Measuring Educational Opportunity in Juvenile Justice Schools
Every two years, the Office for Civil Rights, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, conducts a civil rights data collection that includes information about school demographics, course enrollment, discipline, and other measures of school-based experience. In 2013, the office collected data from schools identified as juvenile justice schools for the first time. These schools serve only students placed in secure facilities by law enforcement or courts, and there are approximately 50,000 young people across the country in these on any given day.
Because of their unique position and small student populations, juvenile justice schools are historically exempt from most common state and federal measures of education achievement. In fact, this 2013 data set offers the first opportunity to establish a data baseline across states.
However, in attempting to conduct an analysis of the available data from 2013, the Bellwether team discovered troubling inconsistencies in the data set that suggested inaccurate or incomplete data collection. In order to conduct a credible analysis, we cross-referenced the Office for Civil Rights data with residential facility census data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This revealed serious deficiencies in most states’ data; in fact, only 18 states provided credible data about enrollment and achievement in their juvenile justice schools.
We were able to draw some conclusions about higher-level math and science course access and enrollment from the available data. However, without more accurate and more nuanced data collection from the Office for Civil Rights, these conclusions are of limited utility to policymakers and program leaders. Both the conclusions and recommendations for improved data collection practices are presented in this deck.
Download the full slide deck here, or read it in the viewer below.