Juvenile detention school is accredited

Andy LaPorta of the Mohave County Juvenile Detention Center Education Department pulls a Buckle Down seventh-grade math book from a storeroom shelf. Buckle Down is a program for inmates that is aligned with state curriculum standards. TERRY ORGAN/Miner

Andy LaPorta of the Mohave County Juvenile Detention Center Education Department pulls a Buckle Down seventh-grade math book from a storeroom shelf. Buckle Down is a program for inmates that is aligned with state curriculum standards. TERRY ORGAN/Miner

KINGMAN - Mohave County Juvenile Detention Center inmates are not letting their educations slide while they are incarcerated.

When the facility opened more than five years ago, the Mohave County Juvenile Detention Center School came on board.

"The number of students in it fluctuates, but we accommodate the needs of the county," said Andy LaPorta of the education department.

"They not only work toward high school diplomas, but GEDs as well, and they get assignments and school work sent over from their regular schools."

Principal Donna Robles recently announced the school received accreditation for the 2005-2006 school year from the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.

Recognition of the achievement was given during the annual meeting of the NCA CASI in Chicago on April 5, 2006. However, word did not reach the MCJDC School until February as plaques and other material honoring the school had to be prepared, LaPorta said.

There was a further glitch in making the announcement public until last week.

LaPorta led the accreditation team that included Marianne Huffer, Angela Chavez and Susan Fellows.

"Our team worked very hard at gaining accreditation," LaPorta said.

"We want to be a part of every educational opportunity the kids would experience. We pursued it and got it."

He added that NCA CASI accreditation puts the focus on improvement of the school. The process looks at how school staff analyzes student performance data, identifies areas of weakness and develops clear goals and plans for improvement.

In order to augment student awareness, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards high school and dual-purpose assessment AIMS (for grades 6-8) testing was conducted this past spring, as it is in public and charter schools.

"We had an 80 percent (approaching the state standards or better) success rate in reading and writing for our AIMS high school students," LaPorta said. "Math results are pending.

"In the DPA Aims we had a 62 percent success rate in all three subject areas for our middle school students."

"It just goes to show the strength in our community that the schools are doing their jobs and we're trying to augment student awareness."

Two teachers work with juvenile inmates five days per week in core subject areas, splitting four hours per day into two sections.

One instructs in math and science for two hours, while the other teaches language arts and social studies for two hours.

The Buckle Down Publishing program from Indiana is utilized for core instruction.

"Buckle Down prepares the lesson plans for teachers and aligns subject matter with all state standards," LaPorta said.

Students also receive health instruction twice weekly through curriculum from Health Smart, a national program.

Homework is assigned, just as in other schools.

Instruction is supplemented with guest speakers from the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Department of Game & Fish, and private businesses both large and small as a community outreach effort.

"We also give out certificates of participation to students for the Literacy Education and Resource Network," LaPorta said.

"Kids get on computers and do New Century math and reading to supplement grade level specific abilities. It challenges them every day as they advance through a progressive program."

Students who are behind grade level skills participate in a summer school program involving reading, writing and math.

The staff of the school also includes special education teachers to meet those needs, he said.