An Overview of School Performance Reports in Correctional Education
Silverberg, David A., Dowdell, John J., Sikula, John P., Journal of Correctional Education
School Performance Reports, sometimes referred to as School Report Cards, are an increasingly effective and popular method for collecting program data in Correctional Education. This Overview presents the results of a study examining the current applications of Correctional Education School Report Cards. After inquiring with Offices of Correctional Education from all 50 states, eight (8) State Directors, or their representatives, were interviewed for the study. Findings are intended to identify and to share examples of the use of school performance reports in U.S. adult correctional education programs.
There is minimal state data on prison education regarding enrollments, completions, degrees received, test scores, etc."
"Federal and State justice, corrections and education departments must collaborate to get the data needed to judge the reach and effectiveness of prison education and training programs."
Locked Up and Locked Out: An Education Perspective on the U.S. Prison Population.
(Coley R, Barton, P., 2006)
School Report Cards
Accountability has become the hallmark of today's educational landscape. States, districts and schools have developed ways to demonstrate effectiveness for the purposes of improved practice, communication, and advocacy. Report Cards use outcome-based data, such as test scores, contextual data, and demographics, to evaluate the quality of programs. Report Cards can be an appealing and revealing way to deliver complex information about performance.
The Report Card movement began in 1969, when Congress authorized the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or The Nation's Report Card," to answer pressing questions about student achievement. Topics of interest included student content mastery in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, citizenship and the arts. Today, "Policymakers, educators, and parents rely on the national and state data from NAEP to help them understand how their state's performance compares to the national average and to that of other states, and to assess the extent to which the performance in their state is moving forward or falling behind." (NAEP, 2005)
School Report Cards coalesced in 2003 as a byproduct of President George W. Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which required annual testing in reading and math for all students in grades 3-8. These Report Cards are based on state-wide achievement goals and are used to evaluate the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) of schools, school districts, and the state as a whole. Student achievement is categorized as advanced, proficient, or basic and student subgroups are organized by gender, disability, income, English proficiency, race, ethnicity, and migrant status. Schools that do not meet state expectations for AYP are labeled as Needing Improvement, Corrective Action, or Restructuring.
The AYP is celebrated for, "providing more - and more accurate information about school and student performance than we've ever had before." (Hall, Wiener, Carey, 2003) Kurt M. Landgraf, president and CEO of Educational Testing Services (New Jersey), endorses this approach for its attention to demographic subgroups as well as to school factors such as time on task, teacher qualifications, instructional practices, preparation and placement, and alignment of curriculum to the standards. (Landgraf, 2003). AYP is also helpful as a vehicle for data collection on key administrative issues such as graduation rates and school accreditation.
There also has been some criticism of School Report Cards. Grievances include constricted teacher creativity, "teaching to the test", counter-productive student stress, incompatibility of state scores, and widening achievement gaps.
"...it is possible that the state assessment will continue to give a false impression of progress [compared to the more rigorous, national NAEP Standards], shortchanging our children and encouraging more investment into a failed test driven accountability reform policy. This problem can be more serious for schools that serve predominantly disadvantaged minority students." (Lee, 2006)
The use of report cards is clearly on the rise in spite of perceived imperfections. While arguing for the proliferation of report cards in adult education, Larry Condelli of the American Institutes for Research (Washington, D.C.) points out that "report cards have recently been developed for community colleges, health care providers, hospitals, doctors, auto dealers, and insurance companies - even the City of New York's subway system." (Condelli, 2005) He points out that "the use of report cards offers a chance to build public support for adult education, inform students and others about quality, and highlight program accountability." (Condelli, 2005)
Correctional Education also evidences an increased use of data-driven reports. The United States Department of Education and MPR Associates, Inc. (Washington, D.C.) have developed The Correctional Education Data Network (www.cedatanetwork.org ) to improve "the quality and comparability of state and national data." (CEDN, 2007) Report cards are seen as a practical extension of this movement. In his presentation at the 2007 Correctional Education Association Conference (Atlanta), John Linton, head of the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Correctional Education, reinforced that "report cards...are all about putting data to use." (Linton, 2007) Assessing current practices in the use of report cards in correctional education provides a valuable resource for continued improvement and implementation.
In an effort to assess the status of School Report Cards in Correctional Education, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Correctional Education collaborated on a qualitative study with John Dowdell, Director of Ashland University's Gill Center for Business and Economic Education (Ohio). On January 24th, 2007, Dowdell mailed an informal survey to each of the 50 State Directors of Correctional Education (adult correctional systems) with the primary purpose of identifying adult state correctional education systems which use school report cards and to invite participation in formal interviews. Twenty-six (26) of the states responded (Table 1) and eight (8) agreed to be interviewed for the study (Table 2).
Formal interviews with State Directors, or their representatives, took place between July 6th and July 11 th during the 2007 Correctional Education Association Conference (Atlanta) and by phone through August 3rd. Mr. Dowdell and David Webb, Director of Outreach Programs for Ashland University's Gill Center, conducted the 15 to 50-minute interview sessions. The following three (3) questions were asked and hand-written notes were recorded.
1. You reported that your state correctional education department uses a school performance report. Please describe it.
2. Why did your state correctional education department decide to implement school performance reports?
3. Prior literature contends that effective school performance reports are comprised of five components. Please describe how your state correctional system addresses each of the following:
a. The definition of the school performance report purpose and audience.
b. How the school performance report measures are selected.
c. How the evaluative criteria are determined.
d. How the actual school performance report is formatted.
e. How the school performance report is used and disseminated.
Data from the interviews were safely stored and analyzed by both Dowdell and Dr. David Silverberg, Assistant Professor in the Schar College of Education at Ashland University (Ohio) and primary author of this report.
Description and Motivation
The first interview question, which focused on descriptions of the report cards, yielded the kind of varying results that invite a revised line of questioning in future studies. The second interview question focused on the motivation behind implementing school report cards. The data indicate that there are four main reasons that states have implemented school report cards in correctional education: School Improvement; State Quality Initiatives; State Mandates; and Funding.
School Improvement. Interviews showed that school report cards are used to evaluate and improve program quality. The correctional education professionals interviewed consistently reported that the primary purpose of school report cards should be to improve performance. Interviews of state directors of correctional education engaged in school performance reporting revealed two major points of agreement about the school improvement function of school report cards: 1) that they greatly contribute to the success of the school and allow it to perform at a higher level; and 2) that the formation of school improvement teams are vital to the implementation process. (Lawrence, 2007; Mechlinski, 2007).
The main purpose of implementing school performance reporting in Maryland was to increase student achievement" quoted Mark Mechlinski, State Director of Correctional Education. Maryland began its school performance reporting process by forming school improvement teams which identified school improvement goals for Maryland correctional education and composed a school improvement plan for each institution in the State's correctional education system. The school improvement teams have identified eight (8) system-wide goals for school improvement:
1) Student Attendance Rates
2) GED Test Pass Rate
3) Number of GEDs Awarded
4) Basic Literacy Program Completion Rate
5) Intermediate Literacy Program Completion Rate
6) Advanced Literacy Program Completion Rate
7) Occupational Program Completion Rate
8) Overall Correctional Education Drop-Out Rate
Annual performance standards are developed by the school improvement teams to measure achievement of these stated goals and the level of performance expected has been raised as Maryland correctional education programs have achieved the annual standards. The results are evident in the school performance data. Student attendance rates have been raised from 87% prior to the school improvement teams in Maryland to over 96% in 2006 (Mechlinski, 2007).
Other State Directors of Correctional Education also stated the importance of school improvement in their school performance reporting processes. Richard Rice, Director of Assessment and Evaluation, described how Missouri uses the school report cards as an "indicator of school improvement, enrollment, and student progression." (Rice, 2007). Owen Modeland, Superintendent of Schools for the Department of Corrections, some inconsistency in the amount of information given to identify individuals in Oklahoma. He shared how school report cards are used "...for internal quality control, to measure what we do" (Modeland, 2007). Don Lawrence, Director, Division of Operational Support, Windham School District, Texas, explains that "We live in an age of accountability...if [correctional education] is important enough for us to do, then it is important for us to measure the impacts." (Windham School District, 2005-2006) And Betty Abbott, Correctional Education Program Manager, Wyoming, states firmly that school report cards are used "...to measure what is working....." (Abbott, 2007).
School report cards are intended to be a tool for school improvement and the interviews conducted in this study strongly affirm that school improvement is the foremost reason for the use of them in correctional education.
State Quality Initiatives. School report cards are used as an assessment tool for state quality initiatives. In Indiana, each state agency has a strategic plan which establishes benchmarks against which the departments are measured; in Virginia, the correctional education system has adopted the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL), which for the K-12 environment "describe the commonwealth's expectations for student learning and achievement...." (Virginia Department of Education, 2007). The study's interviews show that school report cards are valuable data collection instruments which document correctional education's contribution to state quality initiatives and contribute to safe correctional institution environments by creating incentives for positive inmate behavior during confinement (Lawrence, 2007).
State Mandates. School report cards in correctional education are forming a parallel with performance reporting requirements in public education and adult education. This is evidenced by the 1993 Mandatory Literacy Act in Oklahoma, which requires that all inmates testing below 8.0 grade level performance at intake into the department of correction be referred to the correctional education system. Similar mandatory education laws for lower functioning prisoners have been enacted in other states. State lawmakers are consistently requesting, and demanding, accurate reporting of inmate education performance and using it in the development of state policy and mandates.
Funding. School report cards are used as an instrument to generate funding from federal programs (USDL, Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Title 1), as well as state performance-based programs. Several state correctional education officials reported in the interview process that they distribute school report card data to key legislators and that it is important in building the case for continued funding within their state. In Indiana, for example, the Office for Management and Budget sets benchmarks for all state departments, correctional education to be included, which are used as bases for the allocation of state funding.
The second interview question also produced data about the history of school report card implementation, which show a pattern of being developed in the 1990s in Missouri (1992, approx.), Virginia (1994), Oklahoma (1995), Texas (1995), and Maryland (1996).
Components. The third interview question addressed how each state addressed five components of school report cards. Results indicate that further study is needed on two of these areas: 1) the definition of school report cards, and 2) the evaluative criteria used to assess their effectiveness. Substantive results formed around three key issues : Measures of Performance; Formatting; and Nature of Use.
Measures of Performance. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is being adapted to correctional education systems from the K-12 environment. In Indiana, correctional education is held accountable for the statewide AYP goal of pass rates on the General Qualifying Exam which is used in all public K-12 education. This was, however, the only state in which the interviewers found that the same testing mechanism for AYP was being used in both public and correctional education. Most states have adopted The Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) as the normed test of choice for measuring AYP, as the TABE is widely used as a measure of educational achievement in the correctional intake of U.S. inmates. In Texas, for example, correctional education AYP is defined by the Windham School District (the statewide correctional education school system) as a .6 grade level/year improvement on the TABE. Statewide correctional education student performance is then reported in the school report card for the Windham District according to the following percentages of inmates meeting this goal:
<55% Academically Unacceptable
55 - 64 % Acceptable
65 - 74 % Recognized
> 75 % Exemplary
Maryland Director of Correctional Education, Dr. Mark Mechlinski, reported that his state correctional education system developed the previously referenced eight (8) performance goals for its school report card. Two of the performance indicators are the same as the Maryland public schools: attendance rates and school drop-out rates. The remaining goals are based on correctional education student achievement on the General Educational Development (GED) test: the number of annual GED awarded and the GED pass rates for correctional students; and program completion rates in the following programs: basic literacy, intermediate literacy, advanced literacy, and occupational programs.
Interviews showed that General Educational Development (GED) test performance is widely tracked and used for comparison with public adult education and is one of the key AYP measures that correctional educators use to track performance. In Missouri, the correctional education GED pass rate exceeds the state's GED pass rate. School report cards also are used as a means to organize and interpret data about educational programs (e.g., budgets, teacher data, cost per student, class size, completion rates) student demographics (e.g., age, race, sex, educational achievement), and correctionsspecific student demographics (e.g. criminal offense, security level, correctional facility data).
Formatting. While some proprietary data programs are used to shape the look and feel of school report cards, formatting generally varies based on the reporting/data systems developed by the respective state. The Windham School District also posts its report card on the internet: http://www.wsdtx.org. A CDROM was developed with examples of the school performance report of both Maryland and Texas for this report and is available by contacting the Ashland University Gill Center, or by visiting the Journal of Correctional Education website: www.ashland.edu/correctionaled/.
Dissemination. Interviews revealed that most correctional education programs do not actively or widely disseminate school report cards. One state reported that data are collected and compiled, but are provided on an "as requested" basis to the legislature. Questions remain about why data are not publicized to stakeholders, funding agencies, and the media with more frequency.
Funding Agencies. Interviews indicate that school report cards in correctional education are an important vehicle for making budgetary improvements. In Oklahoma, for example, student "achievement credits" (time earned off inmate sentences for completion of education programs) are translated into the amount of state/taxpayer money saved per day of incarceration within the state's corrections system. These improvements are often communicated with state legislators.
This study highlights high-quality correctional education school report cards and invites comparisons between the school report cards used in correctional education and those used in K-12 education. School report cards have truly reshaped the landscape of public K-12 education by providing a data platform through which school programs can be evaluated and improved.
Likewise, school report cards have the potential to transform correctional education toward the culture of continuous improvement. One of the greatest challenges that faces correctional education is the wide variety of data collection and reporting that exists in the field. All the correctional education professionals interviewed in this study remarked that they are increasingly being asked to report data, yet they are sometimes concerned about how the data are generated and used.
The Maryland State Department of Education Adult Correctional Education Program Policy and Procedures Manual (2007) states...First, it gets educational systems away from a variety of initiatives. Systems have launched many initiatives and spent hours drawing up vision and mission statements. However, these efforts have occurred in the near absence of any explicit intention to monitor, adjust, and increase student learning and achievement. School performance reporting, by definition, pulls together data collection and formatting into a system which enables personnel to improve school performance and accountability. To a great extent, the viability of correctional education is dependent on the ability of local, state and federal administrators to provide legislators with relevant and reliable information of the impact of education on prisoners. This often boils down to the ability to document program efficiency and effectiveness, and yes, even a cost-benefit analysis, for correctional education programs. School report cards have the potential to allow policy-makers the opportunity to review correctional education from a data-driven perspective rather than from an emotional bias that can arise when discussing the "educating of inmates."
High Quality Correctional Education School Report Cards
One of the goals of this study was to identify examples of the use of school performance reports in correctional education. The study used criteria provided for the K-12 arena in A Guide to Effective Accountability Reporting (Fast, 2002) as the framework for assessing the quality of the school performance reports in correctional education. The Fast Guide states, "...an effective report is one that presents a coherent message, supports valid interpretations and communicates this message in a way that is accessible and useful for the right people in the right way at the right time." (Fast)
This study's authors found examples of high quality school report cards in use in Maryland and Texas correctional education systems. These two examples were identified as high quality school report cards in correctional education because:
1) The reports are based in a clear and intentful school improvement process with annual goal setting and measurement;
2) The systems use input from school improvement teams to form and evaluate the process; and
3) The school performance report data are organized and disseminated in clear and formal documentation which can be used by educators and policy-makers to shape the school improvement and accountability discussion.
Maryland. Maryland produces the annual Maryland School Performance Report as well as a Fiscal Year Report. The Maryland School Performance Report includes a clear, goal-oriented directive: The Correctional Education program is accountable for measurable progress in the eight data based areas." (Maryland State Department of Education, 2006). Each of these goals is measured by specific standards for "Satisfactory" and "Excellent," as shown in Table 3. The Fiscal Year Report compares these data by year and school.
Texas (Windham School District). The Windham School District of Texas posts an Annual Performance Report on its website, . It identifies Significant Accomplishments; Mission a Goals; Student Demographics; Degrees and Certificates Awarded; Fiscal Revenues and Expenditures; Costs Per Participant and Contact Hour. It also provides itemized statistics for each of the district's five divisions:
* Administrative and Business Services
* Continuing Education
* Human Resources
* Operational Support
Actual school reporting formats used by Maryland and Texas are included on a CD-ROM which accompanies this study. The CD is also available by contacting the Ashland University Gill Center, or by visiting the Journal of Correctional Education website: www.ashland.edu/correctionaied/ .
The authors of this report recommend that states develop an Action Plan based on Fast's A Guide to Effective Accountability Reporting (2002). In the Guide, she states that "regardless of the resources available to the agency - from staff to information management systems - there are some basic process elements to consider:" (Fast)
1. Take stock of the current reporting system,
2. Form the design team,
3. Review other agencies' reports,
4. Design a dissemination plan, and
5. Sketch out the reports.
She goes on to state that "an effective report is:" (Fast)
* Easy to read and clearly states a well-defined message that stakeholders can understand and use;
* Accessible to the target audiences, both physically and linguistically;
* Accompanied by adequate interpretive information;
* Supported by evidence that the indicators, other information, and suggested interpretations are valid;
* Coordinated with other reports within the reporting system:
- Across paper and electronic versions of the report cards, and
- Across report cards and assessment reports.
Interviews indicate key issues to consider when assessing the effectiveness of correctional education programs. The use of recidivism in data is one such issue.
Does recidivism data have a place in school performance reporting in correctional education? Owen Modeland, Superintendent of Schools for the DOC, Oklahoma, makes a strong case for school report cards that "provide reliable data for taxpayers...and prove that correctional education can make tax-payers out of tax-takers" (Modeland, 2007). Indiana, Wyoming and Texas indicate interest and/or plans to include recidivism data in their school report cards and Maryland emphasized recidivism data collection as a way to analyze a program's return on investment.
The impact of recidivism data is so prevalent in correctional education that some correctional education systems even were established by statue to address the issue of recidivism. For example, the Windham School District in Texas was established by state law to address the following goals:
1. Reduce recidivism;
2. Reduce the cost of confinement or imprisonment;
3. Increase the success of former inmates in obtaining and maintaining employment; and
4. Provide an incentive to inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement or imprisonment, (http://www.wsdtx.org)
A secondary issue linked to reducing recidivism via correctional education is the inclusion of reentry program data in school report cards. Re-entry programming involves the delivery of education and services to inmates before and after their release from prison to ensure that they have the resources to successfully transition back to society. As such, correctional education systems are viewed as an integral part of the delivery of re-entry programming in U.S corrections.
Interviews of correctional education officials conducted for this study indicate the re-entry program measures may provide data that are important to consider in the development of school report cards for correctional education. Several of the state correctional education officials reported that they are either currently compiling re-entry data for their school report cards, or they are planning to do so in the future. Some of the re-entry issues that are being considered include: former inmate employment rates after release, placement rates in vocations where education took place, and post-secondary education enrollment rates.
School report cards are a meaningful way to track and to improve the effectiveness of correctional education. By incorporating school report cards, correctional education institutions benefit from decades of development in the K-12 arena. School Report Cards in correctional education are currently employed In several states, including exemplary formats in Maryland and Texas. This important form of assessment is a contemporary and vital way to better realize school improvement, program accountability and the advancement of best practice in correctional education.
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Dr. DAVID SILVERBERG is an Assistant Professor of Education, Curriculum 8 Instruction, in the Schar College of Education at Ashland University. David has published and presented nationally and internationally on issues of character education and teaching methods.
JOHN DOWDELL is the Director of the Gill Center for Business and Economic Education at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. John has over 25 years experience in correctional education and currently serves as the Co-Editor of the Journal of Correctional Education.
Dr. JOHN SIKULA is Vice President of Regional Centers and Outreach at Ashland University. He oversees the Correctional Institution programs. He has won numerous local, state and national awards for research and writing.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: An Overview of School Performance Reports in Correctional Education. Contributors: Silverberg, David A. - Author, Dowdell, John J. - Author, Sikula, John P. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Correctional Education. Volume: 59. Issue: 1 Publication date: March 2008. Page number: 33+. © Correctional Education Association Dec 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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