After Finals, Foster Youth Students Continue to Face a Difficult Test

Last year on December 30th, Annie Blackledge and I co-authored a blog post called “After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test.” We wrote the blog to draw attention to the issue that many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live during winter break until classes resume in January. While several institutions have put in place solutions to avoid this spell of unnecessary homelessness, not all institutions have. I am reposting the blog from last year as an additional call to action to do the right thing on behalf of homeless and foster youth and young adult emancipated students.


After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test

As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.

These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”

Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including

  • access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
  • navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
  • basic needs like employment, housing and food.

These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.

Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”

When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.

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:

Read More

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.

Minority Serving Community Colleges: Meeting the Future Now

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted the first Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges on November 16th and 17th. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the representatives of MSIs, the experts from academia and the philanthropic sector, and the staffs of the White House, Congressional legislative staff and the many federal agencies, including the Department of Education, who collaborated to make this convening such a success.

Photo of Mark Mitsui addressing the audience of MSI leaders

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.

As our nation becomes more diverse, a growing number of community colleges are designated as, or are eligible to be designated as Minority Serving Institutions. These colleges play a key role in the higher education completion agenda and have a lot of hard-earned wisdom, experience, and knowledge about student success that needs to be shared. Our work on November 16th and 17th was a major step in the right direction. OCTAE hosted over 120 institutions. More than 250 participants in the convening exchanged practices with peers, networked with representatives from 13 federal agencies, and discovered how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with several different divisions within the Department of Education and with Congressional staff. A panel of excellent students provided their perspectives.

This conference built on the foundation of work these institutions have already established to help their students to be successful. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was inspiring and I am looking forward to the work ahead.

Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice, some of which had been established prior to the convening by volunteer leaders at various community colleges across the country. These communities will continue to exchange promising practices, share invaluable experiences, and connect with federal agencies in an online format.

If you are interested in joining one of the communities of practice or want to discuss other matters with us, please email me at Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov.

With this said, let me once again take the opportunity to thank the attendees for their participation in the convening, for the ideas and aspirations you shared with us, and for your continuing commitment to the well-being and success of your students.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Posted by
Mark Mitsui OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges 202-245-7812 Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov

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)

Your Feedback Wanted on Next Generation CTE Simulations

We want to hear your thoughts, and hope you will participate in this open call!

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will launch the EdSim Challenge, which will call upon the gaming, developer, and edtech communities to design simulated environments that prepare America’s students for a more competitive world through high-quality career and technical education.

On November 5th, OCTAE launched a call for public feedback to help inform the Challenge design. Public feedback will be accepted through December 6, 2015 regarding topics such as simulated learning subject areas, skill sets, and technical considerations.

Following the call for public feedback, ED will finalize the EdSim Challenge design. In Spring 2016, the EdSim Challenge will open for submissions, seeking engaging educational simulations that will help define the next generation of applied learning and pair immersive technologies with rigorous educational content and integrated assessment.

Simulated learning experiences, such as immersive gaming environments, virtual reality, and training simulations, represent an emerging class of instructional content delivery in education. Research indicates that simulation-based learning holds advantages for students in terms of information retention, engagement, skills training, and learning outcomes. We are excited to help move these technologies forward for the benefit of our nation’s students.

You can learn more about the Challenge and submit feedback at EdSimChallenge.com.

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?

Read More

New Project Explores Connections with Apprenticeships

OCTAE announces a new project to explore options for improving connections between secondary Career and Technical Education and Apprenticeships in conjunction with first National Apprenticeship Week. OCTAE is pleased to report the launch of our new initiative to promote youth engagement in this promising workforce development strategy. Given the benefits that apprenticeship confers to both trainees and employers, states are exploring ways to attract more people, including youth, to apprenticeship programs.

The OCTAE-sponsored initiative explores options for expanding the pipeline of apprentices. The project focuses on identifying promising strategies to improve programmatic alignment between secondary career and technical education (CTE) programs and the registered apprenticeship system. The project will support state and local leaders in replicating and scaling existing pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs, and will promote apprenticeships as a viable career path for students participating in CTE programs. The project is entitled “Potential Role of Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs.”

“Students participating in secondary CTE are among the most qualified for entry into apprenticeship programs, and OCTAE is pleased to do its share in helping to meet the President’s ambitious goal of doubling the number of apprentices within five years.”
— Dr. Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Apprenticeship programs offer unique, mutually beneficial opportunities to apprentices and employers. Apprentices learn advanced, industry-vetted academic and technical skills that are offered as part of a paid, on-the-job work experience. Upon program completion, apprentices earn industry-recognized credentials that enable them to find immediate employment, with average starting wages above $50,000 annually. By being directly involved in training apprentices, employers ensure that they have access to the talent to meet their workforce needs, and be economically competitive.

OCTAE plans to release technical assistance materials and tools on our PCRN website that highlight promising practices and actionable strategies, and will likely include a resource guide, instructional videos, and webinars showcasing local program design strategies and tools.

New Resources for Teaching Transportation Career Pathways

On Thursday, November 12 from 3:15-4:30 pm ET, a webinar entitled “Innovative Teaching and Transportation Industry Partnerships” will feature teachers, administrators and industry partners and their insights and examples of innovative programs and teaching models to deliver transportation-related curricula for high school students. The webinar is hosted and co-sponsored by the Northeast Center of the National Network for the Transportation Workforce and the National Association of State Directors for Career Technical Education. You can register for the webinar here.

The Federal Highway Administration established a National Network for the Transportation Workforce that consists of five Regional Surface Transportation Workforce Centers. The Centers engage and facilitate partnerships with State Departments of Transportation, State Departments of Education, industry, and other public and private stakeholders to support more efficient approaches to transportation workforce development. The centers address the range of workforce development activities from middle and high-schools to technical schools and community colleges. The centers are also useful resources for universities, postgraduate programs, and transportation workers.

In addition, the Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor have been working closely to project future employment, skills, skills gaps, and training needs within the transportation industry and its subsectors. The report, called “Strengthening Skills Training & Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry,” is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.