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Focusing on the Needs of Young Women
Date: January 08, 2008 10:41PM

The following article was written by Holly Audley, Education Director at Southern Oaks Girls School in Wisconsin. It appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of the CEA-Wisconsin newsletter. The complete newsletter may be found at www.ceawisconsin.org.

Focusing on the Needs of Young Women -- Southern Oaks Girls School
Union Grove, WI

Educational Philosophy

Educational programming within the juvenile corrections' framework is vital to rehabilitation and recovery processes. Each and every student committed to a juvenile correctional facility has the ability to improve upon current educational competency levels and must be provided with opportunities to experience consistent successes within academic and career and technical education settings.

Goal-formulation and achievement lead to improved self-concept and increased levels of self-confidence -- ultimately fostering belief in the power of the individual to contribute to her community. All juvenile correctional instructors and educational administrators are committed to the establishment and maintenance of a positive learning environment which intellectually challenges incarcerated students. The mission of Southern Oaks Girls School's education department is to provide relevant and contemporary academic and vocational education programming options which will maximize students' strengths while effectively addressing skill deficits.

How are Southern Oaks Girls School educators addressing the educational needs of incarcerated youth?

All students committed to Southern Oaks Girls School enter the facility's Reception Center and undergo in-depth evaluation and assessment. This evaluation includes the administration of the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-2nd Edition (WIAT-II), as well as base-line testing in the academic areas of Reading and Mathematics. Data gathered through the WIAT-II and baseline scoring processes, teaching staff observations, and cumulative academic record information may suggest the need for further assessment. A variety of assessment tools, each specific to the skill area of concern, may be administered by trained professional staff. Following this assessment process, an Individualized Case Plan is developed by a multidisciplinary treatment team. Educational goals and objectives are central to this plan.

Current academic programming consists of instruction in four basic curriculum areas: Mathematics, English, Social Studies, and Science, at both the Middle School and Senior High School levels. Southern Oaks Girls School's curriculum offerings are aligned with the State of Wisconsin Model Academic Standards in all content areas.

Southern Oaks Girls School offers a highly structured academic program. Students participate in educational programming from 7:20 a.m. through 6:20 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 7:20 a.m. to 4:10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Instructional hours are scheduled to allow for common class preparation/planning time. Educators utilize this scheduling format to collaboratively problem-solve strategies relative to meeting the needs of our most academically-challenged students.

Recreational therapy/physical education and ropes and challenge course sessions are also regularly scheduled and supervised. Such activities allow students to practice positive risk-taking skills, build self-confidence, and develop leadership skills -- skills which when generalized to academic settings, enhance motivation and performance.

How do we evaluate/@#$%& student progress?

Evaluation of academic gains is approached through the implementation of formalized testing (embedded within the design of the Division of Juvenile Corrections Case Management System), teacher-generated/designed assessment tools, and student surveys.

Information gleaned from such assessment is subsequently utilized in curriculum redesign and augmentation efforts; decision-making relative to necessary professional development opportunities; and instructional service provision adaptations --intensified need for remediation, one-on-one tutoring, alternate presentation formats to reflect students' learning styles, etc. Data trends indicate that students make academic gains equivalent to two grade levels throughout the average period of incarceration. All academic gains and credits earned within the juvenile correctional institutions are shared/forwarded to receiving educational institutions.

Life Work Education Initiative:

Southern Oak Girls School is committed to providing youth with meaningful School-to-Work opportunities. This commitment includes assisting youth in setting educational and career goals based on realistic and informed expectations about their skills and abilities, employment requirements, and future adult work roles. Development and implementation of a Life Work Education Plan (LWEP) increases the probability that youth will obtain and maintain meaningful employment upon returning to their communities. Life Work Education Planning entails more than the goal of merely finding an entry-level job. Ultimately, a Life Work Education Plan outlines what is needed to complete a career major. As one component of the Life Work Education Initiative, all SOGS Teachers are working with students toward the compilation of Career Development Portfolios. These portfolios will follow students into the community as tools for job search and educational planning and as a tangible demonstration of skills, abilities, and accomplishments.

Career and Technical Education Programming and Post-Secondary Study:

Career and technical education programming at Southern Oaks Girls School involves every student in exploratory Life Work Education programming and more formalized vocational training.

Exploratory work exposes students to a variety of career alternatives and facilitates the development of work-related decision-making and problem-solving skills -- ultimately enhancing success within employment and community contexts. Basic independent living skills, as well as effective interpersonal communication and social skills related to employability, have been integrated into all career and technical education areas at Southern Oaks Girls School.

Formal Vocational Programming involves instruction in the areas of Business and Computer Applications, College Keyboarding, and Microsoft Office Suite Programs. Southern Oaks Girls School has developed articulation agreements with nearby Gateway Technical College, Racine, Wisconsin -- allowing students to earn dual credit at both the senior high school and post-secondary levels upon successful completion of Southern Oaks course work.

Southern Oaks Girls School also offers post-secondary study options to all eligible students. Correspondence study through the University of Wisconsin Learning Innovations Program, Madison, Wisconsin has been consistently facilitated. Wisconsin Technical College System course work may also be facilitated via Southern Oaks Girls Schools Distance Learning Lab.

Beyond post-secondary course offerings, this two-way, full-motion video technology has greatly enhanced service provision at Southern Oaks Girls School. Facilitation of IEP Team Meetings via the system has allowed parents/guardians, field supervision staff, and public school district personnel who would otherwise be unable to travel to the Union Grove facility an active voice in the process. The Distance Learning Lab will continue to be utilized as a central component to SPED services, the DJC Life Work Education Initiative, transitional services related to education and employment, and post-secondary educational opportunities.

Southern Oaks Girls School's Academic and Career and Technical Education offerings are complemented by a wide variety of school-wide special events:

- Annual Ethnic Festival
- Partnership with the American Cancer Society resulting in a Relay for Life Event within the secure perimeter
- Life Work Education Quarterly Events -- including Career Day activities, a Career Wear Fashion Show, Fit for the Workplace¬°Xfocusing on maintaining physical and emotional health in order to perform effectively in the workplace, and Employability Workshops
- African American History Month Events
- Women's History Month activities including a Spring Art Show
- Collaboration with the Racine Optimists Club on youth-focused activities
- Law Day Events
- Restorative Justice Project quilting projects¬°Xincluding and ongoing relationship with Humanitarian Artist, Ann Miletich
- Collaborative relationships with UW-Whitewater's Math Department -- Math Carnival
- Student-facilitated Parent/Teacher Conferences
- Outback Experiential Learning Events
- Horticultural garden projects with Master Gardening Volunteers

An internet web page highlighting Southern Oaks Girls School's student-created projects; outlining teacher web resource links; and allowing for networking among correctional educators has been developed by Southern Oaks Girls School's (technology-obsessed) World Geography Teacher, Randy Kowalsky. Digital photographs of projects and activities described throughout this article can be viewed at the following World Wide Web address: www.sogsweb.com
by: Holly Audley,SOGS Education Director

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