In Focus: Pathways to Reconnection

Apr 8, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Celebrating Native American Youth: Leadership and Resiliency

By Andrew Mulinge

Recently, the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth held its fourth annual Champions for Change celebration. The event recognized the extraordinary work of resilient young men and women in Native American, Alaskan native, and Native Hawaiian communities across the country.

The young leaders’ inspiring work is a constructive response to the hardships and tragedies they have experienced. They discussed channeling their challenges and pain into innovative programs that address suicide, sexual abuse, cultural preservation, and mentorship for their peers. These programs are critically important; too often, communities perpetuate trauma instead of supporting those who experience it.

Chronic trauma and adversity are key public health issues with major implications for the wellbeing of youth—especially those in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Barriers to positive youth development  include violence, abuse, and neglect, as well as chronic stressors like unemployment, racism, lack of adequate health care, and social isolation. Chronic trauma and adversity in childhood can interrupt normal brain development; this has long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

To read more click here >>>

Feb 11, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin ninth grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school four years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization: 

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems, and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery.

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

Aug 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Postsecondary Success Strategies for Opportunity Youth

By Andrea Barnes

In today’s economy, postsecondary credentials are essential to securing good jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.  Whether it’s through college, vocational training, or a technical school, most youth want to obtain a postsecondary education. But for youth who have dropped out of high school, numerous barriers make it difficult or impossible for them to re-enter the education system. And even if they do obtain a high school diploma or GED, accessing and completing a postsecondary program is extremely challenging.  Youth may struggle to apply for financial aid, understand college culture, or secure counseling and academic support.  In response, many cities and states are now developing and implementing solutions that break down barriers and help youth achieve their dreams.

At a Congressional briefing last month, leaders of the Campaign for Youth, a coalition of national organizations, advocated for programs and policies to support postsecondary success for opportunity youth. Speakers included Terry Grobe (Jobs for the Future), Alan Melchior (Brandeis University), Scott Emerick (YouthBuild USA), Mala Thakur (National Youth Employment Coalition), Capri St. Vil (The Corps Network), H. Leigh Toney (Miami-Dade College), Alex Nock (Penn Hill Group), and Jennifer Brown Lerner (American Youth Policy Forum). Tyler Wilson (The Corps Network) moderated the briefing.

Jobs for the Future presented its Back on Track Through College model, aimed at creating more pathways for youth to achieve postsecondary credits and credentials. The framework is focused on three highly impactful interventions:

  1. Enriched preparation integrates high-quality college-ready instruction with strong academic and social supports.
  2. Postsecondary bridging builds college-ready skills and provides informed transition counseling.
  3. Support to completion offers appropriate supports to ensure postsecondary persistence and success, especially in the critical first year of postsecondary education.

Back on Track Through College has been implemented at 34 community-based sites in 17 states. Early data show promising results. An evaluation by the the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University found that, across the three years of the pilot at National Youth Employment Coalition and YouthBuild sites, 73 percent of the students who entered college persisted two semesters or more. The Back on Track model is especially effective for court-involved youth, who must overcome social stigma, lack of access to resources, lack of employment opportunities, and unsupportive probation and parole requirements.

The key to the Back on Track model is partnership among secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, and community-based organizations.  Each entity brings something different and valuable to the partnership. Strategic secondary-postsecondary partnerships create academic acceleration, while community-based organizations (such as YouthBuild and NYEC-affiliated schools and programs) provide academic and social supports, as well as youth leadership and development opportunities.

Taking the Back on Track model to scale and expanding it to other communities will require policy change at all levels of government. At the federal level, Jobs for the Future makes the following recommendations:

  • The High School Graduation Initiative within the ESEA should be modified to focus more intentionally on proven dropout recovery pathways.
  • Congress should invest in research and development around new school and program models to aid disconnected youth.
  • Within the Department of Education, School Improvement Grants and the High School Graduation Initiative should require further community collaboration around dropout prevention and recovery.
  • Reinstate the Disconnected Youth Opportunity Tax Credit, which came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and expired in 2011. It provided a tax incentive for employers to hire disconnected youth.
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