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June 2013

CLASP acknowledges the support of the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement. This periodic update for the field is a part of CLASP’s ongoing work to advance policy and practice that will dramatically improve the education, employment, and life outcomes for youth in communities of high youth distress. Stay Informed! If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up for Keeping Connected and updates on youth policy.

Community In Focus

In March, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg of the California State Assembly introduced SB 594 – The Dropout Reduction and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013 in response to what he sees as the state’s problems with both dropouts and workforce shortages. The bill, if passed, could significantly change the way public education instruction and workforce development is delivered in the state. It would also incentivize business and industry to be an active partner with the K-12 community and other stakeholders to develop and support career pathways in specific industries. Read more.

Resources to Check Out

Happenings to Watch

In This Issue
Education, Employment, and Health Outcomes for Black Boys and Young Men: Opportunities for Research and Advocacy Collaboration

CLASP created the Partnership Circle for Boys and Young Men of Color as a venue for national policy organizations, advocacy groups, and researchers to discuss opportunities to influence policy to improve education, employment, and health outcomes for boys and young men (ages 12-24) of color. One of the salient findings of the group’s initial meeting in September 2012 was that research on black males could be used more effectively to influence policy change.

To address this finding about more effective use of research, CLASP and the Scholars Network on Black Masculinity collaborated to host a working session with researchers and policy advocates on May 2-3, 2013. This session attracted 32 attendees representing 25 institutions of higher education, research organizations, national membership organizations, national policy organizations, civil rights groups, and foundations interested in this issue. The convening had three objectives:

  1. To develop formal and meaningful relationships between researchers and national policy advocates
  2. To connect research findings to policy discussions that support solutions to the dropout and employment crisis for middle school, high school, and out-of-school black males
  3. To reach consensus on a set of activities over the next two years to advance policy solutions for employment, dropout prevention and recovery for middle school, high school, and out-of-school black males

Participants heard presentations and engaged in discussions with representatives from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, Open Society Foundations, Trust for America’s Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and ColorOfChange. Participants exchanged ideas about strengthening the education pipeline at the middle school and high school levels, along with addressing students who need to be reconnected to education after dropping out. Participants delved into specific issues such as cultural competence, teacher expectations, fair school discipline, 9th grade transition, over-age and under-credit youth, barriers to college and career readiness, and disconnected youth re-engagement as part of the high school responsibility. They also discussed the non-school factors impacting student achievement such as poverty, unemployment, violence, and fatherhood. In addition, the group explored opportunities for a coordinated role of school and community in supporting students and families and in being advocates for sustainable change.

This convening generated several important ideas and next steps for the partners of this group. Moving forward, CLASP and the Scholars Network on Black Masculinity intend to work collaboratively with the participants in this working session to increase our impact on policy and practice issues for black males, as well as boys of color.

Read the proceedings from the working session.

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Eduployment – An Opportunity for America’s Youth

Eduployment. It may be a funny word but it is certainly not a funny topic. Youth unemployment is at the highest levels since World War II. Without a way to learn to navigate the workplace, build skills, and earn income, young people are unable to make the transition to adulthood. In Generation Jobless, the Economist explains that “...people who begin their careers without work are likely to have lower wages and greater odds of future joblessness than those who don’t. A wage penalty of up to 20%, lasting for around 20 years, is common. The scarring seems to worsen fast with the length of joblessness and is handed down to the next generation, too.” This generation of young adults is bearing the burden, as will their children and our nation as a whole.

The Youth Transition Funders Group has released a new paper Eduployment: Creating Opportunity Policies for America’s Youth. It calls for an overhaul of youth policy based on eduployment -- to ensure that young people successfully navigate our education systems AND the labor market. The United States needs a coherent policy based on today’s economic and social dynamics in which students balance education and work rather than those of the 1970’s. Given the size of the crisis, piecemeal policies and fragmented funding is inappropriate. Powerful investments are needed to get youth unemployment under control.

Did you just have a thought of "not possible" flash through your mind. The first step towards a new opportunity policy for youth is about believing -- believing we can do it. After decades of having funds chipped away, far too many of us no longer believe we can get our federal or state governments to make significant investment in youth. Or perhaps we don’t just don't know how to do it. Thus, the first steps are to overcome our own belief systems and admit that we don't know how. That's our biggest battle -- from there we can work together to figure out what needs to be done. And do it.

This crisis is hurting the bottom line, our nation’s bottom line. Now we just need to make so much noise that our national, state and local leaders have no other option than to respond.

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“Gatekeeper Credentials” The Changing Landscape of High School Equivalencies: Exploring the Implications for Access and Equity for Communities of Color

Last month, CLASP in partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights held a timely and important roundtable discussion on high school equivalency: Roundtable Discussion: “Gatekeeper Credentials” The Changing Landscape of High School Equivalencies: Exploring the Implications for Access and Equity for Communities of Color. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the new high school equivalency tests, including the GED®, that will take effect in 2014, hear perspectives of local providers, discuss concerns, and identify next steps to ensure low-income communities and communities of color have adequate access to earn a secondary credential. Participants included a cross-section of youth, education, and workforce policy advocates, practitioners and program providers, along with civil rights advocates.

This conversation is critically relevant to black male achievement and the ability of young black men who have dropped out of high school to get back on track and earn a secondary school credential. Youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 represent a large number of those needing access to high school equivalencies pathways, such as the GED®. The 6.7 million young people disconnected from school and work – with 3.4 million having been unattached to school since age 16 -- are disproportionately African American and Hispanic. According to the GED® Testing Service, over 50 percent of the individuals taking their test were under the age of 25. Employment prospects are significantly decreased for those lacking a secondary school diploma. Just 25 percent of African American high school dropouts age 16-24 are employed as compared to 47 percent for their white counterparts.

In less than six months, beginning in 2014, the GED® test and its administration at the federal, state and local level will change – impacting some 25.7 million people between ages 18 and 64 and who are without a high school diploma or equivalent. This is the largest overhaul of the GED® , the most widely recognized alternative to a high school diploma, in seven decades. As of January 2014, in several states, the GED® will no longer be the only test available that allows students to obtain a high school equivalency. Other high school equivalency assessments have been developed by the Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill. Indiana, California, Florida, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, are considering options and have formally issued RFP’s. Tennessee is planning on a dual-system, including the GED® and another test option. Most notably, New York State made headlines in March after announcing it would be dropping the GED® in favor of developing its own exam in order to keep costs low and allow its Education Department to effectively serve youth and adults. Montana and New Hampshire also announced they would be switching to a new high school equivalency exam and are dropping the GED®.

This is a dramatic pendulum shift in the world of adult education and for the millions of youth and adults that seek alternative pathways to earn their high school diploma and gain entry into post secondary education and jobs with decent wages. Since 1942, the GED® has been synonymous with high school equivalency in the U.S. and widely recognized by employers and postsecondary institutions. As this shift happens, many advocates and practitioners are concerned by the impact these changes will have on access to these gatekeeper credentials, in particular for disadvantaged and underserved communities.

This dramatically changing landscape for high school equivalency set the stage for a dynamic conversation at the roundtable we held. Participants expressed a variety of concerns including:

  • Capacity of providers to adapt to changes
  • Inadequate funding of the adult education system
  • Understanding the impact for youth/young adults, individuals with disabilities, women, black males, and other underserved communities
  • Understanding how the new GED® 2014 and other high school equivalencies will be interpreted and rallied by employers and higher education institutions

The roundtable participants also discussed need for holding K-12 schools accountable for providing students with a strong education and not pushing students out to programs that may not be high quality. Against this need, though, is a tension with how to ensure that there are quality education and career pathways for those that find themselves outside of the traditional education system. This leads to the importance of having policy dialogues across these spectrums to discuss issues of funding, service delivery capacity, quality, access, impact and outcomes.

The roundtable provided a launching point to discuss concerns and to begin to develop shared language and messaging around this issue. Moving forward CLASP and the Leadership Conference plan to develop a set of shared actions with other national and local advocates that will ensure there is equitable access to these gatekeeper credentials. See meeting fact sheets:

High School Equivalency Crisis

High School Equivalency Crisis: Youth In Focus

An Increasing Number of Americans Lack a High School Diploma

For information on the new GED® and the other high school equivalency exams, visit GED® Testing Service, Educational Testing Service, and CTB/McGraw-Hill.

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