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UMass Donahue Institute study finds significant improvements in DYS education programs

BOSTON — Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby and Department of Youth Services (DYS) Commissioner Jane Tewksbury today announced that significant improvements have been made in the education services provided to youth in the state’s juvenile justice system. A report conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, assessed the impact of three years of active reform to improve the quality of education programming.

Secretary Bigby, whose office oversees DYS, said, "Our highest priority is to provide youth with genuine opportunities for personal growth and development that will serve them throughout their lives. This independent evaluation reflects the thoughtful and strategic manner in which the Department of Youth Services has undertaken an ambitious and comprehensive education initiative and the already strong impacts of those reform efforts."

The report’s findings show "remarkable progress in the development and implementation of key interventions and positive initial impacts." According to the study’s authors, "tangible evidence indicates important systemic changes to educational service delivery, support of student transitions, and overall system management. Important new programs, policies, and infrastructure are now in place, which have facilitated improvements in the stability and quality of the DYS teacher workforce, in the instructional resources and methods used in DYS classrooms, and in the operative culture in which teachers and students function each day."

A significant increase in the percentage of DYS youth passing the MCAS is consistent with the state’s ongoing commitment to education reform. Between 2002 and 2007, the percentage of DYS youth passing the Grade 10 English Language MCAS rose from 35% to 70%. Over the same period, the percentage of youth passing the Grade 10 Mathematics MCAS rose from 17% to 44%.

The report specifically identifies successfully implemented education reform strategies, including:

Educational Service Delivery

  • DYS has dramatically improved the competitiveness of education staff salaries in order to attract and retain well-qualified teachers
  • DYS has made substantial progress in the development and implementation of a system-wide curriculum approach supported with instructional guides, templates, and material resources
  • DYS and its partners have implemented an extensive professional development system and instructional coaching model.

Transition Services

  • DYS has identified a need for more robust employment pathways for appropriate DYS youth and is actively piloting and assessing new programs, and taking other steps, to support this need;
  • DYS has improved the infrastructure to support student transitions within DYS and into academic settings in the community. New models to facilitate transition are being pursued.

Education System Management

  • DYS has expanded its management capacity and educational expertise through use of external vendors;
  • DYS has improved its education system coordination and has taken important steps toward establishing more effective system-level accountability.

"The significant progress we’ve already made reflects the Department of Youth Services’ commitment to ensuring that the young people in our care and custody have the broad range of education services and supports they need and deserve," said Commissioner Tewksbury. "We still have work to do, but we are well on our way, and focused in our efforts to increase the number of DYS youth earning high school diplomas and GEDs."

About the Department of Youth Services (DYS):

The Department of Youth Services is the juvenile justice agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its mission is to protect the public and prevent crime by promoting positive change in the lives of youth committed to our custody, and by partnering with communities, families, government, and provider agencies toward this end. DYS accomplishes this mission through interventions that build knowledge, develop skills, and change the behavior of the youth in its care.

For additional information and to obtain a copy of the report, www.mass.gov/dys.

Related Documents:

Evaluation of the Department of Youth Services Education Initiative: Executive Summary (PDF 0.3 MB)
Evaluation of the Department of Youth Services Education Initiative: Final Report (PDF 1.0 MB)

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