Classworks Partners with Corrections Agency to Transform Learning

March 22, 2018
“Providing quality education for people inside prison, coupled with greater support upon release, carries the very real possibility of transforming the inmates into community champions of change.” New York Times

 

Department of Corrections programs across the country are embracing education as a powerful tool to break the cycle of recidivism. Inmates enrolled in prison education programs are much less likely to re-enter the prison system, according to recent studies. With a national recidivism rate of 67%, correctional spending is high, and long-term cost efficiency is urgent. And, the benefits of education programs to the inmates are far-reaching.

A high percentage of today’s inmates don’t have a GED or high school diploma. For them, prison education programs mean a second chance to become a contributing member of their community–breaking the pattern of poverty and incarceration.

Classworks recently embarked on a partnership with the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC).

How does it work?

When an inmate arrives at a facility, they are given a Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). The results inform the grade level assigned to each student. After assessing the students’ needs, inmates who haven’t received a high school diploma are encouraged to take part in the education program.

The need for online, individualized instruction

Students participating in the education program are learning at all different grade levels. Enter Classworks. Classworks is online math and language arts instruction combined with the tools to automatically provide individualized lessons for every student.

Classworks is used to screen every student and automatically generate an Individualized Learning Path matched to their specific learning needs at their exact level. Students discreetly and independently work on activities at the grade and skill level they are ready to learn. Imagine a class of 20 - 30 students, all at different learning levels. With Classworks, each of the students is automatically getting lessons just for them!

Classworks allows students to work on assignments tailored to meet their needs. Students love it because it’s interactive and engaging. And, it's an excellent measuring tool that helps teachers find weak areas for students.

For many who struggle with remedial reading and math skills, having access to these activities opens doors previously locked for them. Many inmates have never been able to fill out a job application. Prison education programs give inmates more of an opportunity to return to society with a way to provide for themselves and for their families.

Defining success

The goal is for students to grow one-grade level every 60 hours. Classes typically meet four to five times per week for about two hours. Students are re-administered the TABE at the end of each 60-hour period to determine growth.

If students are progressing rapidly, they are able to take a Classworks assessment to have new learning paths generated. Students do not have wait until they take the TABE to receive the appropriate lessons. They always have lessons to work on in class, enabling them to grow at their own pace.

The challenges

As a non-traditional classroom, Corrections facilities face unique challenges that require creative problem-solving. Wi-Fi access must be tightly controlled. This means that eight to ten students access the internet at a time via Ethernet ports. While this might seem like an obstacle, teachers have used this as an opportunity to provide small-group instruction and centers in addition to the individualized experience from Classworks.

Students receive whole group instruction as well as small group activities on the computer with a teacher’s aide. A group of students works at a Classworks station, while others collaborate on different assignments.

In the GDC’s 23 facilities, three technology specialists are responsible for training 200 teachers. However, Classworks provides teachers with access to live chat, making it easy to ask questions and receive real-time help. Classworks also delivers online training, eliminating some of the burden of travel and training across the regions.

Some older students are apprehensive about using classroom technology. Classworks content is designed to support students who are new to online learning. Pages are easy to navigate and provide audio, visual, and text support to guide students through their learning paths.

The benefits

The benefits are proven! Offenders who participate in education programs show lower rates of recidivism after three years--a 29% reduction. Ninety-five percent of offenders will re-enter the community. Education programs prepare them for re-acclimation as productive citizens. Imagine entering the system as a 40-year old who cannot read or write and leaving with a diploma! Education programs equip those incarcerated with the tools to take back their lives.

In some corrections agencies, the inmates’ academic achievements may also be reviewed during parole considerations. Points may be rewarded based on academic achievements. These points, in combination with several other factors, may qualify the inmate for a certain amount of time reduced. Upon release, inmates who complete an education program are more likely to find full-time employment compared to those who have not.

Classworks is designed to support students learning at any level. The ability to quickly assess a student and deliver the appropriate instruction is crucial due to the transitory nature of the prison education system. Classworks is excited to partner with the GDC to meet the needs of these students. Learn more about Classworks.

References:

Altschuler, David Skorton and Glenn. “College Behind Bars: How Educating Prisoners Pays Off.” Forbes Magazine, 26 Apr. 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2013/03/25/college-behind-bars-how-educating-prisoners-pays-off/#3d685d9a2707.

“Education.” Department of Corrections, www.dcor.state.ga.us/Divisions/InmateServices/Education.

“How Educating Inmates Benefits All.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/opinion/prison-inmates-education.html.

"Let Prisoners Learn While They Serve," The New York Times, 16 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/opinion/prison-education-programs-.html.

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