Many young people who become involved in the justice system have faced systemic barriers to educational opportunities and encountered forces that push them out of school. Educational programs inside juvenile justice facilities may provide an opportunity to address young people’s unmet academic, social-emotional, and mental health needs. These programs can also reduce young people’s risk of recidivism and improve other outcomes. Yet to maximize these potential benefits, juvenile justice agencies need more information about how their educational systems are serving students.

To that end, EDC is partnering with the education team at the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) to evaluate the educational services DYS provides to young people in their custody and care. This project employs culturally responsive evaluation practices—such as centering the voices of DYS youth and their communities and partnering with community-based data collectors—to learn more about the educational experiences and outcomes of DYS youth.

Key Activities

In collaboration with DYS, EDC is carrying out the following activities:

  • Design mixed methods survey instruments to collect information on the experiences of current DYS students, graduates, and parents or guardians of graduates
  • Develop a process for collecting survey data that is responsive and adaptive to the needs of the individuals taking the survey as well as the institutional setting in which they are living
  • Conduct on-site interviews and online surveys with DYS staff and educators to learn more about the educational services they provide and to better understand the systems and structures that oversee and align educational services with other aspects of the DYS program
  • Collect and review documents related to educational services (e.g., job descriptions for program staff, curricula and instructional materials, documents related to special education services)


Findings from the evaluation will provide:

  • Information on the successes and challenges related to implementing educational programs within DYS facilities
  • Insights from justice-involved youth and graduates on how DYS can improve its educational and career services
  • Guidance on how educational, clinical, and custodial programs within juvenile justice facilities can optimize collaboration to provide holistic supports for youth
  • Recommendations for supporting young people as they transition from juvenile justice facilities back to their communities and schools
  • A model for conducting research that engages justice-involved youth and their families

Learn More

Massachusetts Department of Youth Services