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Merging Two Worlds: A Transition/Career Planning Curriculum for Youth in the Justice System. Dorothy (Dottie) Wodraska Correctional Education Specialist Director Federal Education Grants Program Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Office of the Courts Juvenile Justice Services Division.

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Merging Two Worlds:A Transition/Career Planning Curriculum for Youth in the Justice System

Dorothy (Dottie) Wodraska

Correctional Education Specialist

Director Federal Education Grants Program

Arizona Supreme Court

Administrative Office of the Courts

Juvenile Justice Services Division

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Arizona Secure Care Education

  • Secure Care education is defined as every education program which exists in a county detention, county jail, state juvenile corrections, and state prison facility in the State of Arizona excluding Native American and federal facilities.

    • AOC 14 county juvenile detention facilities (age 8-18)

    • Jails 15 county jails (age 14-22)

    • ADJC 4 state juvenile correction facilities (age 8-18)

    • ADC 10 state prisons and 3 private prisons (age 14-22)

      TOTAL: 46 facilities statewide

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Arizona Secure Care Education

  • Secure Care Education must address these acknowledged needs:

    1) Institutional confinement programming must prepare youth for a successful reintegration back to their community.

    2) Lessons and skills learned in secure care environments must be monitored and reinforced outside of the institution.

    3) Reintegration of students from the juvenile justice system requires cooperative and collaborative relationships with local school districts prior to release from a secure care facility to ensure a continuum of services and appropriate placement which can reduce recidivism.

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Local Challenges…National Focus

  • Transient student population

  • Students have attended various public schools/charters and/or have dropped out of school due to lack of success.

  • Records exchange for prompt provision of specialized instruction if a student has a history of special education.

  • Multi-jurisdictional issues prompted by legislatively-mandated structure

  • Conflicting organizational philosophies within agencies between security (punitive) and education (rehabilitative).

  • Reintegration: lack of cooperative and collaborative relationship with the local school districts prior to release from a secure care facility to ensure continuum of services and appropriate placement which can reduce recidivism.

  • Shortage of adequately trained personnel in the area of correctional education.

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Secure Care Education Committee (SCEC)


  • To advocate for excellence in secure care education which leads to student centered seamless reintegration from correctional facilities into community settings in order to reduce recidivism.


  • The SCEC was formed in 1998 by staff of the Arizona Department of Education and secure care educators from across the state to address the glaring educational needs of youth and adults in correctional settings.


  • The SCEC has developed the Merging Two Worlds (MTW) Curriculum through a ADE grant-supported partnership with the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office, Special Programs Division.

  • Since 1999 the SCEC has hosted four statewide conferences for training educators on implementation of the MTW, developed a statewide regional structure for ongoing training, mentoring and technical assistance and standardized special ed reporting forms to facilitate electronic transfer of records.

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Merging Two Worlds Curriculum(MTW)

  • A Transition/Career Planning Curriculum

  • Prepares Students for reintegration into the community, school or world of work upon release from a secure care environment

  • Emphasizes the interconnection between the “worlds” of secure care and the community

  • Instruction in life skills, career development skills, resiliency and social skills which meet Arizona Academic Standards

  • Based on Resiliency Skills Research

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What Is Resiliency?

  • Resiliency is the ability to spring back from and successfully adapt to adversity.

  • “Bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and more smarts.” (Student, Age 15)

  • Research from psychology, psychiatry and sociology conclude that individuals have an innate capacity for resiliency, “a self-righting tendency”

  • Resiliency-building conditions are needed

    (Source: Resiliency In Action, Inc. 2004)

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Resiliency Building Skills:Conditions and Attitude

Conditions for Resiliency:

  • Caring and Support

  • High Expectations for Success

  • Opportunities for Meaningful Participation

  • Positive Bonds

  • Clear and Consistent Boundaries

  • Life Skills

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Resiliency Building Skills:Conditions and Attitude Cont’d.

  • “Resiliency Attitude” – “What is right with you is more powerful than anything that is wrong with you.”

  • Focus on personal strengths more than problems and weaknesses.

  • Provide the conditions for building resiliency for self and others.

  • Have patience…..successfully bouncing back from trauma and/or crisis takes time.


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MTW Curriculum Focus:Resiliency Building Skills

Sense of Purpose

  • Inner direction

    • Bases choices on internal evaluation

    • Internal focus of control

  • View of future

    • Optimistic

  • Spirituality

    • Personal faith in something greater

  • Perseverance

    • Doesn’t give up despite obstacles

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Resiliency Building Skills (cont’d)

Social Competence

  • Relationships

    • Able to form & build relationships

    • Able to be a friend, and keep close

  • Humor

    • Can see the “funny”

  • Perceptive

    • Insightful understanding of people and situations

  • Assertive

    • Clearly expresses opinions, feelings, ideas

    • Understands how attitude influences others

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Resiliency Building Skills (cont’d)

Problem Solving

  • Flexibility

    • Can adjust to change

    • Can adapt to cope

  • Love of Learning

    • Needs to know

    • Loves to find out

  • Creativity

    • Sees unique choices, consequences

    • Individualistic

  • Goal Setting

    • Knows power of goals

  • Decision Making

    • Uses process and can explain

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Resiliency Building Skills (cont’d)


  • Independence

    • Health/wellness

    • Adaptive distancing from unhealthy people and situations

  • Self motivation

    • Inner passion and direction

  • Competence

    • Is “good at something”

    • Has skills to manage life

  • Self worth

    • Feeling self confident

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MTW Curriculum Organization

  • Pre-Assessment Tools:Structured Interview; Individual Learning Plan; Student Screening Report for Child Find; Credit Information and Certificate; Educational History

  • Four Chapters with 10 Lessons in each Chapter:

    Chapter 1: Transition Planning: Who Am I?

    Chapter 2: Career Preparation: Where Am I Going?

    Chapter 3: Transition Planning: How Do I Get There?

    Chapter 4: Life Planning: How Do I Keep It All Together?

  • Teacher Resources: Work Evaluation Rubric & Lesson Resources

  • My Resource Guide (MRG), Personal Transition Survival Guide: Merge Checklist; Certificate of Competency; Chapter Reflection Sheet

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MTW Chapter Organization

  • Acknowledgement

  • Facilitation Tips

  • Chapter Background

  • Overview of Chapter Contents & Format

  • Table of Contents

  • Work Evaluation Rubric Aligned with Arizona State Standards

  • Lesson Theme, Objective & Steps to Follow

  • Materials Needed: Handouts etc.

  • Evaluation Rubric

  • Enrichment

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Chapter 1 - Transition Planning: Who Am I?

  • Concept of Resiliency as Critical to Successful Reintegration

  • Self-Awareness Strengthens Resiliency – “Bouncing Back”

  • Lesson Topics Include: Value, Beliefs, Self Confidence, Learning Styles & Interests, Personal Skills, Job/Career Paths, Decision Making

  • Career Planning as a Dynamic Process

  • Employment Trends: Impact of Technology, Globalization, New Economy

  • Managing Change through “Process and Self-Awareness”

  • Building My Resource Guide (MRG) – A Personal Transition Survival Guide

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Chapter 2 - Career Preparation: Where Am I Going?

  • All lessons include self talk, self-awareness, stop and think, resiliency, decision making and planning

  • Each lesson concludes with the Self-Talk litany

  • Lesson Topics Include: Make a Decision, Values, The Power of Goals, Priorities, Lifestyle, Choices and Consequences, Gathering Information/Observe, Gathering Information/Ask Questions, Gathering Information/Listen, Other Points of View, Make a Decision

  • Building My Resource Guide (MRG)

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Chapter 3 - Transition Planning: How Do I Get There?

  • Concept of Self-Assessment leading to Self-Awareness

  • Life Through a Wide-Angle Lens and Other Points of View

  • Lesson Topics Include: Self talk, Self Awareness, Decision Making, Social Skills, Planning

  • Resiliency: Successfully Bouncing Back from Adversity

  • Planning Process: Goal Setting

  • Nine Life Areas: Leisure, Spiritual, Health/Wellness, Learning, Career, Financial, Family Relationships, Community

  • Social Skills Practice

  • Building My Resource Guide (MRG)

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Chapter 4 - Life Planning: How Do I Keep It All Together?

  • Continues concept of self assessment as self-awareness through emphasizing community resources

  • Lesson Topics Include: Transition into the Community, Self Talk, Self Awareness, Stop and Think, Resiliency, Decision Making, and Planning

  • Lessons include: Finding a Place to Live, Money Management, Food, Medical Treatment, transportation, Communication, Employment, Education, Leisure Time, Support

  • Continues development of MRG (My Resource Guide)

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MTW Impact & Feedback From The Field

  • Curriculum well-structured and flexible

  • 40 Lessons difficult to implement in short-term facilities: Adapt Curriculum accordingly (Mini Version)

  • Coordinate evaluation and assessment of impact on students while in the facilities and impact on recidivism

  • Provide Pre-service and In-service training for correctional educators on implementing and adapting the curriculum

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Mini Merging Two Worlds (Mini M2W)

  • Adaptation developed through a 2-yr. Grant from the Arizona Department of Education/Exceptional Student Services (ADE/ESS)

  • Promoted through a collaboration of ADE/ESS; ASU; ADJC; Pima County Schools; SCEC

  • 4 Chapters, 12 Lessons centered on skills for transition to provide student-centered portfolio

  • Data collected through student and teacher surveys and reported to the ADE

  • Curriculum aligned with Arizona State Standards

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Merging Two Worlds/Corrections Learning Network (CLN) Project

  • Arizona Detention Schools collaborating with CLN to convert M2W Curriculum for nationwide broadcast through CLN network

  • Resource for 800 correctional sites currently receiving CLN programming

  • CLN is a nationally recognized distance learning initiative funded through U.S. Dept. of Education, administered by ESD 101 in Spokane, WA

  • Curriculum available through ADE website

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Closing Thoughts…

Children are always the only future the human race has; Teach them well.

Research indicates that education and workplace preparation are the two most fundamental factors in reducing recidivism by assisting ex-offenders to obtain and retain employment and return to a law-abiding lifestyle.

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Contact Information

Dorothy (Dottie) Wodraska,

Correctional Education Specialist

Director, Federal Education Grants Program

Arizona Supreme Court,

Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)

Juvenile Justice Services Division

1501 West Washington, Suite 337

Phoenix, AZ 85007

Phone: (602) 542-9573

Fax: (602) 542-9479


[email protected]

ADE/ESS Website: care