Engaging in STEM Where We Live

Some public housing authorities (PHAs) are at the forefront of communities that are adopting place-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiatives, involving family members from preschoolers to adults, and creating opportunities to learn that are life-wide and lifelong.

Increasing exposure to and engagement in STEM learning outside of formal classroom settings is increasingly viewed as key to turning on more young people to STEM studies, and to addressing the equity gaps between high- and low-resourced families, schools, and communities. Recently the Department of Education released a Dear Colleague Letter to help state and local education agencies and their partners better understand how to use Federal funds to support innovative STEM education strategies to address equity goals.

The PHAs featured here, representing over 31,091 residents, with an average household income of $11,109, are part of communities participating in the SEED (STEM, Energy and Economic Development) initiative, supported in part by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education (ED), and Energy (DOE). See a previous blog on the SEED sites.  In a three month period last fall, these PHAs have documented 138 STEM-related activities and training that have reached over 1,200 residents.

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Guidance Released on Ability to Benefit Pell Eligibility

Federal Student Aid (FSA) office released guidance on Pell grant eligibility for students without a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent) who are enrolled in career pathways. This Pell eligibility category, also known as Ability to Benefit,  was partially restored in December 2014 and through amendments passed in December of 2015.

FSA provides in the new guidance clarification of an eligible career pathway program and implementation information for the new provisions. The definition of career pathways in the guidance is aligned to that in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

See the statement posted by FSA, which links to the Dear Colleague Letter and Questions and Answers on implementation.

Partnerships Advance Correctional and Reentry Education

The U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, just concluded National Reentry Week.  This was a cross-agency effort geared towards collaboration around helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals reenter and reintegrate with society. Reentry Week highlights included a proposed rule by the Office of Personnel Management to “ban the box” in federal hiring and a roadmap to reentry released by the Bureau of Prisons to assist federal inmates with reentry, guided by evidence based practices and principles.

Federal efforts to support reentry are not just limited to one week out of the year. One of the hallmarks of the Obama administration has been cross-agency collaboration to address collateral consequences of justice involvement. The Federal Interagency Reentry Council, the Improved Reentry Education and Promoting Reentry Success Through the Continuity of Educational Opportunities grant programs, and joint Department of Justice and Department of Education guidance around correctional education are just a few examples of successful, meaningful, and impactful collaborations.

Beyond the Box image of Checkbox

Image from Beyond the Box resource guide

The Department of Education has also released a “Beyond the Box” resource guide and Dear Colleague Letter encouraging postsecondary institutions to assess whether criminal justice information is necessary to make an informed admission decision and highlight the importance of supporting all students, including those who have been incarcerated or come in contact with the justice system, toward postsecondary completion upon admittance. This new guide marks a continuation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to mitigating unnecessary collateral impacts of incarceration and helping colleges and universities to design admissions policies that attract a diverse and qualified student body without creating unnecessary barriers for prospective students who have been involved with the justice system.

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Career Pathways: A Common Commitment

Image of joint letter on Career Pathways signed by 12 agencies.

Download the joint letter on Career Pathways signed by 12 agencies.

See the joint blog post on ED’s Homeroom Blog that announces a new 12-agency joint letter in support of career pathways and a common definition.

This letter marks a major milestone in the federal effort to align policies and technical assistance to support career pathways approaches in every community.

Through shared definitions and goals for career pathway systems, the federal government is taking steps toward removing obstacles for state and local areas to streamline programs and services to make it easier for individuals, including those with significant disabilities, to navigate and succeed in attaining their career goals.

The President’s Upskill Initiative: 1 Year Later

See a summary at the White House blog of an event that spotlighted how employers nationwide have answered the President’s call to train frontline workers with the skills to earn higher-paying jobs.

Image shows 8 out of 10 low-skilled workers are parents

8 out of 10 low-skilled workers are parents

Supporting materials:

OCTAE fact sheet on the profile of lower-skilled working-age (16 to 65 years old) adults, their highest level of education attained, in which industries they are employed, and how much they are earning, on average, for the work they do. Data from the Survey for Adult Skills 2012/2014.

Information from the Department of Labor on how businesses can engage in the workforce system here.

To learn more about what outside groups and employers are doing to support upskilling, visit UpskillAmerica.org.

FCC Modernizes Lifeline Program For the Digital Age

OCTAE Applauds New Rules That Will Help Make Home Broadband More Affordable for Low-Income Americans

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has modernized and reformed its Lifeline program to help low-income consumers afford access to broadband Internet access. Lifeline is a program that has helped make telephone service affordable for low-income Americans since 1985.

OCTAE has long championed increased access to the Internet for teachers, students, and classrooms, spreading the word of opportunities such as ConnectED, ConnectHome, and EveryoneOn. We recognize the importance of Internet access to increase the rigor and relevance of classroom teaching and homework; make learning anytime, anywhere a possibility for all; and provide families with connections to information, civic opportunity, health information, and consumer savings.

According to the Pew Research Center, just over 30 percent of households whose incomes fall below $50,000 and with children ages 6 to 17 do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, and this low-income group makes up about 40% of all families with school-age children in the United States.

To learn more about the Lifeline program for low-income Americans, visit https://www.fcc.gov/general/lifeline-program-low-income-consumers.

 

Call to Participate in the Task Force on New Americans’ National Skills and Credential Institute

This blog is cross-posted from the White House site.

As President Obama recently reminded us, “We can never say it often or loudly enough: Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America.” Many immigrants and refugees arrive in the United States having already completed extensive education and job training, or with significant work experience abroad. However, all too often they face challenges to fully utilizing these skills. Yet as the White House Task Force on New Americans One-Year Progress Report highlighted, there are communities that are developing programs to help skilled immigrants return to their careers in their new home.

The Task Force is seeking to support communities that are focused on finding solutions to this challenge through its National Skills and Credential Institute. This peer-learning forum aims to connect a consortium of leaders from state and local workforce areas; adult and post-secondary education systems and institutions; representatives from departments of labor, licensing, and regulatory affairs; immigrant serving organizations; and external technical assistance providers. The goal of this institute is to help communities understand how policies and practices help or hinder credential attainment and recognition, and to assist in developing strategies for how the public, private and nonprofit sectors can strengthen career pathways for skilled immigrants.

The Task Force will host this exciting forum at the White House, in partnership with the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor on June 29, 2016. Communities are invited to submit a letter of interest by May 1, 2016.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity, click here.

Free Consumer Protection Tools for Educators and Students

A guest blog by Cristina Miranda, Division of Consumer and Business Education, Federal Trade Commission 

April is Financial Literacy Month! Find free tools to help students understand consumer protection basics – including financial literacy – in plain and simple language at Consumer.gov in English and Consumidor.gov in Spanish. This free educational website from the Federal Trade Commission can help students learn how to avoid scams, manage their money, use credit and loans carefully, and protect their personal information.

Federal Trade Commission

Federal Trade Commission

The site is easy to use, easy to navigate, and accessible to people with different learning preferences and literacy levels. Educators can access free articles, videos, and worksheets about managing money, – including making a budget; credit, loans, and debt, how to get and fix credit; and avoiding scams and identity theft. Other tools include presentations, and lesson plans (arriving Spring 2016). You can also hear content read aloud; just click the “listen” button next to each article in either English or Spanish.

It’s easy — and free — to use and share Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov information. Everything is in the public domain and there are no copyright limits. Users can download copies to hand out, link to a page or copy text into a newsletter.

Request printed copies of the Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov materials as a sample pack, including all topics in English and Spanish, or in tear-off pads of 50 for each topic. Students can refer to these one-page flyers when making financial decisions, or complete the Making a Budget worksheet to make their own monthly budget. Copies may be ordered from ftc.gov/bulkorder (unlimited quantities) and the FTC will ship them for free.

Both Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov are featured resources in the LINCS Learner Center, which connects adult learners to freely availalbe learning sites.

Improving Reentry Outcomes Through Social Innovation

The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency focused on improving lives, strengthening communities, and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering, recently announced the recipients of their Social Innovation Fund. OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education program grantees, UTEC, Inc., has been selected as a subgrantee of the Social Innovation Fund program in two specific portfolio areas.

UTEC has an opportunity to partner with two national organizations that are Social Innovation Fund intermediaries.  REDF specifically invests in mission-driven businesses that hire and assist people willing and able to work, but who face multiple barriers to employment.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative aims to increase educational and employment opportunities for youth ages 14 to 25 who are involved in the justice system or have other significant barriers to success.  This work closely aligns with the existing Improved Reentry Education program, which seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals.

This work also aligns with broader federal priorities for criminal justice reform. The Obama Administration has consistently taken steps to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective and to address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities.  This includes a series of concrete actions to reduce the challenges and barriers that the formerly incarcerated confront, including through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level working group to support the federal government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

This post is created by Guest Blogger, Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education in OCTAE. Photo of Sean Addie

LINCS PD Center: A New Model

LINCS logo: states Literacy Information and Communication System

LINCS logo

OCTAE is procuring services to establish a professional development center, the LINCS Professional Development (PD) Center. This Center will encompass and replace the four regional professional development centers that have been funded as cooperative agreements since they came to OCTAE from the National Institute for Literacy in 2010. At a webinar for prospective vendors and partners held on March 16, OCTAE shared the new model and its grounding in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, PL 113-128) changes to requirements for state and national leadership activities.

The LINCS PD Center will assist states to leverage the many resources and capabilities in the LINCS system to meet two WIOA requirements for state leadership activities:

(1)“The establishment or operation of high quality professional development programs to improve…instruction.” (Sec 223 (a)1(B))

(2)“The provision of technical assistance to eligible providers of adult education and literacy activities receiving funds under this title, including—

  • the development and dissemination of instructional and programmatic practices based on the most rigorous or scientifically valid research available and appropriate, in reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, English language acquisition programs, distance education, and staff training;
  • the role of eligible providers as a one-stop partner to provide access to employment, education, and training services; and
  • assistance in the use of technology, including for staff training, to eligible providers, especially the use of technology to improve system efficiencies.” (Sec 223 (a)1(C))

The current LINCS system has a wealth of resources that can help States meet their requirements, including:

  • Online courses
  • Online Community of Practice platform
  • In-person training packages
  • Talent pool
  • Tools and resources

Technical assistance provided by the LINCS PD Center will support states in the establishment or operation of their own state-based program, or the establishment of a regional consortium to establish such a program; make available existing and developed LINCS high-quality PD resources and experiences that serve to disseminate information on evidence-based instruction and programming; and support adult education programs and instructors to be effective partners in the public workforce system.

Because state agencies have various models for PD systems already in place and to varying degrees of central coordination, the LINCS PD Center will establish a tiered menu of services to meet the varied needs and to allow for and support localization of the offerings. This menu will provide tiers and options of services to assist with PD program establishment or operation and with dissemination of LINCS’ PD resources and learning experiences.

The new Center will be awarded in August, 2016. The regional professional development center grants will conclude September 30, 2016. Questions about the procurement process may be addressed to Pamela.Bone@ed.gov.

For more information on WIOA, see OCTAE’s resource page.