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Date Posted: 06/23/2017

DHS Standardizing Education at 7 DYS Facilities with Virtual Arkansas





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Brandi Hinkle, DHS Deputy Chief of Communications
501-683-5286 desk or 501-350-5380 mobile

DHS Standardizing Education at 7 DYS Facilities with Virtual Arkansas
Online platform will ease teens' transitions to school, communities

The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Youth Services (DYS) is partnering with Virtual Arkansas to provide online coursework and curriculum beginning in August at seven of the state's residential treatment centers for youth placed in the programs through the criminal justice system. 

DYS Director Betty Guhman

Virtual Arkansas is a project of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and Arkansas dducation service cooperatives. It offers online coursework to public school students using licensed Arkansas teachers and currently serves more than 50,000 students in 270 schools.

DYS took over the day-to-day management of the centers in January, after more than two decades of management by private contractors. The division immediately began reviewing all aspects of the facilities with the goal of identifying ways to provide consistency and improve core services, including education. 

“We had instructors teaching several subjects and multiple grades in the same classroom and there were differences in what youth could learn at each of the centers," said DYS Director Betty Guhman."Given the varying ages and skills of the students, that is understandable, but we thought there was a better approach.

“Virtual Arkansas provides consistent, high-quality education that is standard across all seven centers and students get a curriculum that fits them," she said. "No matter where a teen goes, he or she can pick up with his or her education at the same place."

Guhman said Virtual Arkansas also will help DYS address the difficulty of hiring teachers due to the rural or remote locations of the centers. Without Virtual Arkansas, DYS predicted a teacher shortage of up to 15 positions for the upcoming school year. 

Virtual Arkansas teachers connect with students via a secure online system and they will be able to communicate back and forth. Virtual Arkansas also provides youth with access to dual credit for high school and college classes, advanced placement and coding classes, none of which is currently offered at the centers.

"We're thrilled to be able to provide quality, educational resources for Arkansas students that are in secure residential centers," said Cathi Swan, ADE state coordinator of digital learning. "This is a true, student-focused partnership."

DYS education coaches will support students by being in the classroom. DYS will continue to provide special education, vocational and General Educational Development (GED) teachers, as well as educational leadership from central office staff.



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Arkansas Department of Human Services
Arkansas Department of Human Services

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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