Assessing the Implementation of the PA Academic Career and Technical Training Alliance (PACTT)

Emerging Leader Fellow: Roger Chu, 2015-2016

The Problem:

Youth in juvenile justice facilities have a right to quality education despite the challenging life circumstances and poor choices that resulted in their placement.  Unfortunately, most juvenile facilities in Pennsylvania do not provide the quality educational services required to address the needs of the youth in their care. In direct response to this unmet need, Stoneleigh Fellow Candace Putter founded the Pennsylvania Academic Career and Technical Training Alliance (PACTT) in 2008.  PACTT is a network of juvenile justice facilities that volunteer to meet a set of quality standards for providing academic, career and technical preparation.  PACTT sites work to ensure that youth in their care leave with the necessary skills ready to re-enter school on-grade level, graduate, enter post-secondary education or obtain employment.  In 2013, PACTT transitioned to state oversight under Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services (BJJS) and hired Research for Action to track both youth outcomes and program implementation across facilities.  Despite strong interest from BJJS, it lacked the resources to support the qualitative research portion of the evaluation.

The Approach:

Roger and Research for Action will produce a qualitative evaluation for BJJS by conducting an in-depth cross-site study of a select number of PACTT facilities that have demonstrated promising implementation strategies and practices.  Specifically, Roger will: 1) visit and observe PACTT facilities and classrooms; 2) identify best practices which can be replicated and scaled; 3) interview career and technical education staff, facility administrators, and youth; and 4) analyze the relationship between variation in implementation and student progress and outcomes.  His analysis will result in case study briefs for participating facilities and a comprehensive cross-site report for the PACTT network.  The cross-site study will make a significant contribution to PACTT’s efforts to strengthen the quality and consistency of implementation within currently affiliated facilities, and to scale its standards to a larger number of unaffiliated juvenile facilities across the state.