A Language Arts Curriculum for Students in Jail

In “School on the Inside: Teaching the incarcerated student,” just posted on the Ed Next website, David Chura writes about teaching language arts for 10 years in a New York county penitentiary. Chura is the author of I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup.

While the students may have lacked focus, Chura writes, “kids in jail share the same goals as their peers in the world outside: get a high school diploma, secure a decent job, go to college, make something of themselves.” He continues, “My job was to prepare them for the state’s comprehensive and demanding English exam.” His conclusion: “Curriculum would be the key.”

In the article, Chura describes the curriculum he taught. “Students read Greek, Norse, and Aztec mythology and such works as August Wilson’s play, Fences; the poetry of Luis J. Rodriguez and Pablo Neruda; and Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy.”

In an article that appeared in U.S. News last winter, Andy Rotherham wrote about the need for state and local policymakers to bring quality education to wherever students are, including prison. He noted, “Too often, however, alternative schools are educational backwaters. Students in these settings have more intense needs but frequently want for the cornerstones of quality education: High expectations, great teachers and curriculum, and adequate resources.”

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