In Focus

Oct 19, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Back to School: Understanding the Landscape of Rural Dropout Recovery

By Clarence Okoh

With the new school-year underway, many districts are grappling with how to prevent an estimated 800,000 students from exiting school this year before earning a high school degree. While this issue affects many communities, it presents a unique set of challenges for America’s rural schools. Despite the scope of this crisis, federal, state, and local policymakers can take advantage of effective strategies to improve student graduation rates and strengthen rural schools.

The latest data from the US Department of Education (DOE) reports that the average freshman graduation rate for rural high school students was 80.6 percent, leaving nearly one of five rural youth without a high school degree. Consistent with urban trends, these numbers reflect a disproportionate impact on rural youth of color. A 2010 report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) indicates that the graduation rates for rural youth of color were 61 percent for Hispanic youth, 54 percent for African-American youth and 51 percent for Indian/Alaska Natives youth.

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Aug 13, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Tying Together Place and Race: New Data on Youth Disconnection

By: Rashaun Bennett

A new study from Measure of America, “Zeroing In on Place and Race: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities,” confirms that youth disconnection is a nationwide problem requiring federal, state, and local action.  It also reveals racial and geographic disparities, demonstrating where resources are most needed.

Across the U.S., 5.5 million youth are disconnected.  While a large number of them are White (2.5 million), other racial groups are disconnected at far higher rates.  According to the study, 21.6 percent of Black youth, 20.3 percent of Native American youth, and 16.3 percent of Latino youth are disconnected—compared to just 11.3 percent of White youth.  Youth disconnection is linked to residential segregation, which concentrates poverty and marginalizes people of color. Highly segregated metro areas have been correlated to high rates of disconnection for Black youth.

The consequences are severe for youth and communities.  Disconnected youth are three times less likely to have a high school diploma and two times more likely to live in poverty.  Further, disconnected girls are three times more likely to have children than girls enrolled in school.  In 2013, the total cost of youth disconnection was $26.8 billion; this includes lost earnings, public assistance, medical care, and criminal justice expenses.  Now more than ever, it is crucial to invest in high-quality K-12 education, programs and pathways that prevent disconnection, and employment and education assistance for youth currently disconnected.

CLASP has recommended common-sense policy changes around systems building and program delivery to reduce disconnection. Additionally, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, provide strong opportunities for federal investment in dropout recovery and employment strategies.  It’s critical that we seize this moment and give young people the resources they need to connect to school and work and fulfill their potential. 

Jul 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Missed Opportunity: Young children and disadvantaged youth deserve more attention in ESEA Reauthorization

By Kisha Bird and Christina Walker

Earlier this month, on July 16th, the U.S. Senate passed its Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act ( S.1177), with an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support. The bill, brokered by Senate leaders Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), includes important provisions, such as:

  • requiring goals for achievement and high school graduation;
  • specifying the collection of data related to educational resources, including per-pupil expenditures;
  • disaggregating student achievement data; and
  • allowing funds to be used to improve early childhood education programs and to promote better coordination through agreements with Head Start agencies and other entities to carry out these activities.

However, the bill fails to direct or provide resources to local districts and states to implement effective strategies to improve student achievement and address access and equity gaps for poor and low-income students. In particular, the bill does not include a dedicated funding stream for pre-k or for dropout prevention and recovery for students in the middle and high school grades. 

On July 8th, the House passed its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Similarly, H.R. 5 does not target funding to address these issues and fails to include protections for poor and vulnerable students. H.R. 5 would also divert much-needed funds from the highest poverty schools and districts through the “portability” concept. This would allow Title I funds, which have the express purpose of assisting public schools with high concentrations of poverty and high-need students, to follow a child to any public or private school and would undermine critical targeting of limited Title I funds.

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