Stopping the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Reclaiming Futures

Reclaiming Futures Logo with La Jolla Tag

Based at Portland State University, Reclaiming Futures is a national organization whose work focuses on improving juvenile justice through research-based interventions. As they broaden their impact to include working directly within K-12 school systems, they are partnering with Schoolzilla to develop a suite of research-based, interactive dashboards designed to support the needs of students who are at risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. Each dashboard is designed for a particular stakeholder in students’ school lives, including teachers, counselors, principals, and other support staff.

Below is a conversation that Schoolzilla Senior Impact Manager Adam Rosenzweig had with Reclaiming Future’s Executive Director, Evan Elkin.

AR: What’s the goal of Reclaiming Futures?

EE: Reclaiming Futures operates at the intersection of public health and social justice. Our overarching goal is to help youth-serving systems, like the juvenile justice, education, and child welfare systems, improve behavioral health outcomes and achieve greater equity for youth. 

AR: Say more about equity.

EE: When we say equity, we mean fair and equal treatment in the system and also equal access to health and well-being. We work within systems where the playing field is not level for youth of color and where there are significant negative collateral consequences associated with structural racism, and we’ve recently sharpened our focus on strategies to address these racial and ethnic disparities in the systems where we work.

AR: What is Reclaiming Futures really good at?

EE: Our strategy – and, I think, our greatest impact in the jurisdictions where we work – is to bring about cross-system and cross-silo collaboration. In the places we work, we ask our sites to form leadership teams comprised of key decision makers from across a range of professional disciplines, representing key agencies and systems (like judges, probation chiefs, treatment clinic directors, etc.), and then we coach, support, educate, inspire, and otherwise cajole them into reaching consensus on a set of tangible and achievable reform goals.

Those site-based interdisciplinary groups are then invited to interact with the individuals and groups from other sites across the country in what we call our “learning collaborative.”  What has emerged from this strategy is a peer community, which we have intentionally constructed to disseminate and support the work – the mission and also the practical hands-on aspects of the work. It’s quite effective as a catalyst.

AR: Why were you interested in pursuing this partnership with Schoolzilla?

EE: Recently, we started working to adapt our approach for a school setting, and we’ve created a comprehensive school reform framework that addresses school discipline, school climate, and behavioral health.

These are complex and interrelated domains that require schools to take a critical lens to their work in order to achieve and sustain tangible outcomes. The data we invite schools to look at will be quite challenging. To support this work, our sites will need a continuous data-driven feedback loop.

We chose Schoolzilla because of how in touch they are with the school experience on the ground and, honestly, because of the elegance and power of the dashboards. We knew we needed user-friendly, intuitive, and smart dashboards to achieve success with this project.

AR: What would you like educators to know about student discipline as they begin the new school year?

EE: I think the tricky thing about school discipline is appreciating the complexity of thechallenge schools face in re-engineering their approach – particularly in schools with significant behavioral challenges where, most days, teachers may be just trying to keep the peace long enough to get some teaching done.

We know there is no quick fix, but we believe that attention to the root causes of misbehavior, greater mindfulness about the impact of the discipline decisions we make on the most vulnerable students, and a culture shift toward a more tolerant and inclusive approach will pay huge dividends for our schools.

AR: To help our community better understand your work, would you describe one of Reclaiming Futures’ other recent partnerships or projects?

EE: We’ve recently entered into a partnership with the W. Haywood Burns Institute and another national group based in Oakland called Impact Justice to develop a new framework and a data-centered strategy for behavioral health practitioners and their justice system partners to examine the key decision points around substance use and mental health treatment where racial bias can be introduced. We’re really excited about this project because it’s another opportunity to do work that is data driven and also critically important to the well-being of vulnerable youth.


We’re excited about this partnership because of its potential to advance the use of data to improve outcomes for some of the most vulnerable students in our schools. If you would like to learn more about this work, or if you have suggestions for partnerships that Schoolzilla should pursue, please contact us at To explore some of Schoolzilla’s current behavior dashboards, click here.