Transforming the Lives of Adult Learners at Scale

Last week, I, along with regional representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke as part of a Fresh Federal Perspectives plenary session at the 2016 youth conference hosted by the California Workforce Association in Sacramento. Assemblymember Autumn Burke, a strong advocate for career and technical education, kicked off the session.

Students learning to climb utility poles in outside yard.

Beginning students learn how to safely climb poles. The program has a waiting list of several hundred students, many of whom will wait a year.

There were over 500 youth practitioners and policy makers in attendance. I stressed why partnerships are essential at all levels if we want all youth – not some youth – to have the opportunity to access a path into the middle class. Later in the day, I had the opportunity to meet briefly with the executive leadership of California’s Workforce Board to talk about California’s draft Unified Plan under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Then, I had the opportunity to hear from state administrators and local program leaders in a listening and consultation session at the California Department of Education. WIOA and state funding in California, called the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), California’s WIOA State Plan, and other statewide initiatives were the key topics of discussion.

Students in Photovoltaics program working in a classroom.

Students in the Photovoltaics program that integrates math, technical and hands-on training learn how to install solar panels.

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Strengthening Working Families Initiatives: $25M Funding Opportunity

This is a cross-posted announcement from the Department of Labor. 

DOL announces $25 million available for partnerships that improve access to education and training and quality, affordable child care for parents looking to expand their skills.

These grants reflect the Obama administration’s commitment to support working families and fuel policies aligned with 21st Century workforce realities.

To help parents obtain affordable, quality child care necessary to pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries, the U.S. Department of Labor today on December 17 the availability of up to $25 million in grants through the Strengthening Working Families Initiative.

The grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce development and child-care systems. In addition to addressing these systemic barriers, funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized supportive services needed for IT, health care, advanced manufacturing jobs, and others. All participants in grant funded programs must be custodial parents, legal guardians, foster parents, or others standing in loco parentis with at least one dependent. Up to 25 percent of the grantees total budget may be used to provide quality, affordable care and other services to support their participation in training.

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

Grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities, and local child-care or human-service providers. In addition, all partnerships must include at least three employers. Grantees will also be required to secure an amount equal to at least 25 percent of the total requested funds through outside leveraged resources.

The department will award grants in spring 2016 with program activities beginning in July 2016. For additional information and to apply, read the full funding opportunity announcement online at Grants.gov.

2016 National Education Technology Plan Released

Thumbnail image of NETP coverOn December 10, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and new Future Ready commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders and educators working to improve teaching and student learning through the effective use of technology. As educators, advocates, parents, and policymakers, we must work to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology and personalized professional learning opportunities for educators and district leaders. The 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.

The plan recognizes the role that informal learning spaces play in closing the digital use divide and achieving equity, including spaces such as libraries, maker spaces, museums, clubs, workplaces, adult education programs, national parks, and online learning environments such as games, simulations, and educational apps.

OCTAE celebrates the 2016 Plan and the added energy it brings to our ongoing priorities, including:

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Solicitation for Innovative Educational Technology Announced

This announcement is cross-posted from the IES NewsFlash of 12/08/2015.

ED/IES SBIR Fiscal Year 2016 Program Solicitation is Now Open

Through its annual competition, the Small Business Innovation Research program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences provides funding to firms and partners for the research and development, and evaluation of commercially viable education technology products.

On December 7, 2015, ED/IES SBIR released its Fiscal Year 2016 solicitation:

Fiscal Year 2015 “Phase I” Solicitation: Solicitation #ED-IES-16-R-0003, is a request for Phase I proposals for awards up to $150,000 for 6-months. These proposals are for the development of prototypes of education technology products to improve relevant student, teacher, or administrator outcomes in education and special education settings.

To access to the Phase I solicitation on the FBO.gov website, click here.

The submission deadline for all Phase I proposals is January 21, 2016, at 2 P.M. EST.

Please Note: ED/IES SBIR is not offering a Fast-Track (Phase I & II) program solicitation in FY 2016.

For more information about the Institute’s SBIR program, visit the program website here.

Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: A Promising Model

By Guest Author,  Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.

A college degree or credential is the key to individual and national prosperity. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, less than 60 percent of Americans 25 years and older currently have this level of preparation.

Last week, I had the fortune of engaging with hundreds of adult education practitioners, researchers, and advocates at National College Transition Network (NCTN) conference in Providence, RI. These thought leaders convened to share and identify effective strategies for helping adult learners progress to and through postsecondary education and training to good jobs.

Dual enrollment programs, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while working toward a secondary school diploma, was one of the many promising approaches discussed at NCTN. Research has shown that participation in dual enrollment programs can lead to improved academic outcomes for students such as greater secondary school completion, higher GPA, and increased likeliness of enrolling in and completing a postsecondary degree.

Recognizing the promise of dual enrollment, last year Congress amended the Higher Education Act to allow students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent to be eligible for Title IV financial aid through a program called Ability to Benefit (ATB). In order to receive Title IV financial aid through ATB, students must be enrolled in an eligible career pathway program.

In an effort to expand access to higher education, on November 3rd the Department of Education published a Federal Register notice inviting postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment that will allow students without a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent to receive Federal Pell Grants for integrated education programs. This experiment will expand access to college coursework for secondary school students from low-income backgrounds, a group that studies have identified as benefiting immensely from dual enrollment programs. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country.

In addition to helping low-income students currently enrolled in a traditional public secondary school, this experimental program can provide much needed educational and financial support to low-skilled adults. In the U.S., over 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma and 20% of U.S. adults with a high school diploma have low literacy skills. Many of these low skilled adults are actively seeking educational programs and are working to increase skills, educational attainment, and economic outcomes, and say they want to do more. Dual enrollment programs could enable these adults, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, to achieve their goals.

To be considered for participation in the Dual Enrollment experimental site, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures listed in the Federal Register notice.

Photo of Johan Uvin

Johan E. Uvin
Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

SEED: Coalitions for Community Growth

The following paragraph is excerpted from the Clinton Global Foundation’s announcement:

Girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The SEED Coalition is inspiring young minds with STEM activities in energy efficiency. Here, girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Energy, committed to launch SEED (STEM, Energy and Economic Development): Coalitions for Community Growth, a place-based initiative that will connect public housing residents across the United States to STEM education and jobs. Leveraging federal investments and national partnerships, SEED will create local coalitions of public-private partners to launch or expand programs that provide access to energy literacy, STEM learning and workforce development opportunities for public housing residents. These opportunities will prepare them for living wage jobs in the energy and STEM fields, including those created by federal investments in infrastructure upgrades and energy retrofits at Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). In partnership with local PHAs, SEED will be piloted in five communities: Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Denver, District of Columbia, San Antonio, and Tampa, with the goal of expanding to 20 cities by 2018. Through this initiative, 8,000 youth in public housing will get access to STEM education; 1,000 residents will receive STEM workforce training, and 1,000 will obtain employment. See more at: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative/commitments/seed-coalitions-community-growth#sthash.6PL2Ju3o.dpuf

What does this look like in a community?

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Improved Reentry Education Grantees

OCTAE is proud to be involved in one of the President’s signature efforts: criminal justice reform. A Presidential weekly radio address on October 31, 2015 signaled new attention to this issue and an event in Newark, NJ on November 2, 2015 laid out the many reform efforts being undertaken by federal, state, and local governments and private enterprise. See the fact sheet released with that event.

OCTAE’s Improved Reentry Education (IRE) program, announced in the White House fact sheet, builds upon the success and lessons learned from OCTAE’s previous investment, Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) program. PRESCO aimed to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders; provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision; and, create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. The purpose of the IRE program is to support demonstration projects in prisoner reentry education that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness. IRE 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. IRE applicants were instructed to develop their own models or incorporate the revised Reentry Education Model into their project plans.

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Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

We all share the goal of improving education, employment, and other key outcomes for youth, especially those who are disconnected from work, school, or other social supports.  Today, the U.S. Department of Education is pleased to join with the interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) initiative in announcing nine pilots to improve outcomes for this underserved population.  These pilots give state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to test innovative new strategies to improve such outcomes for low-income disconnected youth ages 14 to 24, including youth who are in foster care, homeless, young parents, involved in the justice system, unemployed, or who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school.

The idea is simple: P3 gives communities greater flexibility to use the federal dollars they already have more effectively, and they agree to be more accountable for concrete outcomes.  This first set of pilots will test flexibility with federal youth-serving funds in diverse environments across America, including urban, rural, and tribal communities.  Pilot sites include:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Southeastern Kentucky, including Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Perry Counties
  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Pilots will implement solutions that include, for example, helping low-income moms acquire the skills to become better parents while gaining valuable job experience through childcare internships, helping foster youth successfully transition from high school to college or employment, and intervening with the highest-risk youth before they drop out of high school.  In the coming weeks, Federal agencies and these sites will finalize performance agreements that will support the pilot’s work and outline the outcomes these solutions will be measured against.

Led by the Department of Education, P3 brings together six federal agencies including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services to help communities address common barriers.  For example, practitioners and advocates on the front lines of service delivery have let agencies know that better outcomes are hindered sometimes by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as fragmented data systems and program stovepipes resulting in poor coordination.  P3 pilots can tackle these challenges more effectively by blending together certain federal funds that they already receive from the participating agencies and by acquiring new waivers and flexibility under federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements.

The P3 model emphasizes evidence and learning, both within communities and at a national level.  The P3 competition asked sites to match existing evidence of what works with community challenges identified through a needs assessment and to demonstrate how they will use reliable data to guide decision-making and be accountable for better outcomes.  All nine pilots responded to the competition’s incentive to rigorously evaluate the impact of at least one component of their on-site approach.  Federal agencies will also conduct a national cross-site evaluation of how pilots implement the P3 model, their strategies, challenges, and outcomes. Findings will help strengthen how agencies and the field address disconnected youth needs in the future.

The zip code a young person is born in should never determine his or her outcomes in life. To help prepare for the second P3 competition, which will be held this winter, the Department of Education has released a Notice of Proposed Priorities on behalf of participating agencies to seek ideas from the field on strengthening this important initiative and empowering communities to think big about reconnecting youth.

DACA Youth Resource Guide

In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has released a resource guide to help educators, school leaders, and community organizations better support undocumented youths in secondary and postsecondary schools. Those for whom the guide is intended also include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The guide includes resources aimed at high school and college students and includes:

  • an overview of the rights of undocumented students;
  • tips for educators on how to support undocumented youths in high school and college;
  • key information on non-citizen access to federal financial aid;
  • a list of private scholarships for which undocumented youths might be eligible;
  • information on federally funded adult education programs at the local level; and
  • guidance for migrant students in accessing their education records for DACA.

The aim of the guide is to help educators and school staff to support the academic success of undocumented youths and debunk misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The guide also shares information about financial aid options open to undocumented students, and supports youths applying for DACA consideration or renewal.

More information about resources for immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other new Americans can be found here.

OER: Providing Equitable Access to Education for All Learners

Summary from White House Blog Post: The Federal government is supporting the use of open educational resources (OER) to provide equitable access to quality education.

Everyone has the right to education…Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

Access to quality education is an essential component of addressing many of our biggest global and societal challenges. Last year, the United Nations surveyed youth around the world about their priorities—what opportunities they want to be offered. More than improvements in electricity and infrastructure, healthcare, and better jobs, what young people asked for was a good education. It’s no surprise that young people value education. World Bank economists estimate that for every year of study, individual income increases by 10-15 percent. These increases don’t just affect individuals; they often generate a “ripple effect” of benefits to families and entire communities. Openly licensed learning resources, also known as open educational resources (OER), can increase access to high-quality education opportunities and reduce the cost of education around the world.

Read the full post on the White House blog.