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Leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act To Improve Educational Services in Juvenile Justice Facilities

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2018
12 pages
This policy brief provides education and juvenile justice leaders, as well as state and local policymakers with information about how they can use requirements under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to improve education and workforce outcomes for youth in long-term juvenile justice facilities.
Research shows that more than one-third of youth who are incarcerated in the United States are eligible for special education services. In addition, just over half of youth who are incarcerated have reading and math skills significantly below their grade level; and as many as 60 percent have repeated a grade. Yet educational programs and schools in long-term juvenile justice facilities are rarely held accountable by the state for the provision of quality services and for ensuring that youth are improving their academic performance or gaining a credential similar to what they would earn at traditional public schools. The ESSA provides states with an opportunity to focus on education for youth who are incarcerated by creating a structure that holds these programs and schools accountable. ESSA, which was signed into law on December 10, 2015, underscores a commitment to uphold high educational standards for all students, and it aims to improve the one-size-fits-all approach to education associated with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Under ESSA, all states must "annually measure for all students and separately for each subgroup of students several indicators used to hold public schools accountable for students performance." ESSA positions state policymakers and education and juvenile justice leaders to cooperate in developing a statewide accountability system that is inclusive of educational programs and schools within juvenile justice facilities, while accounting for these institutions' context and student populations. This policy brief guides them in this endeavor.