In Focus

Dec 18, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

The Potential of ESSA to Support Low-income Young Children and Disconnected Youth

By: Clarence Okoh and Christina Walker

Last week, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or No Child Left Behind Act. The new law, renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), includes provisions that have the potential to advance educational equity for some of our most marginalized youth and young children, if state and local leaders and policymakers seize the opportunity.

One of the pillars of ESSA is the continued use of student data to promote school accountability, and the law contains strong provisions that continue the collection and disaggregation of student achievement and school resource data by race, income, and disability status. The disaggregation of data enables education leaders and advocates in identifying the persistent and troubling gaps in areas such as academic proficiency, per pupil expenditures, and teacher quality.   However, ESSA falls short of disaggregating data within the Asian Pacific Islander student population, making it more challenging to identify opportunity gaps for underserved youth in those communities.

ESSA supports effective dropout prevention strategies such as afterschool programs and community schools, emphasizing the importance of community partners through 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Community Support for School Success programs. ESSA also requires states to specify how they will effectively transition students from middle school to high school and from high school to postsecondary education. Both periods are critical to ensuring students graduate from high school on time and successfully transition into adulthood.

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Dec 17, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Congress Considers Bill with Increases in Funding for Education and Training Programs that Serve Low-income Youth and Adults

By: Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success and CLASP Youth Team

This week, the U.S. House and Senate are considering an omnibus funding bill for FY 2016 (the fiscal year that began on October 1. Following the budget agreement made earlier this fall, an increase in the overall discretionary budget authority allowed Congress to increase funding for much-needed investments. The bill provides modest boosts in funding for key programs for low-income adults and youth in the areas of workforce development, postsecondary education, and offers important supports for other investments that will help disadvantaged and out-of-school youth. As part of this legislative package, Congress is considering changes to the tax code that would make improvements to key refundable tax credits programs that support working families and students.

The omnibus spending bill includes:

Support for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs at increased funding levels compared with FY 2015, although below the full funding levels authorized by WIOA:

  • An increase of $39 million in WIOA Title I-Adult funding, providing a 5 percent increase in funds for states and local areas to offer career services, job training, and work-based learning opportunities, giving a priority to low-income adult populations, including public assistance recipients and others with barriers to employment.
  • An increase of $42 million in WIOA Title I-Youth funding, providing a 5 percent increase in funds for states and local areas to implement effective employment, education, and youth development strategies for the most vulnerable young people in highly distressed communities, with an increased focus on out-of-school youth. 
  • An increase of $13 million for WIOA Title II Adult Education/Literacy grants to states, offering a 2 percent increase in funds for states to help the 36 million Americans with low basic skills strengthen their English language and educational levels to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities, support the educational and skill achievement of parents and family members, improve health and financial literacy, and participate fully in society.  

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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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