dr. Deborah Nance can explain as well as anyone the resistance to change in TYC). The fault lies in a populace and government that believes that troubled individuals do not need to be "protected." These trouobled persons cannot really take care of themselves, and no one else will, so it falls upon the society to do something for them. Incarceration is not now, nor has it ever been the solution.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To the person who said, "I find the photo for this post highly misleading"

The picture was from the cover of the report. Why is it misleading, though? Because instruction isn't done through penny ante worksheets, or because (as the report says) kids in ad seg typically don't get education service at all? If your complaint is the latter, I'll agree with you. Otherwise, what's misleading?

Anonymous said...

8/01/2008 04:30:00 AM said:
"I think tht there are many well placed criticisms in this article."

Oh, I agree that the report is quite accurate. I just have a problem with their reluctance to state EXACTLY where the problems originate from, and who is causing them. They said they were going to do this, but didn't.

8/01/2008 04:30:00 AM said:
"There is a tendency to overidentify youth as Special Education.."

I disagree. I have seen students arrive at those units with spec ed disabilities that spend the whole time there and not recieve any services. And, some of them had profound disabilities, and were still being ignored.

8/01/2008 04:30:00 AM said:
"..there is an inordinately large percentage of students who arrive in TYC with problems."

That's because this is what we do with our MR, special ed, and slow-learners who get into trouble because they can't function normally in society. They aren't dealt with properly in public school and other early interventions, so they end up in TYC.

8/01/2008 04:30:00 AM said:
"The true fauilure here is not TYC and their choice of expedience...The fault lies in a populace and government that believes that troubled individuals do not need to be "protected."

This all stems from the 1970's new-age attitude that "we are all equal" and people should all be treated the same. It's the same attitude that caused thousands of institutionalized people to be released upon society, knowing full well they couldn't function. So now, when they can't function and resort to breaking the law, they end up being incarcerated.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"EXACTLY where the problems originate from, and who is causing them"

Dirty, IMO the Lege certainly deserves some of the blame, but there's PLENTY to go around in that report. It's not like the Lege is responsible because the professor observed "teachers working at the computer while students slept."

Anonymous said...

As an educator in TYC I would like to comment in regard to the observation: "teachers working at the computer while students slept." We cannot force these students to work. They may choose to work or not. If they do not work, they are made aware of the consequences of this decision which is a zero for the day. We have been told that this is the only thing that we can do if they choose not to work and are not being a disruption to the rest of the class.

Anonymous said...

As a worker of Gainesville I can tell you that the education is poor. Yesterday, the black boy that had to retake his TABE testing...I know for fact his momma bring him college level books. I dont know if I can write his name but I can give the classic example of how the report is correct. His name initials are E.B..but I think his first name is spelt different...anyway,he is smart. The staff threatened him that he had to retake the TABE because the scores we outdated and he was asking questions as to why and how a test score is outdated and Ms. (Well, I don't want to say her name) told him that he would not be able to go home if he didn't take it. The kids barely go to school here. His momma been asking why for sometime now. So, I would have to agree with the Ombudsmen...I see it all day long. And the difference with self pace diogenes is that pace them at a level with materials that will teach them. Hell my 3 year does the cross word puzzels. And if they are being grouped by correctional needs that only goes to show you that this isn't about rehabilitation because when these boys get out they will be around a whole hell of lot of "different" people. So, that was doomed from the jump. I think the Ombudsmen is a good resource for TYC...he seems to be the only one telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

8/01/2008 07:25:00 AM Grits said:
"Dirty, IMO the Lege certainly deserves some of the blame, but there's PLENTY to go around in that report. It's not like the Lege is responsible because the professor observed "teachers working at the computer while students slept."

I completely agree. However, inept and irresponsible teachers are one thing. The problem I observe is that there are certain personnel in key positions that blatantly fail to do their jobs, even to the point that they make it difficult to impossible for other employees around them to do their jobs. I liken the problem to bottlenecks in the workflow that impede proper results. Some of these personnel are so awful at their jobs and so detrimental to those working around them, that if they were to leave and never be replaced, everything would still function better.

Anonymous said...

On 7/31/2008 08:08:00 PM Whitsfoe asked:
"Teachers that know TYC kids and aren't afraid of dealing with them are still needed. Actually, they're in high demand. Is there any difference in benefits?"

ERS retirement and insurance is leaps and bounds better than TRS. And, most teachers don't pay into SS like state employees do, so when they retire from public school, their SS benefits are reduced. So, yes, the benefits are better. The salaries are better too, but only because they work all year in TYC instead of 9 or 10 months in public school. TYC policy states that the local units are supposed to maintain pay rates equal to those of the local public school districts. However, some TYC units are screwing some of their educational employees on this, and not following this policy.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it will be an issue much longer. If Whitmire has his way, TYC will cease to exist.

Anonymous said...

As a veteran teacher I can say one thing about ISD's taking over TYC education. It is, and has always been, the tradition of the ISDs to put the weakest or least experienced teachers in the worst classes or situations. Take a look at most local JDCs and alternative schools. Very rarely will you find your master teachers working there. What you will find is the districts' "problem" teachers. I have thought this to be wrong my entire career. If you think that the ISDs taking over will make a total change for the education in TYC, you better look again--and look closely. The education that is being offered in many of these places is way below par. Many of the ISDs also use self pace curriculum,for instance in summer school--to "catch up the at-risk students". So what is so different. The ISDs failed these students in TYC the first time they went through, so why is it thought that they will be the "cure all" for these students now?
There are some very weak teachers in TYC, but there are more very highly motivated and qualified teachers. One of the biggest problems for TYC education is that once teachers comes on, it is almost impossible to dismiss them even if their evaluations are rock bottom, and they have multiple discipline reports.
I do believe that education in TYC does need reform. I do believe that many of the observations in the report were on target, and I am a TYC educator. However, it also states in the report that the education staff is the greatest asset to the education system, and that overall the teachers are genuinely dedicated to what they are doing despite the issues that face them daily that are totally out of their control.
Once again, as has happened in repeatedly over the last year and a half in TYC,the threat is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, instead of washing the baby.

Anonymous said...

Central Office Education should have never allowed administrators in the field to send youth to school by dorm instead of content or age appropriateness. The method was used by facility superintendents to maintain control of youth as a group. Education was the last thing on their minds and never a top priority. I recall many teachers complaining about the method to that madness. All youth were considered High School level. Youth on the elementary level had no teachers to provide them with an education. The result finds us in our current dilemna! Shame on us!

Bringing in an ISD was sure a good way to thank those teachers that gave years of service to TYC. What a boost for morale! Wonder what facility will be struck next? 6:54 p.m., you said it well!

Anonymous said...

Man Dirty, if I didn't have to pay SS, I'd bank what I would be paying in an IRA. IMO, that's not a bad benefit at all.

Anonymous said...

8/02/2008 07:40:00 PM said:
"Man Dirty, if I didn't have to pay SS, I'd bank what I would be paying in an IRA. IMO, that's not a bad benefit at all."

Unfortunately, I don't know of that many people who are that frugal. The way teachers look at it, they should be getting both SS and TRS, if they paid into both at some time during their career. In some instances, I agree with them.

Anonymous said...

First let me state that I have not read the educational report in detail so my comments will be based on personal experience and those told to me by coworkers as they relate to comments made in previous posts.

There have been numerous comparisons to public schools,so I will start there.

1. The school year in public schools in Texas start and end about the same time across the state (give or take a week). The school districts use approved textbooks and generally speaking start on chapter 1 and move along at the same pace. This means a student who regularly attends school and transfers to another school district 200 miles away will find his new class in a similar textbook and in about the same place as the class he left.

The TYC school year starts and ends on the same day across the state. TYC has the same state approved textbooks as the public schools. However, when a new student leaves the Mart O&A unit and goes to his first state school, he probably has not regularly attended public school in years. Students leave Mart O&A every week of every month and each needs to start on page 1 if they are to have any hope of academic success. With this situation, how can you do anything other than a self-paced program?

As one of the posters mentioned earlier, if a student refuses to work on assignments, there is not much the teacher can do. If after a month of either sleeping in class or just refusing to work on assignments, the student decides to start working, do you skip him ahead or restart him where he stopped? If you want the student to succeed, you start him where he stopped. This is why most classes have no more than three or four at the same place in the textbook. Depending on the number of Special Ed students in the classroom, the number of students working on the same material is even less.

I have had students start at the same place in a textbook and because of their individual attitudes toward education, a few students earned a half credit, others finished about half the assignments, and some didn't complete more than three or four assignments in the same amount of time. Each student was treated the same; each one had access to the same materials; and each one was offered help whenever it appeared they were having difficulty and weren't asking questions. The amount of help they accepted is reflected in the progress they made.

2. There were comments made about setting up classes by dorm versus by subject.

For the most part, students in public schools get a class schedule and follow it from one class to the next without any problems or obvious supervision.

TYC students do not go anywhere without an escort. Most of the time they are escorted by JCOs, but individual students are often escorted by teachers, casemanagers, and other staff. It is easier, faster, and more importantly, safer to move students from one dorm to one classroom. Once in the classroom, some students can be "pulled out" for other classes. This also allows a dorm JCO who knows the students to be with them throughout the school day.

When students are moved from the dorm to several classrooms, it takes longer for students to get to class; there are more students in the hallways at the same time (which is a safety issue); it is easier for students to duck into classes where they do not belong; and the JCO in the classroom may not know all of the students. Depending on the various triggers these students have, a JCO who does not know a disruptive student could make a situation worse instead of better. It also takes longer to get the students picked up, reorganized by dorm, and back on the dorm.

3. Public schools have guidelines on the ratio of students to teachers. I do not know of any such guidelines for TYC. Most of the classrooms I have seen in public schools can have 30 desks without the classroom looking crowded. Most of the classrooms I have seen at various TYC facilities are crowded with 20 desks. Despite this, there are some TYC classes with over 20 students.

When you look at the educational needs of the average TYC student, the best academic environment is a class with no more than 12 students. (Some Special Ed students would benefit even more in classes with no more than 6 students.) However, during the teachers' conference in Corpus Christi this past May, it was announced that since the TYC population was down, 39 teaching positions were being eliminated. I do not recall if there was a student/teacher ratio that was being maintained or just a general reduction in staff.

Finally, I know the TYC academic program had its share of problems before the reformers, but under the reformers, none of those problems were solved. Instead of solving problems, the reformers have made the problems worse and created new ones.

If any members of the lege, if any of the reformers, if any of the youth advocates truly want to help the students of TYC, let them put on the TYC uniform of a teacher or JCO and spend several days as a new hire in the classroom and on the dorm (and work at least one 12-hour shift). In my opinion, this is the best way to see the real TYC, but I doubt if any of the above mentioned are open-minded enough or brave enough to anything more than visit for a few hours in their suits and ties and interview students.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where and when this photograph was taken? It appears to be two students sharing a security cell, but I thought double-bunking was effectively stopped years ago. Also several years ago, all facilities were required to have security classrooms. If these two can share a cell and be trusted with pencils, then they would have gone to the classroom to do their work. Can anyone shed some light?

Anonymous said...

I also notice that one student seems to be significantly older/larger than the other. This would be very inadvisable, and I hope no facilities are double-bunking these days. Could it be a security classroom that just happens to have a meal slot?

Anonymous said...

8:18, you missed my point regarding self-paced education. The report slams self-paced education. For the moment, we'll assume that is indeed correct. So why, then, are we going to do the same thing at WTSS when ISISD comes in, except with computers (and 1/3 the teachers)? Because computers make good PR? They won't eliminate the crossword puzzle problem, I can tell you that much. I can tell you from my experience working in public schools that the only real difference between paper and computer based self-paced education is the money spent on the computers and the admin types crowing about "bringing technology into the classroom."

Anonymous said...

95% of the youth in TYC DO NOT want to learn or even care about an education and that's the truth and the sad part of this whole curriculum written. These kids are mandated by the state to attend school and yet 95% of them don't even have a 3rd grade education. Yes there are those who DO want to learn, but not the majority of them. At the Al Price unit these kids can just get up and leave the classroom and just get a time out and steps given. These kids today are a whole new breed and not like it was back when we were in school back in the 80's.

Anonymous said...

To the 7/31 poster who stated the Monahans district 'declined' to take over the WTSS students - yes the local district declined...they had to - MWPISD simply could not afford to take on the students at WTSS. The value the state places on the students in MWPISD is MUCH less than the value of a student in ISISD. TYC and ISISD made a concerted effort to complete this 'transaction' without the knowledge of the local district, but in the end they had to come clean with what they were up to. Thanks to the Lege's great work 'reforming' school finance, Robin Hood is still alive and well in Texas and you can thank your legislators for ISISD taking over the education department. Its all about the money folks. Our youth are only dollar signs to ISISD. I am sure the other state schools are looking over their shoulders waiting to see who is next. If your facility is located in a property rich chapter 41 district...look out!

Anonymous said...

Michael Krezmien and Will Harrell: TYC education reform worth the cost

08:32 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The findings outlined in the recent report on Texas Youth Commission education conducted by the Office of the Independent Ombudsman resulted in a number of responses from the public and the media after The Dallas Morning News broke the story on July 30, 2008. However, there were some surprising and unexpected reactions that do not appear to be entirely aligned with the intent or the overall content of the report.

The document is extensive and difficult to summarize. Therefore, we believe that some of the specific phrases from the report quoted in various media outlets did not adequately represent the findings.

One unexpected consequence was an intended or unintended ascription of responsibility for the educational shortcomings of the TYC to the school staff — the teachers, diagnosticians, school counselors, administrators and other education personnel. Placing blame on teachers or other education personnel, whether directly or indirectly, was not the intent of the report.

The report repeatedly acknowledged the experience and dedication of the education personnel and highlighted the staff's resolve to educate the TYC students despite inadequate support and difficult circumstances. In fact, the ombudsman reported that the major problems with the educational programming were systemic and that systemic problems negatively impacted the ability of educators to provide students with the best possible education.

The teachers and educational personnel at TYC should not be targeted for systemic failures, but should rather be recognized (as they have been by the conservator) for continued efforts.

We were also surprised that some interpretations suggested that Texas and the TYC are unique with regard to quality of education services provided to incarcerated youth. This is not the case. Juvenile justice education continues to be an under-supported and under-examined aspect of such programming nationally.

The Justice Department has found similar problems in juvenile justice education programs in a number of states; practitioners, researchers and advocates have consistently identified education in juvenile justice agencies as needing more support and reform.

What makes Texas and the TYC unique is the open acknowledgement of the problems and inadequacies with the educational programming. What makes Texas unique is the TYC leadership and the commitment by Richard Nedelkoff and Deputy Commissioner Dianne Gadow to transform the TYC education system. What makes Texas unique is the legislature's commitment to juvenile justice reform and to supporting leadership as it guides TYC's transformation.

This is the time for all parties — theLegislature, the Texas administration, the TYC leadership, and the TYC education personnel — to meet the complex challenges of developing and implementing a progressive and effective juvenile justice education system in a unified effort. We have complete faith that Ms. Gadow will transform the education program if she receives the necessary financial and administrative supports to meet this challenge.

To accomplish this goal, placing blame must be an object of the past. Instead, the state can fulfill its role as a national leader by providing Ms. Gadow and TYC education personnel with the necessary resources and authority over all aspects of educational programming so personnel on the ground can provide an array of education, special education and vocational programs to meet the diverse needs of TYC students.

Education should be central to the rehabilitation of students in TYC. It is a proven means for preparing youth to leave the juvenile justice system and to become civically responsible tax-paying citizens. The cost of failure will be far greater than the investment to become a model for juvenile justice education.

Dr. Michael Krezmien is assistant professor of education at the Universty of Texas at Austin and Will Harrell is the chief ombudsman for the Texas Youth Commission. JD, LL.M. Dr. Krezmien can be contacted at Mr. Harrell may be contacted at

Anonymous said...


If the solution is "providing Ms. Gadow and TYC education personnel with the necessary resources and authority over all aspects of educational programming so personnel on the ground can provide an array of education, special education and vocational programs to meet the diverse needs of TYC students," why has that not happened since the reformers have had control of TYC for nearly a year and a half and TYC had increased education funding and access to federal education monies? Why is education now worse than before the reform? This report only analyzes education during the reform, not before the reform. Causation does matter because if you do not know where it is broke, you can not fix it. Why have the reformers failed?

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

If you had a choice of sleeping in class and going home on your MLOS or working in class and go home on your MLOS... Which would YOU choose???

That's right!!! You would sit on your butt and do nothing but you still would go home when your time was up.

These students have no motivation to learn what we teach, so after awhile you just let them sleep so we can help the students who want and need our help.

Anonymous said...

In regard to this quote from the above post of 08:32 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 5, 2008:

"To accomplish this goal, placing blame must be an object of the past."

I agree with Howard. If you won't acknowledge what went wrong, then how are you going to fix anything?

Anonymous said...

Howard Hickman said:

"This report only analyzes education during the reform, not before the reform."

I agree. And, after further examination, I have some disagreements with some of the observations and remedies given in the report. In particular, their opinion of the TABE test and its application at TYC.

Anonymous said...

The issue of youth not receiving education while in the security unit is not true for all facilities.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if TYC facility business managers annual bonuses are related to the amount of money they keep a facility under budget (i.e., the less money spent, the larger the bonus)?

Anonymous said...

No, the business manager yearly bonus is tied directly to how much ass they kiss in Central Office. It's been a contest going on for years. It's a secret and I can't tell you who it is, but the same business manager has won for the past three years. Hint: his last name is what pigs do.

Anonymous said...

How did this move from comments about TYC education to comments about business managers? Once again, someone has a personal ax to grind. Damn, no wonder we don't get any respect! Some folks try to engage in thoughtful debate, and then this thing gets taken over by whiners with personal agendas.

Anonymous said...

New York Times editorial on the report, here:

Anonymous said...


you should apply for the position of blog police. two comments derails a string and makes something an embarrassment. Much worse has been posted than this...

DeathBreath said...

I urge those interested in learning about the criminal personality to read: Inside The Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. How can rehabilitation take place if habilitation never occurred? You cannot push a rope. Self-paced? Oh, I am laughing so very hard. Who were the buffoons who started this program? I can assure you that the psychopath will externalize all blame regarding their shortcomings. In Texas, those who don't really know what they are doing when dealing with psychopaths, assume that the etiology of criminal behavior rests with a lack of education. What you have, in the end, is an educated psychopath who will continue to exploit others for their own gain. Please, give up on attempting to determine etiology and start focusing on the criminal thinking patterns. Otherwise, you will mimic the behavior of a cur chasing their tail. I speak with nearly twenty-two years experience. So, there!