In Focus: Pathways to Reconnection

Dec 19, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Department of Education Final Accountability Regulations Leave Many Policy Decisions for Disconnected Youth to States

By: Nia West-Bey

On November 29, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued final accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). CLASP’s comments on the proposed regulations sought to promote increased accountability for vulnerable and out-of-school youth. Although the final rules contain several wins for this population of youth, there were significant missed opportunities to strengthen federal policy directives to better support these students.

In line with CLASP’s recommendations, the final rule was revised to include students as “required stakeholders” for the development of comprehensive and targeted support and improvement plans, acknowledging that “directly involving students in developing school improvement plans, particularly in the case of older students, could ensure that a school’s plan represents the perspectives of those who will be most directly impacted by its implementation.”

The final regulations also maintain graduation rates as a key accountability factor, describing targeted and comprehensive support and improvement activities for high schools graduating less than two thirds of their students or of any key sub-group of students. The regulations also clarify the calculation of high school graduation rates and which students must be included in the calculation, which ensures accountability is maintained for students who leave school. Acknowledging the importance of educational programs that primarily serve young people who are dropping back into school or are significantly over-age and under-credited, the final rule allows for differentiated improvement activities for these programs. The final rule also encourages coordination of the state plan with other key programs, including those in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act.

In addition, the final regulations maintain the proposed rule’s accountability requirements for key groups of vulnerable youth, including youth in foster care, homeless youth, and those in the justice system. Specifically, the final rule requires data disaggregation on all accountability indicators reported by schools, districts, and states for low-income youth, youth of color, and youth who have been in foster care or are homeless. Required reporting on outcomes for each of these groups that typically experience poor educational outcomes helps to support equity and enables states to target resources to the students with the greatest need.

The rule includes several provisions to support justice-involved youth; it requires states to develop a plan for transferring records and credits to facilitate increased educational continuity and only recognizes transfers to educational programs in juvenile justice facilities as valid if they can be reasonably expected to lead to a high school diploma. The rule also requires states to plan for providing and funding transportation for foster and homeless youth so they can remain in their home schools.

Despite recommendations from CLASP and other advocates, ED declined to make changes to the final rules on a range of topics, leaving many decisions to states and school districts. For example, states are responsible for generating lists of evidence-based interventions for targeted/comprehensive support and improvement, selecting school climate indicators for inclusion in their accountability systems, and

considering additional groups (such as justice-involved youth or pregnant and parenting teens) for data disaggregation. States also need to develop and submit plans to secure grant funding to meet the special needs of high-risk populations or to address school climate factors that contribute to pushing students out of school such as exclusionary discipline practices, bullying, and harassment.

Despite the helpful provisions that can support better educational outcomes for vulnerable youth and the substantial choices and flexibility left to the states, there is a risk that these rules will never take effect. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), passed in 1996 as a part of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” Congress has the opportunity to use an expedited process to overturn regulations finalized by the Obama Administration since late spring 2016. The Senate Republican Policy Committee has included the ESSA accountability regulations on a short list of regulations that it intends to target under the CRA, claiming, “the department’s final rules are too prescriptive, conflict with congressional intent, and violate explicit prohibitions on the secretary’s authority to regulate.” If the accountability regulations are overturned through this process, ED is prohibited from creating a substantially similar regulation at any point in the future.

States are required to consult with stakeholders as they develop and finalize their state education plans for the 2017-2018 school year. Advocates for opportunity youth should prepare to engage with state and local education leaders to ensure that their plans make good choices on behalf of youth disconnected from school or at heightened risk of dropping out. CLASP will continue our efforts to support this advocacy work and to keep stakeholders informed throughout 2017.

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Dec 2, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Our Youth, Our Economy, Our Future: A Road Map for Investing in the Nation’s Talent Pipeline

This week, the Campaign for Youth released Our Youth, Our Economy, Our Future: A Road Map for Investing in the Nations’ Talent Pipeline, an investment strategy that offers a set of recommendations to help national, state and local public and private stakeholders identify and invest in solutions to help reconnect opportunity youth across the nation. 

Building upon our 2008 recommendations which received the support of over 250 organizations, our 2016 strategy offers six overarching ways to bring these recommendations to reality:

  • Make reconnecting our youth a national priority.
  • Build on the strengths of young people and involve them in finding solutions for their generation.
  • Invest in high-need communities.
  • Create opportunities for work experiences that are relevant to careers and have real world application.
  • Create pathways to financial independence and social mobility.
  • Build state and local capacity to expand effective high-quality, evidence-based programming

Solutions are within reach but require strong public support, public and private investment, an active nonprofit sector, enabling government policies, and the collective knowledge of the youth development field.

Read our Road Map for Investing in the Nation’s Talent Pipeline.

Sign on in support of the Road Map to connect youth and young adults to education, work, and opportunity!

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Nov 10, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Employment Pathways for Boys and Young Men of Color

By: Kisha Bird & Clarence Okoh

Last month, CLASP, in partnership with the Moriah Group and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released Employment Pathways for Boys and Young Men of Color: Solutions and Strategies That Can Make a Difference as part of a larger issue brief series aimed at identifying and disseminating best practices that support the well-being and empowerment of boys and young men of color. In particular, this brief discusses promising strategies to improve employment outcomes for young men of color and the role of public policy in dismantling discrimination and promoting pathways to work. 

While the employment landscape has improved significantly for many populations since the height of the Great Recession, young men of color still confront an employment crisis. Abetted by factors such as employment discrimination, educational inequities, and disproportionate contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, young men of color far too often are required to navigate challenging barriers to access quality jobs and career paths.  Employment data from the U.S. Census Bureau underscore these disparities. For example, teenage African American males experienced a 43 percent decrease in employment between 2000 and 2015 and currently have the lowest levels of employment among male teens at 16 percent. 

Despite these barriers, communities across the country have deployed promising strategies to help reconnect young men of color to work, education, and opportunity. These strategies range from subsidized employment to national service, civic engagement, education, and training. While no single strategy is a silver bullet to solving the youth employment crisis for young men of color, collectively they offer communities the opportunity to customize strategies to fit their unique needs.

Addressing racial disparities in male youth employment will take more than local innovation. Equity in employment and economic opportunity for young men of color will require robust federal investments and policy change that not only provide opportunities for young men to enter into the labor market, but also address other educational and life challenges they may face. Elements of systemic policy change for young men of color should include:

  • Connecting Boys and Young Men of Color to Work through the Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – State and local communities can leverage youth funding requirements to expand access and improve the quality of the workforce development services that they offer.
  • Creating Bold New Federal Investments in Subsidized Employment StrategiesSubsidized employment strategies like transitional and summer jobs build young people’s work experience and allow them a stronger foothold in the labor market. This strategy has demonstrated great promise in connecting people with limited work experience to employment opportunities. Recently introduced legislation like the Opening Doors for Youth Act could provide a vehicle for achieving those investments.
  • Keeping Young Men of Color Connected to School through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – The new law contains several provisions designed to promote high school completion, address school climate issues, and promote more seamless access to educational services for court-involved youth. Policymakers and advocates can take advantage of the planning process to ensure that the law meets its full potential for boys and young men of color.
  • Expanding Access to Health and Mental Health Services through the Affordable Care ActMedicaid expansion provides an opportunity to connect unprecedented numbers of young adults to the health services they need, especially mental health services. Trauma-informed, culturally relevant healthcare can provide strong support in promoting the well-being of boys and young men of color.

Young men of color are integral and invaluable assets to our communities. Yet far too often policy falls short of achieving equity and addressing their needs. Through a more ambitious and holistic policy agenda, policymakers can strengthen the economic security of young men of color and promote greater inclusion in America’s future workforce.  

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