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  • So last year I had the honor to be on a panel at the White House.

  • I'd been selected along with a number of public school innovators.

  • We were talking about education.

  • I come from the Community College, and in particular,

  • I come from Prison Education working with adult inmates,

  • so when I first got this email and I heard about this selection,

  • I was convinced that there was a mistake.

  • So, my family and I go to the White House.

  • We go up to security,

  • and they can't find us on the list.

  • So I turn to my wife and I say:

  • "I told you! I knew it! it was a mistake!"

  • (Laughter)

  • Well, all of that is straightened out, --it's really complicated there--,

  • and we're on the panel,

  • and there's a question about the behavior of students,

  • and someone makes a comment about how their challanges

  • with the behavior of students, must be nothing

  • compared to mine with our students in the prison.

  • And I knew at that moment that I was in the right place.

  • You see, I had the opportunity to tell them

  • [that] inmates make the best students!

  • They do all their homework, they show up everyday,

  • and if they don't, I know where they are!

  • (Laughter)

  • And they never bring their cellphones to class!

  • (Laughter)

  • My wife is a psychotherapist

  • and I'm the Dean at the Community College,

  • and as a side job, we also own and operate

  • an independent pre-school through middle school.

  • So our conversations can be very bizzare.

  • I'll be talking about an issue that's come up at the prison,

  • she'll be talking about something at the preschool or in elementary school,

  • and so our family slogan has become:

  • "Education from preschool to prison."

  • (Laughter)

  • And I want to draw on that experience today.

  • Today what I want to talk about

  • is the future of prison education,

  • both on how we can have more college in prison,

  • but also have prison education be more like preschool.

  • First, let me make the case for prison education,

  • and fortunately, it's a really easy case!

  • The RAND cooperation has just completed a major study

  • looking at prison education across the United States,

  • and here's what they found:

  • [From] 100 inmates who're released,

  • 43 will recidivate, they return to prison.

  • If they participate in prison education, 30 will recidivate.

  • Now, 30 is still one in three and it's still far, far too high,

  • but the key is in that 13 that don't come back.

  • See, it's that 13 that means 13 victims that don't happen,

  • 13 lives that aren't shattered,

  • 13 properties not destoyed,

  • 13 families that aren't torn apart.

  • And it is in that 13 that we also see the return on investment.

  • RAND estimates that for every dollar spent on prison education,

  • there is a return on investment of $5.

  • Here in Washington,

  • our Washington State Institute for Public Policy says

  • that for every dollar invested in vocational education,

  • there will be at least a $12 return.

  • And that's a return both to tax payers, to families, to society.

  • It also, on an individual level, impacts the inmate who releases.

  • That individual has a 13% higher rate of employment

  • if they've participated in any form of education,

  • and they have a 28% higher rate of employment,

  • if they participate in a vocational education program.

  • Prison education saves lives.

  • Prison education saves money.

  • Now, let me talk about my experience

  • and how I can twist that into my vision for the future.

  • For the last 6 years I've been working

  • as the Education Director at Collin Bay Olympic Correction Center.

  • And in those 6 years, we've been able to do things

  • that we really would not have been able to do 10 years ago.

  • We have an internet in a box, that we've worked with other partners,

  • where inmates are able to sit down

  • and without ever being on the internet, on the streets,

  • can access the same kinds of resources

  • that our students, that our community college,

  • would be able to access on the streets.

  • So they access Khan academy.

  • And they have an edited version of Wikipedia.

  • They have access to a learning management system

  • that's used at every community college in Washington state.

  • They are able to be

  • just like a Community College students on our main campus.

  • We've been able to use this

  • to turn our prison campus into our north-west campus.

  • And it's changed how we operate.

  • If you could imagine what you could do

  • with just taking a little bit of these innovations of technology,

  • and start to look at what we know is working

  • in graduate schools across the country.

  • Let's take a low residency program,

  • and many of you or some of you may have done the program like this.

  • So picture a team of faculty, kind of your dream team of faculty,

  • that could come to a prison

  • and spend a week of face to face interaction

  • with those students.

  • They could bring with them simulations,

  • sophisticated lab science simulations,

  • because there are plenty of labs that we don't want to run in prisons;

  • they're just not safe.

  • But you could take that technology, you could bind it

  • with that team of instructors and develop that rapport.

  • And then using technology that we have now,

  • we could secure an online class room,

  • so that, that dream team moves, a few weeks later, to another prison.

  • And you start to build a series of concurrent online courses,

  • that started with that, really very important, connection

  • that then continues throughout that semester.

  • And you've now opened up that possibility to have

  • history degrees, which happens to be where I come from.

  • (Laughter)

  • See mom! You can do something with a history degree!

  • (Laughter)

  • You can have science degrees, you can have engeneering,

  • there's so much more possible when we just change a little bit,

  • make that small change as we've heard this morning,

  • in how we deliver our services.

  • What else can we do?

  • So we take that dream team,

  • and we also add to it competency-based degrees.

  • And we take the life experience of inmates.

  • Our inmates come to us with a lifetime of experience.

  • And while they are in prison, they gain a lifetime of experience.

  • And we evaluate it, through careful assesments,

  • and we identify what are those skills that they have?

  • What are those skills they need?

  • And you combine that with that low-residency program

  • and now you can get that much closer to degrees,

  • opening up the number of possibilities for our students.

  • And then, we add other technologies.

  • So we added a tablet, a simple tablet

  • like a iPad kind of thing,

  • that we load with all the lectures, all the materials, the textbooks,

  • in our case, we would use open educational resources

  • because they come with the amazing price of free,

  • and we load that textbook

  • with everything that an inmate student would need.

  • So when a two-week lock-down happens,

  • the education doesn't end,

  • and with that tablet

  • we combine that with this form of education.

  • And we expand those possibilities.

  • And these are all using technologies that exist now!

  • We're moving them from the streets,

  • securely moving them into the prison!

  • But then there's preschool.

  • Preschools and prisons have a lot in common.

  • They all have similar rules:

  • Keep your hands and your feet to yourself,

  • no biting, hitting, spitting, no running.

  • Prisons have wreck, preschools have recess,

  • prisons have hobby-craft, preschools have arts and crafts,

  • prisons and preschools, both have music,

  • and they both, have lots and lots of drama.

  • (Laughter)

  • But they also share one other thing in common:

  • They are both about creating a space,

  • a space where the individual can learn or re-learn,

  • how to be in the world.

  • So let me draw on two examples from our preschool program.

  • Many of you wil remember having Lincoln Logs sets,

  • those little logs, with the little pieces

  • and you put them together to build forts.

  • At our preschool, we recently made a real Lincoln logs set,

  • and I mean 6 foot long Lincoln Logs.

  • And we did that intentionally,

  • because the only way to make it work,

  • is for those children to work together.

  • Because no one child can move a 6 foot long Lincoln log!

  • They have to work together to build

  • and so they learn through that exercise the joy of creating,

  • when you get to create something,

  • when you get to destroy something,

  • that you get the owners permission.

  • (Laughter)

  • You have that opportunity to build together.

  • The other thing we know

  • is that no significant learning happens

  • without a significant relationship.

  • And we know, when you think back to your experiences as a child,

  • that it is those early relationships

  • with those teachers that are so vital.

  • So we take those 2 ideas

  • and how do we incorporate those into this furture vision?

  • Well we do it in subtle ways.

  • I used to work with an inmate

  • who had committed absolutely terrible crimes.

  • And even when he was incarcerated,

  • he committed some terrible assaults.

  • But he had changed, made some other decisions,

  • and now he was working in our adult basic education classroom.

  • And he was learning how to take cassette tapes...

  • --some of you may not know what those are--,

  • (Laughter)

  • --I 've just realized that!--,

  • and digitizing them and putting them next to books

  • so that low literacy students

  • could read and hear the words at the same time.

  • It was really frustrating for him.

  • As he's working through that he'd come to me:

  • "Mr Walsh, I don't know how to do this!"

  • And I'd say:

  • "I don't know how to do it either, break it 'till it works!"

  • And he'd go back, and he'd work on it

  • and he'd work on it, and he'd come to me and say:

  • "I broke it again, I got to restore it!

  • I broke it again, but i'm getting closer!

  • I'm breaking it till it works!"

  • And he's experiment with it in a safe enviroment.

  • In our horticulture program I had a student

  • who had never once gardened,

  • who had never had anything to do with plants.

  • And we know that horticulture is theraputic.

  • And he came to me, or I came to him

  • and he was showing me with just this utter joy on his face,

  • what he was able to bring into the world:

  • a garden plot that he had planted,

  • that he had taken care of,

  • and at the same time he was learning botany and biology.

  • I had a student who I had expelled from our business program.

  • It was really not a good fit for him there,

  • and so he'd eventually chosen to end up in our baking program.

  • And the one thing I know about that baking program

  • is that I have an instructor, who everyday, when I ask him

  • how things are going, he says:

  • "I'm just having so much fun!"

  • And this student, in that class, could make

  • the most beautiful braided breads that you've ever seen.

  • He'd make challah, and I can guarantee

  • we were the only challah producer for about 70 miles on the Peninsula.

  • He would make these breads that tasted amazing.

  • And his life in the living units, his life in our classes,

  • were completed changed when he found that place

  • where he could connectedly, and artistically, express himself.

  • In our business classes,

  • my instructors have spent far too much time

  • finding every single TED talk and putting it on our network

  • to share with the students,