Grading Outcomes in Prison Education Programs

The Windham School District provides education programs for inmates in state prisons.
The Windham School District provides education programs for inmates in state prisons.

The Windham School District at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Sam Houston State University will team up to evaluate the impact of educational programs on inmates after their release from state institutions.

During the most recent legislative session, the Windham School District came under close scrutiny as Texas legislators struggled to put forth a balanced budget. Although some positions were eliminated and salaries reduced, the agency did survive and continues to provide education programming to offenders incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Corrections system.

Among the programs offered are Basic Academic Programs.
Among the programs offered are Basic Academic Programs.
"The impact of educational programs on offenders and their release is a vital issue in nation-wide discussions concerning the reduction of costly recidivism,” said Debbie Roberts, Superintendent of the Windham School District. “It is our privilege to work with a world-class research group, such as the one from Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice. We expect this research to prove invaluable to us, as well as to other correctional education entities throughout the United States.”

The research project will examine the impact of correctional education programs on disciplinary actions in prison, employment, and future arrests or incarcerations. Because many offenders enroll in multiple programs over the duration of their incarceration, the data provided by the district will allow researchers from SHSU to attempt to isolate the impact of specific programs on the outcome measures. In addition, because attendance hours for each inmate are tracked, the research team also will be able to examine the impact of program frequency on the outcome measures.

The CHANGES program prepares offenders to their return to society.
The CHANGES program prepares offenders to their return to society.
“Within the field, correctional education is argued to be a very valuable component of correctional programming in terms of how an offender’s time is spent in prison and in the potential decrease in recidivism, yet because of methodological weakness in the related academic literature the extent to which education involvement itself is responsible for improved outcomes remains unclear,” said Dr. Gaylene Armstrong, Research Director for CMIT and an Associate Professor at SHSU. “This project will determine the impact that education has on post-release outcomes.”

The research will evaluate five different program areas offered by the Windham School District, including the Basic Academic, Career and Technology, the CHANGES Program, the Cognitive Intervention Program and Post-Secondary Programs.

The Basic Academic Program focuses on literacy training and GED preparation. The Career and Technology Education (CTE) Program integrates career path planning and technology training to prepare inmates for today's work force. The district also offers Post-Secondary programs, which provide continuing education in both vocational and academic settings.

Career and Technical Training provides offenders with technical training to meet the needs of today's workforce.
Career and Technical Training provides offenders with technical training to meet the needs of today's workforce.
The CHANGES Program is a pre-release program designed to prepare offenders for their return to society. The Cognitive Intervention Program addresses thinking patterns and is designed to improve behavior during incarceration and after release. In the future, the data collected may be used to compare the Windham School District with other correctional education programs around the country.

“Our colleagues in other states also eagerly await the final results,” said Roberts. “This SHSU research group clearly strives to do a definitive, quality study and we are proud to be a part of it -- and share the success story of Windham School District.”

Member of The Texas State University System