Slammed Dunk

Delinquent reporting: I wanted to respond to your article commenting on our education programs ("Learning Disorder," Amy Silverman, December 13).

Given the negative tone of your article, it is important to note the great improvements that have been made in education programs. While this process began with the Johnson v. Upchurch federal consent decree, many classroom enhancements were implemented after the consent decree process was completed.

Those enhancements include a computer network and educational software in each classroom, greatly improved printed materials, and a number of new programs.

In addition, the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections has been blessed by a decrease in the number of youth who are being sent to our facilities. This number has fallen about 7 percent, from 1,020 in 1995 to 953 in 2000. We have been able to sustain teacher-to-student ratios that create an effective learning environment.

As you point out in your article, we have a tremendous challenge in providing relevant basic literacy education to students who often are behind their peers by at least two grade levels.

It's important to note, too, that 91 percent of these youth were not enrolled in school when they were sent to this department. They either dropped out of school, had serious school truancy histories, or were expelled. Given that the juvenile courts mandate lengths of stay that end up averaging slightly more than seven months, the window of time available to affect educational growth is limited. Nonetheless, the department places great emphasis on improving basic educational skills.

ADJC will continue to make education a central priority for all youth under its jurisdiction. The success of this policy is demonstrated by the fact that 341 youth -- about a third of the juveniles who went through ADJC secure facilities last year - earned a General Educational Development Diploma (GED) or an Eighth-Grade Certificate. The others earned credits they could apply toward a high school diploma. Another 181 youth took community college-level courses through ADJC after earning a GED.

This is a strong picture of success, given the population being served, but our improvement efforts continue. This department is working with public schools across the state to make it easier for these juveniles to move back into the public educational mainstream upon their release. We continue to face obstacles. Frequently, youth leave secure facilities in midyear, which creates challenges for school districts. In other cases, these youth created discipline problems in the past, which is an issue of concern for local school districts.

Your article also noted that the department's teachers currently are ineligible for the pay raises provided other school districts through Proposition 301, and that the department is not receiving Students First funding for facility improvements.

Now, Governor Jane Dee Hull is reviewing legislation that will provide department teachers with the same pay raises provided other teachers through Proposition 301. In addition, the efforts that helped to secure the Proposition 301 funding will support the Department's efforts to secure funding for capital improvements through Students First.

Finally, you correctly note that there is confusion surrounding Title 15, the portion of state statutes governing education. This department continues to work to clarify these issues, and plans to submit suggested improvements for the 2003 legislative session.

Steve Meissner
Public Information Officer
Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections

Foreign Affairs

From Russia with love: I read your article on adoption, the story of Jamie Moore ("For the Love of Jamie," Amy Silverman, December 6). While my heart goes out to the family, this is not the norm. My husband and I just recently completed an adoption from Russia. We have a beautiful little boy.

Please do a story on adoption from the other view. There are many families in the Phoenix area who have completed international adoptions without these problems. The road to adoption is pretty bumpy for all at times, but I hope you would tell a happy ending also.

Linda and Frank Peterson
via Internet

Stadium Mania

Cardinals at BOB: You go, girl ("Vanishing Act," Kristi H. Dempsey, December 13)! Makes (too much) sense to me. That's why I'm skeptical whether our community "leaders" would ever be able to cooperate, compromise and set aside all their egos and selfish, puerile interests to put it together. Too many kids in the sandbox.

J. DeMoss


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