In Focus: Building the Capacity of Communities

Aug 4, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP Submits Comments on Proposed Regulations to Promote Accountability for Vulnerable and Out-of-School Youth under ESSA

By: Nia West-Bey

On August 1, CLASP submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education on proposed regulations that address accountability and state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Signed by President Barack Obama In December, ESSA reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which provides federal funds to improve elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools. 

Through the regulatory process, the Department has the opportunity to emphasize state and Local Education Agency accountability for the educational outcomes of vulnerable and disconnected students, as well as highlight opportunities for states to address these students’ needs in their state plans. Drawing on prior recommendations, CLASP’s comments focus on strengthening and prioritizing the ESSA provisions that support state and district efforts to prevent students from dropping out of high school as well as reengage out-of-school youth. CLASP also emphasizes the importance of aligning ESSA with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which targets funding and comprehensive education and training programs to out-of-school youth. 

Specifically, CLASP’s comments:

  • Express support for the proposed regulations’ focus on high schools with low graduation rates for all or key subgroups of students, as well as attention to postsecondary readiness and enrollment in accountability systems.
  • Advocate for revisions to support increased accountability for and incentives to reengage youth who have dropped out.
  • Recommend that ESSA align its definitions of vulnerable populations with WIOA’s definitions of eligible in-school youth by requesting disaggregation of accountability data for court-involved youth and pregnant and parenting youth.
  • Advocate for including middle and high school students in stakeholder conversations to develop plans for comprehensive support and improvement. These discussions should also engage vulnerable youth as well as the agencies and community-based organizations that serve them.
  • Recommend that evidence-based dropout prevention and recovery strategies be included in State plans and plans for comprehensive support and improvement.
  • Reflect agreement with colleagues from Civil Rights organizations that the regulations must address school climate, exclusionary discipline, and presence of law enforcement in schools as part of school accountability systems.

Young people who have discontinued their education without earning a high school diploma need viable options for returning to school. The current system presents obstacles; youth often lack information on available education options and where to enroll. Our comments can help to ensure that the final regulations encourage states and LEAs to recognize these students and incentivize the creation of intentional, coordinated plans for reengaging and keeping them connected. 

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Jul 29, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Continuing the Conversation on Youth Justice: Interview with Philadelphia’s 900AM – WURD

By: CLASP Youth Team 

This week, CLASP’s Kisha Bird participated in an interview in Philadelphia with 900AM-WURD where she spoke on the role of public investments in youth of color as a critical anti-incarceration strategy, and shared recommendations on opportunities available to policymakers from CLASP’s recent publication Realizing Youth Justice. The full interview can be heard by using the following link https://soundcloud.com/900amwurd/mojo-72516-clasp.

Jul 6, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Supreme Court Upholds Race-Conscious Admissions for Higher Education

By: Clarence Okoh

The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued its highly anticipated ruling in Fisher v Texas, upholding the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions practice. The 4-3 decision ensures that colleges and universities can continue to use affirmative action policies to promote access to higher education for communities of color. As our nation’s workforce becomes more racially diverse and the educational requirements of quality jobs are elevated, people of color need expanded access to higher education to ensure that our economy is vibrant, equitable, and inclusive.

This is the second time that the Court has ruled on this case; the first ruling, a 7-1 decision, came in 2013 when the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to apply a more rigorous evaluation in determining the constitutionally of Texas’ program. The June 23 ruling affirms that the program does in fact meet this higher standard and further underscores the critical role of racial diversity in shaping positive learning environments.

Recent data on postsecondary enrollment demonstrate the need for continued efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in higher education. Despite decades of minority undergraduate growth, representation remains disparate across institutions. Additionally, some of these longer-term growth trends have been marked by more recent declines in some communities of color.  The National Center for Education Statistics found that between 2010 and 2014, total African American enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions declined by 8.1 percent, and total American Indian and Alaska Native enrollment declined by 22.1 percent which represent particularly large declines relative to the change in overall population for these groups. As noted in an amicus brief submitted by the Kirwan Institute—with support from CLASP, 2025 Network for Black Men and Boys, and other Black male achievement initiatives—inequities in access to higher education will persist or worsen without admissions practices that are both holistic and race-conscious. 

While the Fisher decision should be celebrated, optimism over the Court’s ruling should be tempered by recent developments impacting communities of color. On the same day as the Fisher decision, the Supreme Court jeopardized the futures of millions of immigrant families with its ruling in U.S. v Texas, which effectively invalidated President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA). While Fisher represents a clear victory for racial equity in higher education; there is still much work to do to fully demonstrate that lives of people of color truly matter. 

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