Monday, March 02, 2009

Senate report: Two-thirds of special ed youth at TYC don't receive services

Here's a second installment analyzing some highlights from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee interim report's second interim charge regarding the Texas Youth Commission, compiled by Grits juvenile justice intern Tara Haelle and edited by yours truly. As always, none of the opinions expressed here in any way represent those of UT, the LBJ School, Ms. Haelle's teacher, nor anybody but the writer and editor.

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In all the fuss about whether to abolish TYC and merge it with the Juvenile Probation Commission, official discussions have too often overlooked needed educational reforms, which, happily, is something the Senate Criminal Justice Committee's Interim Report (pdf) remedies. This emphasis echoes a call last year from the Office of Independent Ombudsman (OIO) to focus on education as a key preventive for recidivism:
“Education and the associated attainment of diplomas, equivalency degrees, and certifications provide the most powerful and evidence‐based approach to improve outcomes for incarcerated youth and to reduce recidivism. Conversely, success in education and work are two of the strongest protective factors for delinquent youth. Conversely, success in education and work are two of the strongest protective factors for delinquent youth…

“As a state, Texas should embrace and require a transformation of the education program at the TYC… If we want the youth at TYC to become civically‐responsible taxpayers and citizens, we need to rethink how we educate youth at the TYC. Education continues to be the best option for reducing recidivism by providing youth with post‐release opportunities to find meaningful employment, to pursue a post‐secondary education, or to pursue post‐secondary training in a trade or skill.”
“Agency officials, expert consultant Dr. Michael Kresmien [author of the OIO report], and the Chief Ombudsman met with Senator Florence Shapiro, Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, to discuss legislative solutions to the problem with the education services at TYC that were identified in the [OIO] report.” (Ed note: Hopefully that means we'll see legislation filed soon on these topics.)

The committee report includes charts showing a steady decrease in TYC students’ level gains in math and reading since 2005. Much of this can be attributed to the movement of youth among the facilities and the use of “self-paced” work and punitive measures that prevent the teacher-student interaction that’s essential for effective learning.

The Senate committee report echoed the Ombudsman's conclusions that TYC needs to require better front-end assessment and more funding to meet state and federal regulations on special education. Right now, 40 percent of TYC inmates qualify for special education services, but “more than two thirds of the special education students have no direct service from a special education teacher.” The committee also expressed a desire for more options for vocational programs to aid students in finding a job following re-entry.

The next step, said the Senate committee report, would be developing a curriculum that meets Texas Education Agency standards and is used consistently across all facilities. If there is a standardized scope and sequence all facilities follow, a student doesn’t lose as much progress when moving from one facility to another. Texas ISDs should already be doing this; there’s no reason TYC could not implement a similar system. The same goes for setting a specific daily schedule for TYC educational programs.

If the agency could accomplish all this — and to succeed, TYC would require funding for increased educational staffing and professional development — it'd put youth on a better educational track when they get out (as nearly all, eventually will) and hopefully a better track for life.


Anonymous said...

Is everyone surprised? WHY...this has been going on for years. Its been reported long ago, but ignored; back in 2004. NOW someone actually listens...will anything be done? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

The new current spec ed director, Venita Farr, has been beating her head against the wall trying to get these services delivered. However, it's going to take cooperation from the principals, and the teachers following through with documented accomodations and modifications decided by the ARD committees. Therein lies the problem. There must be a committment from the principals and teachers.

Anonymous said...

Increased funding for educational staff? Lord, they just finished Rifs in Education, reducing teachers and aides and now they want money to add more? What are we doing here? With Rifs they have made class sizes bigger, did away with aides to help with special education kids, which none are used for helping kids by the way, just subbing and cleaning and hanging out.
This makes no sense!

Anonymous said...

I give up. That is simply not true. TYC is a public school just like any other and must abide by the same rules. As a matter of fact, kids that fell through the cracks in the free ended up getting help and a proper diagnosis a TYC. Keep in mind that the majority of TYC youth are behind. This is due to learning disabilities, behavior, home life and often simply not going to school at all. For the first time, at TYC they are attending classes regularly and getting special help and eventually their GED's. I know no one will believe me, but I don't care because I am speaking the truth. I know this much, TYC is blacklisted and nothing good is going to be said about them. The special education issue was extremely improtant at TYC. They had ARDS,parents were called and everything else. TYC has some wonderful teachers dedicated to helping the youth. I am so sick and tired of all of this. I'm nobody, I'm not a teacher I'm not in he in crowd in Texas politics so what I say doesn't matter to anyone, but I feel better at least having said it.

Anonymous said...

If youth are not recieving services now, it is due to all of the chaos and rifs taking place.

Anonymous said...

I agree, these kids came to TYC failing , behind and not receiving what they needed to succeed due to their own behaviors towards school.

Now that it is showing up that these kids are so far behind, TYC is taking the blame and saying TYC let them down. TYC can not work miracles and no one else can except our maker.

The soap box has swung to TYC since the scandel and now its education that is failing the kids.
You can not take a 15 minute tour of education depts and know how it really is in a classroom.

No one believes that you have to have the kids wanting an education to give them one. They are not motivated to learn, they could careless about school in TYC and teachers can not force them to do anything.

Including the testing that is done to see if they have improved. This exact attitude was the one they had that got them into this lack of education and services.
But you have to have some one to blame as with any subject matter, there has to be a fall guy.
If anyone has any way to motivate, make a kid learn, stay in school and get the best education they can, then they better be telling it and we can fix this world in TYC and public school.
I will admit, I am educated, have two degrees, husband is educated with one degree and our youngest son would not finish highschool. We took him our selves, took away his car and what ever else we could do to him and he would leave that school as soon as we dropped him off. He did later in life get his GED and has a good job now. But as a teenager he was not interested in school.

Anonymous said...'re asleep at the wheel. The lack of proper education and treatment in TYC has been lacking for years. It was reported several years ago. Don't blame it on the recent rif's. The rif's are the result of TYC not providing treatment and special education to youth for years. The time spent on crosswords and drawing has brought this to a head; should have been corrected by TYC many years ago.

Anonymous said...

The topic yet another example of how youth are "Raped by The State", in TYC. This terrible situation and tons of others were brought out in the book which exposed the true warehouse for Texas youth.

Anonymous said...

TYC schools are part of the public school system and subject to TEA rules. ARDS are conducted and all other necessary tests are administered. They had to comply with TEA rules. Special education servcices were initiated from day one in Marlin and continued on. You know, I'm just wasting breath. no one wants to hear anything that might contradict what they want to believe. I will say this, there are many, many dedicated teachers at the Texas Youth Comission that dedicated many hours to helping the youth. They did many creative and wonderful things with the kids in the time they had with them. Now, of course there are some bad teahcers, just like there are at other schools and there are other factors involved. All things considered, Great strides were made by many youth. If nonbody else knows, the kids whose lives were touched by a teacher know and a higher power than any of you certainly know and that is what ismost important. I just have to mention the comment about punitive(dirty, dirty word) isues that prevented youth from receiving education services. Sometimes, the youth were unable to move to the school due to sever behavior problems on the dorms. Under such circumstances it is not safe of fair to anyone for the youth to move to school. Movement would be delayed until behavior had stablized. When this happened, the teachers in many facilities would go to the dorm and attempt begin some type of educational activity. There was nothing punitive sanctioned by TYC that prevented them from going to school. It was the behavior of the youth that prevented them from attending school. I don't understand why people don't get that concept.
I would like to know some things so I am going to stop for real.
Please define special education services for me. I would like to know exactly what it was the 2/3 missed.
I would like to know what the punitive issues were that deprived the youth of school. I want data from the schools explaining in detail.
I would like to know what was wrong with the information reported by teachers at phase assessment review team. Please show me paperwork showing that youth did not have ards, testings, and special classes and that they did not have modified paces of learning. Please prove to me that that the caseworkers didn't modify pace of learning based on needs determined by school. Please prove that those PAT meetings accomplished nothing and that all of the paperwork was just bogus.
Next, tell me what any of you expect TYC to accomplish.
Do you expect to TYC to rehabilitate every youth in the state of Texas. Do expect TYC teachers to be able to reach and educate every single youth in TYC? and do it all.
do you expect TYC teachers to perform miracles and undo what took years to create. I'm not sure any of you fully understand what you are saying.
You expect TYC to do things that teachers and others in the free world would not be expected to do.
Consider that these youth have been on the streets in the free, not going to school, falling behind, getting in trouble, skipping school, doing drugs, running from house to house, not living at home, no one making them go to school, living in chaos etc.. for many years. I'm going to tell you now that there is no way Anybody can perform miracles other than God. Youth are in TYC for a short time. Accept the fact that many of them are just not going to improve despite best efforts. None of them are going to magicaslly start loving school. All things considered, TYC offers the youth more than many of them ever had access to in the free. Now they don't even have to have manners and they get to watch sattelite TV, even when they have had major problems. They were not taking care of themselves in the free. They were in trouble. All TYC or any other place or person can do is try. At some point everone must learn to be accountable for their behavior. Right now youth are asaaulting staff and receiving few consequences. The youth are considered the victim, the staff the criminal and the victims, the real victims, considered to be not nearly as important as the youth. Man, I'm done. I've ranted, I've rambled I've beaten my head. It doesn't matter. Let the youth and the adults out of jail and use the jails to house and punish former and current TYC staff.

Anonymous said...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink....

Anonymous said...

99.9% do not recieve special ed in public school.

So One-third is a step up.

Public School just makes sure you do not meet the criteria.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

B-I-N-G-O, 8:39!!!

That's exactly what I think is going on, and it's the most important, and most overlooked, part of the special ed issue - the failure of public schools to identify kids' learning disabilities and provide adequate special needs programming before TYC ever saw them. Same issue likely accounts for some of the high dropout rates, IMO. This isn't all on TYC and real solutions must extend beyond the agency.

Anonymous said...

8:39 I bet public schools would disagree with you!
Anytime a kid is getting modified test and teks and has an inclusion teacher and aide assigned to him or her and has an ARD meeting to discuss his failures and success and his IEP is changed to help him succeed and he takes a modified Taks test instead of the real deal to graduate, unlike the reg.ed kid, He is recieving Special Ed Services!
Now if you believe your school or the schools of Texas are not accomadating these Special Education Students then I suggest you write a formal complaint with TEA on that school district and they will be on them like flies on horseshit!

One more , the Parents of the kids also can see to it they are serving the kids, if they don't then the parents SUE your school district for big bucks and YOUR taxes pays for that Lawsuit. If they find it True they WIN.. So go figure that Public school districts would just ignore Special Ed kids like everyone seems to believe! Same for TYC, win big bucks over Federal Law Violations.

Anonymous said...

There are many registered sex offenders who were juvenile offenders and have been on the registry for several years. There are other juvenile offenders on the registry who are STILL juveniles. Most of the juvenile offenders on the registry have spent some time with TYC.

I don't know if any of the kids I've seen on the registry needed Special Education services, or other services. I do know that the registry shows the transformation of these juvenile offenders once they are caught in the system. There are "juvenile" offenders who are now in their mid to late 20s. Some offenders have been in and out of the system. If you look at the offender's picture when he/she was first placed on the registry, then follow him/her through to the most recent photo, there is no disputing it. The pictures will haunt you.

I've often wondered what these kids have been able to accomplish. Did TYC provide the services they needed? I've seen enough to believe it is possible TYC has missed the mark with quite a few kids. The word "warehouse" has come to my mind a few times.

Anonymous said...

On identifying Special Ed kids, look at the new changes the Government has put on Teachers and Adminstrators for identifying them.

The rule use to be if you think he needs the special ed flag, then let him have it. Now the push is < We have to many kids recieving Spec Ed services so it can take a year to get a kid into Spec Ed now. Its called RTI, Response to Intervention, which has several tiers to it, before you can even think of having someone test a child for Spec Ed. You must have the approval of the Parent, to test or put a child into special Ed. You don't just flop him in there cause you think he needs it.

Tons of paper work and reports and documentation on a child before he is even considered for Spec Ed. If the parent want sign or come to the school to discuss it, kid is out of luck. Must have a parents ok to do anything for a kid these days. Mama don't want little Johnny in the program, he is out of luck. Its a no go.

Anonymous said...


Seeking parental approval in Special Ed is not new - at least as far as the law is concerned. I know of no difference between the old law and the new law that took effect over two years ago in that arena

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

You are correct, my point is that if the kids parent does not approve of the kid going into spec ed it can not happen and its not the fault of the school district.

Anonymous said...

The problem is you are all.....looking for the easiest way out...TYC dropped the ball and the rest of you so called public school education adminstrators, don't want to help these youth. Its easier to stamp them or label them , than to help them; And, YOU are school administrators? Thanks for all the help you have not given to these problem youth.

Anonymous said...

I repeatedly see youth who have been in TYC for extended periods of time but have not even received GED prep classes. This is a major issue, all around, about meeting the needs and providing opportunities for youth to achieve their own goals (i.e. GED vs. diploma).

Anonymous said...

Under both federal and state law, schools must evaluate and identify children suspected of having disabilities (including learning disabilities), even if the parents do not first ask for special education testing or services.

Under the new federal law, a school can evaluate a student without the consent or cooperation of the parent. However, the school still cannot provide special education and related services to the student unless the parent has agreed to allow that – or unless the school has taken the parent to a due process hearing to have a hearing officer impose orders.

If the school cannot identify a parent, cannot find a parent or the student is a ward of the state, the school can get an “educational surrogate parent” assigned for the child to stand in the place of the parent in terms of making educational decisions for the student. This surrogate parent means a person trained and appointed to represent a student with a disability in matters relating to the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), including identification, evaluation and placement.

GED is not a special ed service. GED is not required by law, but special ed services are.

Anonymous said...

Ged prep classes are non-exsisting on some campuses. Adminstrator say you do that in classrooms in content areas. That is not possible but it is a way to say you have it on paper.
It is also so about getting the numbers in that you tested so many to raise those numbers. They are testing MR kids that have no way of ever passing that test. Kids who barely can read are tested. It is just insane. Oh, we are testing them for GED, but the outcome is always a failure.
Hate to add to the "sorry school" but don't blame teachers, blame the big guns for that one! You do as your told.

Anonymous said...

According to a news article, looks like there is a possiblity of some TYC closures. When they turn all of these kids out on the streets of our city, wonder what the blogs will say then about TYC.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Grits post above, there's no doubt that public school has failed many of these kids before they get to TYC. But, if you think you are going to force public school into action, think again. You'll be bucking the public school lobby, teachers lobby, and the largest single cash cow in the state.

Anonymous said...


Been there and done that.
Can't be touched !
Start calling lawyers today and tell them you want to take action against your public school.
You will find the same answer.
I can't do that it would be a conflict of interest.

The only thing public in our schools today is our money.

They will use it against you too.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are overpaid and most underpreform with the kids. Get real....teaching sucks in Texas, bacause of lousey teachers.