In Focus

Jun 30, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

The Complex Challenges of Working Out-of-School Youth

By Andrew Mulinge

When teens are exposed to work through summer and year-round employment, internships, and service opportunities, they are far more likely to stay in school, graduate on time, and be consistently employed as adults. Youth who have been employed also earn higher wages in young adulthood. However, despite the long-term advantages of access to early employment, the challenges facing  youth ages 16 to 19 who are employed but not in school are often overlooked.

There are many factors that lead young people to drop out of school. Chief among them is family financial obligations. Working youth typically live in households that are more likely to have lower combined income than unemployed youth who have dropped out of school. Additionally, working youth’s households have less access to federal safety net programs that could help meet basic needs and reduce the pressure to drop out.

A recent report by the Urban Institute highlights the complex challenges faced by out-of-school youth who are employed. This population is mostly male, Latino and immigrant, and working in low-skill, low-paying jobs. The majority (63 percent) are working more than half the year, and 51 percent are working at least 40 weeks a year. The American Community Survey estimates that 60 percent of working youth ages 16 to 18 contribute over 10 percent of their household income.  Additionally, among working poor households, one-third exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) as a result of youth earnings.

Young people should not have to choose between staying in school and going to work to help support their families. Under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states and communities have an opportunity to better address the workforce development and employment needs of low-income youth, particularly those who have dropped out of school. WIOA requires that 75 percent of youth funds be spent on out-of-school youth—an increase from 30 percent under the previous law. Furthermore, WIOA encourages states to develop career pathwaysthat integrate progressive levels of education and training. This will help working youth move into jobs that provide higher wages and more stable careers while increasing their education and skill attainment.

Losing out on a high school diploma has severe implications for youth’s future outcomes.  Looking forward, we must provide poor and low-income youth more opportunities to gain critical employment skills and earn wages while also strengthening the safety net to help their families meet basic needs.

Learn about CLASP’s resources on WIOA impacting youth and adults.

Read CLASP’s issue brief on employment for young men of color.

Read the Urban Institute’s report on working youth.

Jun 8, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Addressing the College Readiness Challenge in High-Poverty Schools

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant

More than half of all public school children live in low-income families. As the number of poor children has risen, so has the number of children who attend high-poverty schools. According to 2012 data, the most recent available, 1 in 5 children attend a school where at least 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch—up from 12 percent just 12 years ago. Concentrated poverty is most prevalent in urban areas, where 34 percent of students attend high-poverty schools. Given the racial/ethnic makeup of our nation's urban centers, many of these students are children of color.Students in high-poverty schools lack the supports needed to become college ready, according to a report from CLASP. Course, Counselor, and Teacher Gaps: Addressing the College Readiness Challenge in High-Poverty High Schools analyzes the nation's 100 largest school districts, focusing on "high-poverty schools" (where at least 75 percent of students live in poverty) and "low-poverty schools" (where 0 to 25 percent of students live in poverty). The report identifies major gaps in school resources and their impact on youth.

The highest-poverty schools lack resources and supports, making postsecondary preparation very challenging. These schools have the least skilled teachers, offer a less rigorous curriculum, and provide limited or no access to schools counselors. Consequently, students in high-poverty school sare less likely to enroll in college or training programs that lead to viable careers. Those who do enroll often need remedial academic support, creating financial barriers.

CLASP's report details specific resource disparities in the nation's 100 largest schools districts:

  • 14.5 percent of teachers in high-poverty high schools are in their first or second year, compared to 9.5 percent in low-poverty schools.
  • 88.5 percent of teachers in high-poverty high schools are certified, compared to 96.5 percent in low-poverty schools.
  • 69 percent of high-poverty high schools offer physics, compared to 90 percent of low-poverty high schools high schools.
  • Only 41 percent of high-poverty high schools offer calculus, compared to 85 percent of low-poverty schools.

Disparities in education for students in high-poverty schools cannot continue. The U.S. must provide each child with a quality education that prepares them for college and careers. If we fail to do so, students and families will remain trapped in poverty, low-income communities will suffer, and the nation's economy will be placed at severe risk. There are many opportunities at the federal, state, and district levels to address this problem with systemic, sustainable policies. We simply need to act.

Click here to read the report. 

May 22, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Supporting the Academic Success of Black Girls

By Andrea Barnes

Black girls are entering the “school-to-prison pipeline” at alarming rates, according to a report from the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and the African American Policy Forum. The school-to-prison pipeline, which refers to the link between punitive disciplinary measures in school and subsequent involvement in the juvenile or criminal justice systems, is a recognized barrier for young black males. Black boys are suspended and expelled more frequently than any other demographic group; as a result, they are typically the focus of academic research and advocacy. The impact of school discipline on girls, particularly Black girls, is largely ignored by scholars, leading many stakeholders to believe they are not affected.   However, a close review of the data tells a different story.

Analyzing U.S. Department of Education data on school suspensions for the 2011-2012 school year, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected finds that race may be a more significant factor for females than it is for males. Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their White counterparts, while Black girls were suspended six times as often as their White counterparts.

The researchers utilized focus groups of school-age girls to further identify their achievement barriers. The girls describe their schools as chaotic environments that prioritize discipline over education and do not meet their emotional needs.  Many of their challenges are gender-specific, including interpersonal violence, sexual harassment and bullying, teen pregnancy and parenting, and family caretaking responsibilities.

There are numerous reasons Black girls are underserved. Lifting them up requires a range of solutions at the school, district, and state levels. Federal policy can also spark and support change. The report makes several recommendations for supporting Black girls’ success in school:

While Black boys experience the greatest disparities in educational outcomes, Black girls also have many challenges.  As we seek out solutions for Black boys, we must also study and address girls’ unique needs.

Read more about CLASP’s work on youth of color>>>

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