Division of Youth Services ensures 90 percent of eligible youth receive their diploma or GED
Ensuring that eligible youth earn a high school diploma or GED is an important -- and challenging -- objective for the Division of Youth Services (DYS). Over the years, DYS has persistently focused on this C-Stat goal. In the last fiscal year, they made it! For 11 straight months, DYS ensured at least 90 percent of eligible youth received a diploma or GED. In five of those months, DYS hit 100 percent. The turnaround is a testament to the staff’s hard work, and is the reason why DYS received a C-Stat award.
To commemorate the accomplishment Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, and the entire CDHS senior management team presented awards to all the principals and teachers working with committed youth during a two-day strategic planning conference this week.
“We have two missions in youth services, one is to keep the community safe by keeping kids off the street who are a danger to the community. The second, equally, if not more important, is to rehabilitate youth while they are in our care, making certain that they leave us better off, more prepared to be successful in the community from which they came.” said Bicha.
“The research is abundantly clear, youth who have a high school education or better are far less likely to commit crimes in the community. It is in our mission to get more kids to leave us with a high school diploma or GED and to develop vocational skills that will translate into real jobs when they leave us. Today, we are here to say you have achieved and sustained our goal, thank you for a job very, very well done.” continued Bicha.
Last state fiscal year, DYS served approximately 650 committed young people in a juvenile justice facility. Youth in DYS return to their communities at the end of their commitment. It is in the interests of all Coloradans to help all young people involved in the juvenile justice system receive a diploma or GED and build the skills they need to find a job and become productive citizens.
Division Director Anders Jacobson, pictured left accepting the award on behalf of DYS, also thanked the staff for the good work that has happened over the months and years. “To see a change in our youth, and know that they are now looking at a trade school, community college or four year college or even greater, all comes back to the hands of the people here today. You are making the changes in education, and it’s one of the most important things we can do.”
To sustain this achievement DYS:
- Performed an exception analyses to determine the youth who did not attain their GED or diploma by discharge and the lessons learned.
- Improved processes and communication between principals and client managers working on education planning for youth.
- Aligned instruction to GED standards in order to mitigate potential negative impact of a more rigorous GED testing.
- Ensured GED accessibility for all applicable youth.
- Reviewed facility education programs to determine opportunities for improvement.
Special recognition was also given to several facilities for unique programs and efforts which contributed toward improving educational outcomes for young people in a juvenile justice facility.
Grand Mesa Youth Services Center, represented here by director Karin Pappadakis and staff, serves 40 youth. They implemented a 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative to engage our 'digital native' users in technology and learning. The school has provided intervention course work to allow for students to accelerate learning and have incorporated hands-on opportunities such as gardening and physical education. They maintain robust GED preparation courses and adapt courses to meet the learning styles and needs of all their youth.
Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center, represented here by principal Julie Porter and staff, have partnered to create safe, trauma-informed learning environments which are characterized by engaging instruction for all 148 youth. Teens Inc teachers have gone above and beyond by creating Advanced Placement prep coursework, implementing new tools for graphic design, engaging youth in delicious cooking challenges, and facilitating classroom discussions on history, science, and film. Their recent graduation ceremony of 36 youth was the largest in Lookout Mountain YSC's history.
Mount View Youth Services Center, represented here by principal Kim Ledden and staff, is uniquely poised to provide services to youth transitioning through the assessment process prior to placement and the youth who have rejoined the facility. They have successfully met the required deadlines for all youth needing educational assessment while also providing unique learning opportunities including hands-on science in looking at and identifying the contents of a regurgitated owl pellet or the biome of a stream on campus. The education staff has been making connections across contents, for example when planning a trip--a seemingly easy task but with many applications to grade-level content standards and the interests of youth.
Platte Valley Youth Services Center, represented by Weld District 6 principal Melanie Jones and staff, have formalized processes for the team to review student data and academic accomplishments through data teams and Response to Intervention meetings. The school team communicates with each other to assure that everyone understands the needs of each youth and works closely with the transition specialists to meet those needs for 55 students.
Central Office staff, represented by DYS education director Erin Osterhaus, while not directly serving youth in a facility, works closely with facilities to assist with state testing, career and technical education implementation and guidance, Title 1 grants, special education policy and procedures, data analysis, and more. Their various areas of responsibility and expertise are valuable to the educational efforts system wide.