RD193 - Education Program Review and Staffing Analysis: Teacher Ratios

Executive Summary:
For the last decade, both juvenile correctional center (JCC) and secure juvenile detention center populations have decreased. As a result of this decline, in the 2013 session, the General Assembly commissioned the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), to complete a program review and staffing analysis of educational programs in the JCCs and secure juvenile detention centers.

This study was mandated as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Budget. The specific provision requiring the report is as follows:

"Item 405.05. The Department of Juvenile Justice, with the assistance of the Department of Education, shall complete a program review and staffing analysis to determine the appropriate teaching staffing ratios for the state-operated juvenile correctional centers and local and regional juvenile detention facilities. The review and analysis shall be provided to the Secretaries of Public Safety and Education and to the Chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees by September 1, 2013."

DJJ completed a staffing review for its Division of Education and reported teaching staffing ratios for the Spring 2013, Summer 2013, and Fall 2013 Terms. After reviewing the staffing reductions in the DJJ Division of Education in 2013 and the federal and state laws regarding education, it is concluded that the staffing ratios for the DJJ Division of Education allow DJJ to provide an adequate level of services to committed residents. The teacher-to-student ratios for DJJ’s Yvonne B. Miller High School were between 1:7 and 1:8 for the Spring, Summer, and Fall 2013 Terms for all enrolled students. When extrapolated for special education student requirements, these ratios comply with the Virginia Administrative Code (8VAC20-81-320) former Department of Correctional Education (DCE) 1:10 special education staffing ratio requirement. (*1) If further reductions occur in the DJJ Division of Education, however, the level of educational services at DJJ could be compromised; state and federal laws may not be met; and the number of diplomas and General Education Development (GED) credentials earned could decrease.

VDOE also completed a staffing review of Virginia’s secure juvenile detention centers through which it was found that VDOE needs to maintain the current level of teaching staff in order to offer students core content, career and technical education (CTE), and elective classes taught by licensed and endorsed teachers.

VDOE and the DJJ Division of Education are also required to offer services to students with disabilities as required by state and federal law. It was found that, in light of the Commonwealth’s commitment to reducing the achievement gap and increasing graduation rates, it is crucial that the seat hours, grades, credits, and state-required tests students achieve while detained or committed become part of their academic record, and the current level of teaching staff is needed to fulfill this goal.

Since there are 24 independent local or regionally operated secure juvenile detention centers, it is recommended that at each facility there be content area certified teachers in each subject including, but not limited to, English, mathematics, science teacher, social studies, health and physical education, art or music, and focusing on alternative programs such as Individual Student Alternative Education Plan (ISAEP) and GED. In addition, each facility requires appropriately endorsed special education teacher (e.g., for learning disability or emotional disturbance identified students) should be assigned to each facility to ensure that the rights afforded to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are protected.
(*1) 8VAC20-81-320 (Additional responsibilities of state boards, agencies, and institutions for education and training of children with disabilities in residence or custody) is the VDOE’s regulation governing agency responsibilities for special requirements for educating students with disabilities in residence or custody. Subdivision C (11) of the regulation, relating to staffing, applies to the former Department of Correctional Education (DCE). Other subdivisions apply to other agencies, institutions, and groups of students with specifically identified disabilities. DJJ, for the purposes of this report, is using the former DCE ratio as the ratio requirement in completing this report.