In Focus: Youth of Color

Nov 5, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

School Districts Are United to Improve the Achievement of Young Men of Color

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant

In October, CLASP collaborated with the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) in staging a two-day fall pre-conference session, “United to Make a Difference: Improving the Achievement of Young Men of Color,” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This gathering was the first meeting since the members of CGCS joined together in collective commitment to improve educational outcomes for boys and young men of color in partnership with the White House My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

Public urban school systems within the CGCS membership collectively educate at least one-third of America’s African American and Latino students and nearly 40 percent of all low-income boys and young men of color. Thus, the impact of this collaboration has the potential to significantly change the life trajectories of a tremendous number of children of color.

Improving outcomes for students of color requires changes in federal, state, and school district policies. It also requires changes in practice in school buildings and classrooms. Finally, it requires unearthing and eradicating bias, building bridges to cultural understanding, and empathy. These districts have a major task ahead of them, but they are ready to take on the challenge.

Over the coming months, school leaders will be engaged in a process of developing action plans that span from early childhood through high school completion and address domains such as teacher quality, school discipline, structural inequities in gifted and special education programs, and barriers to college and career readiness. A prominent element in discussions over the course of the two-day session was the need to involve youth in the crafting of these plans. In addition, districts were encouraged to think big and devise solutions that have significant systemic impact rather than merely programmatic efforts that reach small cohorts of students.

Over the last few years, CLASP has worked with a set of partners to identify a series of opportunities for impacting the educational outcomes of students of color. We submitted a memorandum fully detailing these areas for impact to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. They include:

  • Advance solutions for naming, increasing understanding, and addressing implicit bias in education
  • Promote school safety and connectedness through positive school culture
  • Recognize and address trauma as an underlying factor in education outcomes
  • Train teachers, counselors, and youth workers to develop culturally responsive pedagogy
  • Encourage a community-wide approach to address poverty as an impediment to academic success
  • Decrease disparities in school discipline, special education, and gifted education
  • Elevate middle school and high school transitions as critical times for intervention with students
  • Redesign the high school experience to support both college and career readiness
  • Invest in the recovery of students who have dropped out of school
  • Support postsecondary access and completion through greater access to school counseling services

Jul 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

In Case You Missed It: "Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity"

Last month, CLASP's Youth Team hosted “Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity,” a briefing on the education and employment solutions that communities of color have implemented for boys ages 12-24. It also lifted up the voices of young men who these innovative programs are helping to transform. The event was co-sponsored by PolicyLink, the National Council of La Raza, the Executive Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color, and the Institute for Black Male Achievement.

Among the many nuggets of wisdom shared were three framing ideas put forth by keynote speaker Joshua DuBois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He said that when working with and supporting young men of color, you must first take the time to know their stories. Second, you must like them in spite of their stories. And third, you must give them the tools they need to write the next chapter of their lives.

These themes were passionately reinforced by the four young men who spoke. They each named a particular individual who took a special interest in them, demonstrated love, and pushed them toward greatness. These young men also felt a tremendous responsibility to give back to their communities to help other youth succeed. Their stories of triumph over chronic trauma and poverty demonstrated the tremendous value of quality youth education and employment programs.

The panel of community leaders shared elements of their models of effective engagement with young men in an age group that many have written off. Through their work, young men have had their eyes opened to their value and place in society, and been equipped with skills to be successful in postsecondary pursuits and careers of their choosing. The community leaders also shared important perspectives on how current public policy is impeding their ability to work with young men and suggested common sense solutions.

Click here to learn more about the participants and view videos about youth education and employment programs.

You can also access related policy briefs on education, employment, and healthy communities.

Watch highlights and the full briefing, and hear the young men's stories-- Wilmer, Anjel, Brandon, and Troy


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 >>>

site by Trilogy Interactive