In Focus: Pathways to Reconnection

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.

Jan 17, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

The High Cost of Youth Unemployment

By Zane Jennings and Kisha Bird

Since the Great Recession, young adults have struggled to connect with and thrive in the American workforce. A new study by Young Invincibles, “In This Together,” demonstrates the dire situation young adults face in today’s labor market a and the economic consequences of youth unemployment to our nation.

Since 2007, workers ages 18 to 34 (known as “Millennials)” have faced double digit unemployment rates. And the youngest American workers, ages 16 to 24, have fared the worst, with unemployment rates exceeding twice the national average. In contrast to prior economic downturns, in which young adult unemployment returned to pre-recession levels within 5 years, recovery from the Great Recession is taking significantly longer.

Continued high unemployment has caused many young adults to withdraw completely from the workforce. Recent research estimates 5.8 million young adults are neither working nor in school. Ages 16 through 24 are critical development years, as young people prepare to take on adult responsibilities. Having early work experience and attachment to the labor market is essential to establishing work history and credibility and is a predictor of future wages and employment mobility.

According to the study, young adults’ economic struggles, anxiety, and “deferment or denial of dreams” have major consequences both for them personally and for the national economy. Through loss of tax revenue and safety net expenditures, federal and state governments lose almost $9 billion annually due to Millennial unemployment. That’s roughly $4,100 in forgone tax revenue and public benefits for each unemployed person between the ages of 18 and 24, and $9,875 for each unemployed person between 25 and 34.

Tackling the issue of youth unemployment is not only the right thing to do—it is a necessity. As we continue to right our sluggish economy and address long-term challenges, such as the federal budget deficit, special attention must be paid to the broader economic implications of this demographic in the workforce.

Young Invincibles identifies several strategies to reconnect young adults to the workforce and improve their skills, including:

  • Investing in national service programs, such as AmeriCorps. Expanding national service will enable young adults to make money and garner work experience while contributing to communities in need.
  • Reinstating the Youth Opportunity Grant. Although grant funding ended in 2005, an evaluation of the program showed that Youth Opportunity created pathways to education, training, jobs, and internships for thousands of youth in high-poverty communities.
  • Expanding the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program. RA provides training in vital technical skills, as well as wages for workers. The RA program is also an incredible investment for the federal government and employers.  For every dollar invested, the federal government gains $50 in return. Employers also many reap benefits including a more technical and well-trained workforce.
  • Establishing a “Career Internship” standard by offering long-term internships with school-approved employers that provide wages and/or school credit. The recommendation also includes a targeted component to allow for the participation of out-of-school youth.
  • Providing more opportunities for Millennial workers. Their greatest strengths—their technology skills and entrepreneurial, collaborative, and creative approaches to problem solving—are essential assets to employers.

CLASP has long advocated for a diverse set of policies and interventions to connect the most vulnerable youth (including those without a secondary credential and youth of color) to work, education, and ultimately opportunity; this includes building on research and lessons learned from the Youth Opportunity Grant Program.

As “In This Together” shows, young adult unemployment is an important issue with widespread consequences for continued inaction.  It is imperative that we act, and act quickly.

Read the full report and access state data>>

Learn about CLASP youth policy recommendations >>>

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