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In Focus

Sep 21, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

States and Local Areas Should Act Now to Improve WIOA Services to Low-Income People, Setting a Solid Baseline for Future Performance Goals

By Anna Cielinski and David J. Socolow

Today, CLASP released a memo discussing performance policies in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that can encourage services for those most in need. The memo is part of CLASP’s “Opportunities for Action” series.

Under WIOA, performance management provisions empower states and local areas to serve more individuals with barriers to employment. This includes an “objective statistical adjustment model” that adjusts state and local performance targets based (in part) on the level of WIOA services provided to individuals with the highest needs. It also includes a new interim progress measure, “Measurable Skills Gain,” that allows states and local areas to get credit for serving those who may take more than one year to meet other milestones, such as employment or credential attainment.

More recently, the federal government has announced policies that complement these provisions. During the next two years of WIOA, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education (DOL and ED) will not apply sanctions to States that do not meet their negotiated levels of performance. States and local areas should act now to serve more individuals with barriers to employment, so that future revisions to the statistical adjustment model will better reflect the realities of serving those with the greatest needs. The participants that states serve and the results they achieve over the next two years can help build a realistic baseline into the adjustment model, enabling DOL and ED to set future performance targets that encourage states to provide robust services to greater numbers of individuals with significant barriers to employment.

Recent federal guidance further dismantles the perception that states and local areas will be punished with workforce development performance targets that disincentivize serving those with the greater barriers. Pointing out that “WIOA emphasizes serving those individuals with barriers to employment and individuals more at risk of not connecting to the labor market,” DOL aims to “accommodate States currently serving a significant number of individuals to barriers to employment who need higher levels of service to achieve a positive outcome” and to encourage new efforts to “increase access to services for special populations that may face significant barriers to employment” by using data to negotiate more reasonable performance levels.

The Department has also adopted an expanded, more helpful definition of “continuous improvement.” Under new guidance, continuous improvement goes beyond absolute increases in results from year to year; it also encompasses changes in service strategy and delivery or changes in the types of customers served. This supportive interpretation of continuous improvement should be used in federal-state and state-local negotiations over the next several years to set performance targets that accommodate greater services to more individuals with barriers to employment.

Read the new Opportunity for Action on WIOA Performance >>    

Sep 16, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Senate introduces amendment recognizing the Adult Learner in Career and Technical Education

By Judy Mortrude

On September 15, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced, and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) co-sponsored, S. 3349 The Career and Technical Education for Adult Learners Act (CTE for ALL Act), to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act) and provide adults pathways for adults to career and technical education. CLASP supports this effort to help nontraditional adult students build skills and succeed in today’s economy.    

An international survey confirms that millions of America’s working adults have low literacy, numeracy, and/or digital problem solving skills. This is issue won’t age away; fully half of those workers with limited skills are under 45. Most of these workers are in health care, construction, manufacturing, and hospitality—all critical fields—yet they’re not participating in learning opportunities.   

America’s workforce needs postsecondary education aligned with foundational adult education and workforce preparation. By 2020, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require a postsecondary credential. This bill will align Perkins Career and Technical Education programs and strategies with those in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, focusing on the postsecondary credentials adults need to succeed in the workplace.

The CTE for ALL Act will:

  • Ensure that programs funded under the Perkins Act are aligned with adult education programs and industry sector partnerships authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  • Promote the evidence based educational strategy Integrated Education and Training.
  • Include adult education in state plans for career and technical education.
  • Allow states to develop core performance indicators for adult learners that align with performance indicators in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  • Encourage a greater emphasis on work experiences as part of career and technical education programs.
  • Clarify that adult education providers that also offer career and technical education programs are eligible to receive funds under the Perkins Act.

The House of Representatives passed a version of a comprehensive Perkins Act bill last week.  Next week, the Senate is expected to begin their work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, making this proposal timely. CLASP will be urging the Senate to include strong provisions aligning Perkins to WIOA and recognizing that the Perkins program is an important component of postsecondary training for adults. One positive step would be to include the language in S. 3349 in the reauthorization of Perkins.

We applaud Senator Reed’s and Baldwin’s attention to aligning public education and training systems to drive effectiveness and efficiency for all students. 

Sep 15, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

CA signs new law to improve benefits access for low-income students

By Duy Pham

On September 12, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the College Student Hunger Relief Act (AB 1747), a bill designed to improve benefits access for low-income college students. Specifically, it will increase access to food assistance programs, reducing hunger as well as financial barriers that threaten low-income students’ college completion. CLASP commends the state’s effort to provide nontraditional students the support they need to succeed in postsecondary education.  

AB 1747 (Weber) enables students who qualify for the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP)—an optional component of SNAP that gives counties the discretion to allow homeless, disabled, or elderly people to use their benefits for prepared meals—to purchase freshly cooked food at on-campus food facilities. Under the new law, postsecondary institutions in counties participating in RMP will be required to register as approved food vendors. The bill also establishes a fund to support partnerships between food banks and on-campus kitchens, as well as codifies existing practice to support SNAP campus outreach. Using information from the Department of Social Services, the law further requires institutions to annually inform students about the program.

For many nontraditional students, unmet financial need—the gap between college costs and what students have to pay—is a significant barrier toward pursuing and completing college. Students with high unmet need are more likely to borrow or work more, cut their course loads, or even drop out. Ensuring students are able to access public benefits, such as SNAP, can help low-income students make ends meet while in school. CLASP’s report Lessons Learned from a Community College Initiative to Help Low-Income Students discusses the results of Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC), our 2.5-year initiative to increase access to public benefits for eligible low-income students. An evaluation of BACC demonstrates a direct correlation between increased benefits access and improved progress toward degree completion.

CLASP looks forward to California’s continued efforts to address student hunger and connect them to public benefits that support persistence and completion. These initiatives should be a model for federal and state policymakers who want to help low-income students build skills, obtain credentials, and succeed in today’s economy.

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