education behind bard
School Programs at Bedford Correctional Facility
All students at Bedford
must first take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE).
Based on their TABE scores, the women are then placed into
one of four basic education levels. The special education
program is for those students whose test scores reveal a
major discrepancy between math and reading abilities. It
also caters to the segment of the prison population that
is under the age of 21. The curriculum’s main objective
is to bridge the gap between math and reading comprehension
and to establish basic skills in those areas. English
as a Second Language (ESL) courses are also offered.
The next level is the
pre-General Educational Development (GED) program, a course
of study that consists of a middle-school level curriculum.
The focus is on algebra, science, reading, and written expression.
Students are required to achieve a 9th grade level of reading
and math before they can move on to GED classes. GED classes,
which have an even broader focus, help inmates earn their
high school diploma. Teachers cover everything from social
studies to science, writing, and math. Usually, it is the
high school-aged inmates who excel most easily on this level. “Maybe it’s because their
minds are still young and haven’t been as damaged by
drug use as some of the other inmates’. Or, it’s
more likely that the knowledge is still fresh in their heads,” says
Marion DiFabbio, a GED teacher. The GED program is one of the
most intense of all; four years’ worth of study is crammed
into three months, and students come to class for
three hours five days a week to study. Unless students have
a diploma, school is mandatory. During the graduation ceremony,
professors don caps and gowns alongside their students, who
often walk across the stage with a child in tow.
Those students who make it to the college program will receive
a B.A. in sociology upon completion of the course (see article
on Marymount Manhattan College program). If a student takes
the pre-college exit exam three times and still cannot pass,
she is usually counseled to take a year off. This, however,
is considered rare according to Director of Special Programs
Aileen Baumgartner. Students can expect to take five or more
courses a semester, and classes cover many various areas of
the arts and sciences including literature, creative writing,
music, and art.